The Personalist Project

August 11, 1890 is the day John Henry Newman departed "the shadows," the maddening part-truths/ part-illusions, the glimmers and indications and "economical representations" of material existence for the Reality he had been inwardly intent on from the age of 15—the face-to-face encounter with the Author of his being.

It was the day, too, we can hope and expect, that he was reunited with everyone he had loved and missed so keenly in his late years: Ambrose St. John, Hurrell Froude, Bowden, Keble, his sister Mary, and a host of others.

It was the end of the misgivings and misunderstandings and speculations and intrigues and interpersonal tensions that had dogged his life on earth.

The penultimate paragraph of one of my favorite of his sermons, The Greatness and Littleness of Human Life, gives us an impression of what the experience must have been like for a soul like his.

To those who live by faith, every thing they see speaks of that future world; the very glories of nature, the sun, moon, and stars, and the richness and the beauty of the earth, are as types and figures witnessing and teaching the invisible things of God. All that we see is destined one day to burst forth into a heavenly bloom, and to be transfigured into immortal glory. Heaven at present is out of sight, but in due time, as snow melts and discovers what it lay upon, so will this visible creation fade away before those greater splendours which are behind it, and on which at present it depends. In that day shadows will retire, and the substance show itself. The sun will grow pale and be lost in the sky, but it will be before the radiance of Him whom it does but image, the Sun of Righteousness, with healing on His wings, who will come forth in visible form, as a bridegroom out of his chamber, as His perishable type decays. The stars which surround it will be replaced by Saints and Angels circling His throne. Above and below, the clouds of the air, the trees of the field, the waters of the great deep will be found impregnated with the forms of everlasting spirits, the servants of God which do His pleasure. And our own mortal bodies will then be found in like manner to contain within them an inner man, which will then receive its due proportions, as the soul’s harmonious organ, instead of that gross mass of flesh and blood which sight and touch are sensible of. For this glorious manifestation the whole creation is at present in travail, earnestly desiring that it may be accomplished in its season.

Reading it always makes me feel my obtuseness. It makes me want to read him again, and beseech his prayers. I want to be found worthy, in the end, to join him in Reality.

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