Sunday, 18 August 2013

Augustine on the the death of his mother (end).

Augustine continues to tell about the death of his mother.  9.11.28 is an interlude in which he recalls some details about his mother. I have left the first part out in the Latin text, but in the translation it is put between brackets.
The theological reflections might not be to everyone’s taste, but in his Confessiones Augustine has left a monument for his mother which has no equal in ancient literature.

audivi etiam postea quod iam cum Ostiis essemus cum quibusdam amicis meis materna fiducia conloquebatur quodam die de contemptu vitae huius et bono mortis, ubi ipse non aderam, illisque stupentibus virtutem feminae (quoniam tu dederas ei) quaerentibusque utrum non formidaret tam longe a sua civitate corpus relinquere, 'nihil' inquit 'longe est deo, neque timendum est, ne ille non agnoscat in fine saeculi unde me resuscitet.' ergo die nono aegritudinis suae, quinquagesimo et sexto anno aetatis suae, tricesimo et tertio aetatis meae, anima illa religiosa et pia corpore soluta est.

materna fiducia: Augustine  continually stresses the confidence of his mother, both she had in him and she had in the providence of God.
conloquebatur: Monica
ipse: Augustine
stupeo: to be stunned
tu: God
formido: to fear
deo: probably dative
in fine saeculi unde me resuscitet: there are two – conflicting - concepts of afterlife in Christianity: a) a kind of sleep till the day of judgement when God will arise the deceased. This vision was popular among certain Jewish groups and hence formed part of the earliest strata of Christian believe and b) the idea of the survival of the soul and it being judged immediately after death. This concept is Hellenistic, with a strong influence of middle Platonism.  Generally speaking we may say that Eastern Christianity has put more emphasis on the first idea, whereas Western Christianity has put more emphasis on the second, however at this time the idea of a judgement after the resurrection was prevalent in the West too.


premebam oculos eius, et confluebat in praecordia mea maestitudo ingens et transfluebat in lacrimas, ibidemque oculi mei violento animi imperio resorbebant fontem suum usque ad siccitatem, et in tali luctamine valde male mihi erat. tum vero ubi efflavit extremum, puer Adeodatus exclamavit in planctu atque ab omnibus nobis coercitus tacuit. hoc modo etiam meum quiddam puerile, quod labebatur in fletus, iuvenali voce cordis coercebatur et tacebat. neque enim decere arbitrabamur funus illud questibus lacrimosis gemitibusque celebrare, quia his plerumque solet deplorari quaedam miseria morientium aut quasi omnimoda extinctio. at illa nec misere moriebatur nec omnino moriebatur. hoc et documentis morum eius et fide non ficta rationibusque certis tenebamus.

oculos eius: the eyes of Monica
praecordia: midriff, (as seat of emotions:) chest, heart
maestitudo, -inis (f.): sorrow
ibidem: immediately
violento animi imperio: on the strong urge of my soul
siccitas, -atis: dryness
luctamen, aminis (n.): strife
valde male mihi erat: it was very bad for me, I had it very difficult
efflavit extremum: she blew out her last breath
Adeodatus (372 – 389/90): Augustine’s son by his concubine for 15 years. We do not know her name and after his conversion he left her.
planctus,  –us (m.): wailing
meum quiddam puerile: something childish in me
labor lapsus sum: to lapse
funus funeris (n.): funeral
questus, –us (m.): compliant
gemitus, -us (m.): lamentation
omnimoda: completely
documentum: testimony

(But I, considering Thy gifts, Thou unseen God, which Thou instillest
into the hearts of Thy faithful ones, whence wondrous fruits do spring,
did rejoice and give thanks to Thee, recalling what I before knew,
how careful and anxious she had ever been as to her place of burial,
which she had provided and prepared for herself by the body of her
husband. For because they had lived in great harmony together, she
also wished (so little can the human mind embrace things divine) to
have this addition to that happiness, and to have it remembered among
men, that after her pilgrimage beyond the seas, what was earthly of
this united pair had been permitted to be united beneath the same
earth. But when this emptiness had through the fulness of Thy goodness
begun to cease in her heart, I knew not, and rejoiced admiring what
she had so disclosed to me; though indeed in that our discourse also
in the window, when she said, "What do I here any longer?" there appeared
no desire of dying in her own country.)

I heard afterwards also, that when we were now at Ostia, she with a mother's confidence, when I
was absent, one day discoursed with certain of my friends about the
contempt of this life, and the blessing of death: and when they were
amazed at such courage which Thou hadst given to a woman, and asked,
"Whether she were not afraid to leave her body so far from her own
city?" she replied, "Nothing is far to God; nor was it to be feared
lest at the end of the world, He should not recognise whence He were
to raise me up." On the ninth day then of her sickness, and the fifty--
sixth year of her age, and the three-and-thirtieth of mine, was that
religious and holy soul freed from the body.

     I closed her eyes; and there flowed withal a mighty sorrow into
my heart, which was overflowing into tears; mine eyes at the same
time, by the violent command of my mind, drank up their fountain wholly
dry; and woe was me in such a strife! But when she breathed her last,
the boy Adeodatus burst out into a loud lament; then, checked by us
all, held his peace. In like manner also a childish feeling in me,
which was, through my heart's youthful voice, finding its vent in
weeping, was checked and silenced. For we thought it not fitting to
solemnise that funeral with tearful lament, and groanings; for thereby
do they for the most part express grief for the departed, as though
unhappy, or altogether dead; whereas she was neither unhappy in her
death, nor altogether dead. Of this we were assured on good grounds,
the testimony of her good conversation and her faith unfeigned.

(Translation by E.B. Pusey, 1838)

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