Towards the close of his life, Bl John Henry Newman asked that the epitaph of his grave stone read: Ex umbris et imaginibus ad veritatem – From the shadows and imitations into the truth.
His wishes were followed and now while what remains of his body rests in the Newman shrine in the Birmingham Oratory, and his grave is no longer in the cemetery at Rednal, these words are still to be seen on his grave stone on the exterior wall of the Oratory church in Birmingham and on the altar in his chapel in the London Oratory Church.
After a long life divided almost equally between Anglicanism and Catholicism, but marked throughout by a search for the truth, he must have taken great comfort and courage that death was the passage from this world of shadows and imitations into the reality of the truth, who is God.
Of course, we hear the same in the Epistle today:
We see now through a glass in a dark manner: but then face to face. Now I know in part: but then I shall know even as I am known. (1 Cor 13:12)
An unclear or faulty vision is the central issue surrounding the blind beggar of the gospel episode.
St Gregory tells us that we ought to consider Christ’s miracles not just as factual records of his deeds, as they certainly are, but also to regard them as types of higher truths. (Traditional Catholic Teaching, website)
The Church has always understood this physical blindness, that was cured, as pointing also to spiritual blindness. The healing by Christ of blindness teaches us, and warns us, that not only is physical blindness a disability and an evil, but so also is spiritual blindness.
This blindness of the spirit makes a person unable to see what fosters eternal salvation, whether that be the workings of God or the dealings of the Devil, which frustrates eternal salvation. But spiritual blindness also hinders a person both from knowing God as well as being known by God, as St Paul intimated.
Spiritual blindness also leads to spiritual poverty. A person becomes poor, even bereft, of the things of the Holy Spirit. Such a person becomes distracted by and involved in the world of shadows and imitations. This world, despite all its beauty, goodness and wonder is a pale reflection of the eternal beatitude of heaven. The pleasures and recompenses of this world become ends in themselves and do not enrich a person but diminish him/her, eventually. Nothing in this world is good unless we love God. (Traditional Catholic Teaching, website)
Let us not then sit by the wayside and beg. Let us get up and go to Christ every day.
Let us walk the pathway towards truth, ignoring the inadequate and false attractions of this world. Let us keep our eyes on Christ, who is the Truth.
I share with you a prayer composed by Bl John Henry:
O Lord, support us all the day long until the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at last. Complete Thy work, O Lord, and as Thou hast loved me from the beginning so make me to love Thee unto the end.
At our own death, with the assistance of Our Lady and St Joseph, our patron saints and guardian angels, like Bl John Henry, may we welcome the final moment. Please God, may it be the moment when we move ex umbris et imaginibus ad veritatem