Good Friday and The Cosmos:
or, one thing that can be said about Good Friday, even apart from the more important truth of redemption.
(For the background on this, read Neoteronous, the post and discussion on temporal existence)
To exist in time means to have the successive possession of existence. Nothing with a body exists “all at once”, but rather its existence is continually repeated over time. If we ask, “is the man I am now the same as the man I was ten minutes ago”? The answer is in a way yes, and in a way no. In one sense, they are manifestly the same, otherwise we could never say “I was_____”. But in another sense, they are not exactly the same. Where is the man who “woke up this morning”, precisely inasmuch as he is the man who woke up? This exact being has disappeared- as soon as my feet hit the floor, he became another being lost in the past tense. The man who woke up in one sense is writing now, in another sense he is just as much in oblivion as Caesar or Socrates. Time marches on, and takes everything with it.
Time is a reality in the cosmos, yet there is another thing just as real: memory. In time, the cosmos is always passing away, but in memory, the universe is always present. Memory is well defined as The power of making the past present as the past . This is to say, when I remember that I woke up, I not only make the past to exist in the present, but I can know that it is the past. When I think about having woken up, I don’t think “I am waking up now”. Moreover, this power of memory is necessary even to talk about, or have an intelligible sensation of the universe. If we did not remember the things presented to us through sensation, we could not even speak. The world would appear to us as a flux which we would never have time to learn. Without memory we would have no knowledge of what the universe is, nor could we even say the words “universe” or “time”.
Time and memory are contrary realities in the universe. The first continually makes thing pass into the past, the second continually makes things present. Time belongs to all things inasmuch as they are corporeal, but memory belongs to things inasmuch as they are incorporeal, for memory is manifestly a kind of knowledge (sensible) and every act of knowledge is, as such, incorporeal. (there is a certain incorporeality even in sensation: when I see my hat, the actual bodily hat does not enter my eyeball).
Now every act of memory is an incorporeal act of knowledge. But knowledge allows the knower to have something internally for himself, which makes him able to act for himself. But to act for oneself is to be alive. And so memory is one of the manifestations of life, and moreover of the highest kind of life, namely the life of a knower.
In knowledge, and through memory, life overcomes time Yet we must not view life or time as extrinsic to the universe, for both are in the universe. Through Life, the cosmos overcomes its own passing away in time. Through all animals, and more perfectly in the animal “man”, the whole universe makes itself present to itself.
This overcoming is a qualified overcoming since in cannot, obviously, make the actual things in the past entirely present without qualification. Past things must always be things that have passed.
Yet the desire of life will always seek this final overcoming of time. For the existence of things as a perfect present is more perfect than the existence of things always passing away. Being is better than non-being. All things desire perfection.
But this perfection cannot be given by the cosmos. If something exists in time, then it cannot overcome time, or get beyond it, any more than it can get beyond itself. Yet Life itself demands this transcendence, this getting beyond. But it cannot look for this transcendence within the universe, but rather it must look to that which is above the universe if it has any hope for transcendence, or getting beyond.
And yet, if the transcendence did not happen in the universe then how could the universe transcend its own existence? If the universe cannot transcend its own existence, then its desire to do so through life would be in vain. Therefore the transcendence of the universe requires that he who is higher than the universe, become part of the universe, and that through his life, life achieves the final overcoming of time. Through his life, all things reach perfection, and all things, even bodlily things, participate in the transcendence of imperfect existence.
Yet more is necessary. It would not be enough for he who is above the universe to enter the universe. If He who entered were to leave, then the universe would lose its perfection of transcending time through life. The body that was taken by he who is above the universe must continue to be present in the universe throughout time.
And yet even this would not be enough. The Very body must continue to make present at least one moment in time. This moment is the moment which makes the final overcoming of time by life. It is the moment or time which is not taken away by the passing of time. It is the time that is forever present, the moment that shall not pass away. It gives to some one time the property which time could never have for itself- unending subsistence. All who look at this moment can say, “this now is then, that then is now”.
Good Friday is that time. Hallelujah.