Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
The Dream of Gerontius, Part 7


sacred-heart-of-jesusThe Dream of Gerontius, Part 7

As The Dream of Gerontius nears its end the soul asks different questions to its angel:

“I see not those false spirits; shall I see

My dearest Master, when I reach His Throne?

Or hear, at least, His awful judgment-word

With personal intonation, as I now

Hear thee, not see thee, Angel? Hitherto

All has been darkness since I left the earth;

Shall I remain thus sight-bereft all through

My penance-time? If so, how comes it then

That I have hearing still, and taste, and touch,

Yet not a glimmer of that princely sense

Which binds ideas in one, and makes them live?”


The angel explains that we can know about life after death through images and dreams:


“A disembodied soul, thou hast by right

No converse with aught else beside thyself;

But, lest so stern a solitude should load

And break thy being, in mercy are vouchsafed

Some lower measures of perception,

Which seem to thee, as though through channels


Through ear, or nerves, or palate, which are


And thou art wrapp’d and swathed around in


Dreams that are true, yet enigmatical;

For the belongings of thy present state,

Save through such symbols, come not home to


And thus thou tell’st of space, and time, and


Of fragrant, solid, bitter, musical,

Of fire, and of refreshment after fire;”


Next the angel explains by means of an analogy with the pain felt after the loss of a limb, that, despite the loss of the body, we can perceive our being, and goes on to speak of the resurrection of the body and the beatific vision of God:


“So will it be, until the joyous day

Of resurrection, when thou wilt regain

All thou hast lost, new-made and glorified.

How, even now, the consummated Saints

See God in heaven, I may not explicate;

Meanwhile, let it suffice thee to possess

Such means of converse as are granted thee,

Though, till that Beatific Vision, thou art blind;

For e’en thy purgatory, which comes like fire,

Is fire without its light.”


The soul is ready for Purgatory, but expresses the wish to have one glimpse of Christ.


“His will be done!

I am not worthy e’er to see again

The face of day; far less His countenance,

Who is the very sun. Natheless in life,

When I looked forward to my purgatory,

It ever was my solace to believe,

That, ere I plunged amid the avenging flame,

I had one sight of Him to strengthen me.”


Newman puts words in the angel’s mouth to convey his notion of the purifying vision of God.


“Then sight, or that which to the soul is sight,

As by a lightning-flash, will come to thee,

And thou shalt see, amid the dark profound,

Whom thy soul loveth, and would fain approach,—

One moment; but thou knowest not, my child,

What thou dost ask: that sight of the Most Fair

Will gladden thee, but it will pierce thee too…


Learn that the flame of the Everlasting Love

Doth burn ere it transform … “


Here on earth let us accept suffering and privations so that our Lord may purify us for the encounter with Him – trusting that, if we do so, Jesus, who is Everlasting Love, will complete his work at the moment of death.


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