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Saint Augustine - Confessions - The joint vision with his dying mother

Identifier

000026

Type of spiritual experience

Background

At one point Saint Augustine goes to Ostia with his mother with whom he is very close.  She is seriously ill and eventually dies there and we have the extraordinary and possibly unique situation of a joint vision – in her case caused by the fact she was dying and in his case caused by the emotional overload of stress and the heart condition.

By joint vision I do not mean only that they had a vision at the same time, but that this vision was a shared experience, so close were they that their composers collaborated to give them shared input. ………..

A description of the experience

Saint Augustine – Confessions

The day was imminent when she was to depart this life ….. It came about, …. that she and I were standing leaning out of a window overlooking a garden. It was at the house where we were staying at Ostia on the Tiber, where, far removed from the crowds, after the exhaustion of a long journey, we were recovering our strength for the voyage.

Alone with each other, we talked very intimately. Forgetting the past and reaching forward to what lies ahead' searching together in the presence of the truth.

We asked what quality of life the eternal life of the saints will have, a life which 'neither eye has seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man'. But with the mouth of the heart wide open, we drank in the waters flowing from the spring on high, 'the spring of life' …. Sprinkled with this dew to the limit of our capacity, our minds attempted in some degree to reflect on so great a reality.

The conversation led us towards the conclusion that the pleasure of the bodily senses, however delightful in the radiant light of this physical world, is seen by comparison with the life of eternity to be not even worth considering.

Our minds were lifted up by an ardent affection towards eternal being itself.

Step by step we climbed beyond all corporeal objects and the heaven itself, where sun, moon, and stars shed light on the earth. We ascended even further by internal reflection and dialogue and wonder at your works, and we entered into our own minds.

We moved up beyond them so as to attain to the region of inexhaustible abundance where you feed Israel eternally with truth for food. There life is the wisdom by which all creatures come into being, both things which were and which will be. But wisdom itself is not brought into being, but is as it was and always will be. Furthermore, in this wisdom there is no past and future, but only being, since it is eternal. For to exist in the past or in the future is no property of the eternal.

And while we talked and panted after it, we touched it in some small degree by a moment of total concentration of the heart.

And we sighed and left behind us 'the first fruits of the Spirit' (Rom. 8) bound to that higher world, as we returned to the noise of our human speech where a sentence has both a beginning and an ending. But what is to be compared with your word, Lord of our lives?

It dwells in you without growing old and gives renewal to all things.

The source of the experience

Saint Augustine

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

References and further reading

Saint Augustine – Confessions