Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
The Dream of Gerontius, Part 5


icon-of-our-lordIn The Dream, John Henry Newman continues a dialogue between the soul and its angel. The soul wishes to have conscious communion with its angel, but the angel replies:

“You cannot now

Cherish a wish which ought not to be wish’d.”


The soul replies:

“Then I will speak. I ever had believed

That on the moment when the struggling soul

Quitted its mortal case, forthwith it fell

Under the awful Presence of its God,

There to be judged and sent to its own place.

What lets me now from going to my Lord?”


The angel explains how the soul is about to meet Christ, and it suggests a new way of measuring time after death:


“Thou art not let; but with extremest speed

Art hurrying to the Just and Holy Judge:

For scarcely art thou disembodied yet.

Divide a moment, as men measure time,

Into its million-million-millionth part,

Yet even less than that the interval

Since thou didst leave the body; and the priest

Cried “Subvenite,” and they fell to prayer;

Nay, scarcely yet have they begun to pray.


For spirits and men by different standards mete

The less and greater in the flow of time.

By sun and moon, primeval ordinances—

By stars which rise and set harmoniously—

By the recurring seasons, and the swing,

This way and that, of the suspended rod

Precise and punctual, men divide the hours,

Equal, continuous, for their common use.

Not so with us in the immaterial world;

But intervals in their succession

Are measured by the living thought alone,

And grow or wane with its intensity.

And time is not a common property;

But what is long is short, and swift is slow,

And near is distant, as received and grasp’d

By this mind and by that, and every one

Is standard of his own chronology.

And memory lacks its natural resting-points

Of years, and centuries, and periods.

It is thy very energy of thought

Which keeps thee from thy God.”


Gerontius’ soul asks the angel about its lack of fear before the judgment:


“Dear Angel, say,

Why have I now no fear at meeting Him?

Along my earthly life, the thought of death

And judgment was to me most terrible.

I had it aye before me, and I saw

The Judge severe e’en in the Crucifix.

Now that the hour is come, my fear is fled;

And at this balance of my destiny,

Now close upon me, I can forward look

With a serenest joy.”


Here, in the angel’s reply, Newman echoes for us St. John’s teaching on how perfect love casts out fear :


“It is because

Then thou didst fear, that now thou dost not fear,

Thou hast forestall’d the agony, and so

For thee the bitterness of death is past.

Also, because already in thy soul

The judgment is begun.


Newman reminds us of the particular judgment of the soul which anticipates the final judgment.


“The judgment is begun. That day of doom,

One and the same for the collected world,—

That solemn consummation for all flesh,

Is, in the case of each, anticipate

Upon his death; and, as the last great day

In the particular judgment is rehearsed,

So now, too, ere thou comest to the Throne,

A presage falls upon thee, as a ray

Straight from the Judge, expressive of thy lot.

That calm and joy uprising in thy soul

Is first-fruit to thee of thy recompense,

And heaven begun.”

Here, as St. Paul teaches us, Blessed Newman bids us work out our salvation with fear and trembling now, so that at our own particular judgment we may approach our Just and Loving Savior and Judge without any fear.

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