On Care to Be Had for the Dead.

On Care to Be Had for the Dead.On Care to Be Had for the Dead.

[De Cura Pro Mortuis.]

Translated by Rev. H. Browne, M.a. Of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; LatePrincipal of the Diocesan College, Chichester.

From the Retractations, Book ii. Chap. 64.

The book, On care to be had for the dead, I wrote, having been asked byletter whether it profits any person after death that his body shall be buried at the memorial of anySaint.(1) The book begins thus: Long timeunto your Holiness, my venerable fellow-bishop Paulinus.

1. Long time, my venerable fellow-bishop Paulinus, have I been thy Holiness's debtorfor an answer; even since thou wrotest to me by them of the household(2) of our most religious daughter Flora, asking of mewhether it profit any man after death that his body is buried at the memorial of some Saint. This,namely, had the said widow begged of thee for her son deceased in those parts, and thou hadst writtenher an answer, consoling her, and announcing to her concerning the body of the faithful young manCynegius, that the thing which she with motherly and pious affection desired was done, to wit, byplacing it in the basilica of most blessed Felix the Confessor. Upon which occasion it came to pass,that by the same bearers of thy letter thou didst write also to me, raising the like question, andcraving that I would answer what I thought of this matter, at the same time not forbearing to saywhat are thine own sentiments. For thou sayest that to thy thinking these be no empty motions ofreligious and faithful minds, which take this care for their deceased friends. Thou addest, moreover,that it cannot be void of effect(3) that thewhole Church is wont to supplicate for the departed: so that hence it may be further conjectured thatit doth profit a person after death, if by the faith of his friends for the interment of his bodysuch a spot be provided wherein may be apparent the aid, likewise in this way sought, of theSaints.

2. But this being the case, how to this opinion that should not be contrary which the Apostlesays, "For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each may receive according tothe things he hath done by the body,(4)whether good or bad;"(5) this, thou thai, thoudost not well see. For this apostolic sentence doth before death admonish to be done, that which mayprofit after death; not then, first, when there is to be now a receiving of that which a person shallhave done before death. True, but this question is thus solved, namely, that there is a certain kindof life by which is acquired, while one lives in this body, that it should be possible for thesethings to be of some help to the departed; and, consequently, it is "according to the things done bythe body," that they are aided by the things which shall, after they have left the body, bereligiously done on their behalf. For there are whom these things aid nothing at all, namely, whenthey are done either for persons whose merits are so evil, that neither by such things are theyworthy to be aided; or for persons whose merits are so good, that of such things they have no need asaids. Of the kind of life, therefore, which each hath led by the body, doth it come, that thesethings profit or profit not, whatever are piously done on his behalf when he has left the body. Fortouching merit whereby these things profit, if none have been gotten in this life, it is in vainsought after this life. So it comes to pass as well that not unmeaningly(6) doth the Church, or care of friends, bestow uponthe departed whatever of religion it shall be able; as also that, nevertheless, each receiveth"according to the things which he hath done by the body, whether it be good or bad," the Lordrendering unto each according to his works. For, that this which is bestowed should be capable ofprofiting him after the body, this was acquired in that life which he hath led in the body.

3. Possibly thy inquiry is satisfied by this my brief reply. But what other considerations moveme, to which I think meet to answer, do thou for a short space attend. In the books of the Maccabeeswe read of sacrifice offered for the dead.(7)Howbeit even if it were no where at all read in the Old Scriptures, not small is the authority, whichin this usage is clear, of the whole Church, namely, that in the prayers of the priest which areoffered to the Lord God at His altar, the Commendation of the dead hath also its place. But then,whether there be some profit accruing unto the soul of the dead from the place of its body, requiresa more careful inquiry. And first, whether it make any difference in causing or increasing of miseryafter this life to the spirits of men if their bodies be not buried, this must be looked into, not inthe light of opinion however commonly received, but rather of the holy writ of our religion. For weare not to credit that, as is read in Maro the unburied are prohibited from navigating and crossingthe infernal stream: because forsooth

"To none is giv'n to pass the hideous banks

And waters hoarse, ere in their meet abode

The bones have sunk to rest."

(8) Who can incline a Christianheart to these poetical and fabulous figments, when the Lord Jesus, to the intent that under thehands. of their enemies, who should have their bodies in their power, Christians might lie downwithout a fear, asserts that not a hair of their head shall perish, exhorting that they should notfear them which when they have killedthe body have nothing more that they can do?(9) Of which in the first book "On theCity of God," Ihave methinks enough spoken, to break the teeth in their mouths who, in imputing to Christian timesthe barbarous devastation, especially that which Rome has lately suffered, do cast up to us thisalso, that Christ did not there come to the succor of His own. To whom when it is answered that thesouls of the faithful were, according to the merits of their faith, by Him taken into protection,they insult over us with talking of their corpses left unburied. All this matter, then, concerningburial I have in such words as these expounded.

4. "But" (say I) "in such a slaughter-heap of dead bodies, could they not even be buried? notthis, either, doth pious faith too greatly dread, holding that which is foretold that not evenconsuming beasts will be an hindrance to the rising again of bodies of which not a hair of the headshall perish.(10) Nor in any wise would Truthsay, "Fear not them which kill the body, but cannot kill the soul;" if it could at all hinder thelife to come whatever enemies might choose to do with the bodies of the slain. Unless haply any is soabsurd as to contend that they ought not to be feared before death, lest they kill the body, butought to be feared after death, lest, having killed the body, they suffer it not to be buried. Isthat then false which Christ says, "Who kill the body, and afterwards have no more that they can do,"if they have so great things that they can do on dead bodies? Far be the thought, that that should befalse which Truth hath said. For the thing said is, that they do somewhat when they kill, because inthe body there is feeling while it is in killing, but afterward they have nothing more that they cando because there is no feeling in the body when killed. Many bodies, then, of Christians the earthhath not covered: but none of them hath any separated from heaven and earth, the whole of which Hefilleth with presence of Himself, Who knoweth whence to resuscitate that which He created. It is saidindeed in the Psalm, "The dead bodies of thy servants have they given for meat unto the fowls of theheaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth: they have shed their blood like waterround about Jerusalem, and there was no man to bury them:"(11) but more to heighten the cruelty of them who didthese things, not to the infelicity of them who suffered them. For, however, in sight of men thesethings may seem hard and dire, yet "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of Hissaints."(12) So, then, all these things, careof funeral, bestowal in sepulture, pomp of obsequies, are more for comfort of the living, than forhelp to the dead. If it at all profit the ungodly to have costly sepulture, it shall harm the godlyto have vile sepulture or none. Right handsome obsequies in sight of men did that rich man who wasclad in purple receive of the crowd of his housefolk; but far more handsome did that poor man who wasfull of sores obtain of the ministry of Angels; who bore him not out into a marble tomb, but intoAbraham's bosom bore him on high.(13) All thisthey laugh at, against whom we have undertaken to defend the City of God: but for all that their ownphilosophers, even, held care of sepulture in contempt; and often whole armies, while dying for theirearthly country, cared not where they should after lie, or to what beasts they should become, meat;and the poets had leave to say of this matter with applause

"though all unurn'd he lie,

His cov'ring is the overarching sky."(14)

How much less ought they to make a vaunting about unburied bodies of Christians, to whomthe flesh itself with all its members, re-fashioned, not only from the earth, but even from the otherelements, yea, from their most secret windings, whereinto these evanished corpses have retired, isassured to be in an instant of time rendered back and made entire as at the first, according to Hispromise?

5. Yet it follows not that the bodies of the departed are to be despised and flung aside, andabove all of just and faithful men, which bodies as organs and vessels to all good works their spirithath holily used. For if a father's garment and ring, and whatever such like, is the more dear tothose whom they leave behind, the greater their affection is towards their parents, in no wise arethe bodies themselves to be spurned, which truly we wear in more familiar and close conjunction thanany of our putting on. For these pertain not to ornament or aid which is applied from without, but tothe very nature of man. Whence also the funerals of the just men of old were with dutiful piety caredfor, and their obsequies celebrated, and sepulture provided:(15) and themselves while living did touching burialor even translation of their bodies give charge to their sons. Tobias also, to have by burying of thedead obtained favor with God, is by witness of an Angel commended.(16) The Lord Himself also, about to rise on the thirdday, both preaches, and commends to be preached, the good work of a religious woman, that she pouredout a precious ointment over His limbs, and did it for His burial:(17) and they are with praise commemorated in theGospel, who having received His Body from the cross did carefully and with reverend honor see itwound and laid in the sepulchre.(18) Theseauthorities however do not put us upon thinking that there is in dead bodies any feeling; but rather,that the Providence of God (Who is moreover pleased with such offices of piety) doth charge itselfwith the bodies also of the dead, this they betoken, to the intent our faith of resurrection might bestayed up thereby. Where also is wholesomely learned, how great may be the reward for alms which wedo unto the living and feeling, if not even that be lost before God, whatever of duty and ofdiligence is paid to the lifeless members of men. There are indeed also other things, which inspeaking of the bestowal or removal of their bodies the holy Patriarchs willed to be understood asspoken by the prophetic Spirit: but this is not the place to treat thoroughly of these things, seeingthat sufficeth which we have said. But if the lack of those things which are necessary forsustentation of the living, as food and clothing, however heavy affliction attend the lacking, do notbreak in good men the manly courage of bearing and enduring, nor eradicate piety from the mind, butby exercising make it more fruitful; how much more doth lack of those things which are wont to beapplied for care of funerals and bestowal of bodies of the departed, not make them wretched, now thatin the hidden abodes of the pious they are at rest! And therefore, when these things have to deadbodies of Christians in that devastation of the great City or of other towns also been lacking, thereis neither fault of the living, who could not afford these things, nor pain of the dead who could notfeel the same.(19) This is my opinionconcerning the ground and reason of sepulture. Which I have therefore from another book of minetransferred to this, because it was easier to rehearse this, than to express the same matter inanother way.

6. If this be true, doubtless also the providing for the interment of bodies a place at theMemorials of Saints, is a mark of a good human affection towards the remains of one's friends: sinceif there be religion in the burying, there cannot but be religion in taking thought where the buryingshall be. But while it is desirable there should be such like solaces of survivors, for the showingforth of their pious mind towards their beloved, I do not see what helps they be to the dead save inthis way: that upon recollection of the place in which are deposited the bodies of those whom theylove, they should by prayer commend them to those same Saints, who have as patrons taken them intotheir charge to aid them before the Lord. Which indeed they would be still able to do, even thoughthey were not able to inter them in such places. But then the only reason why the name Memorials orMonuments is given to those sepulchres of the dead which become, specially distinguished, is thatthey recall to memory, and by putting in mind cause us to think of, them who by death are withdrawnfrom the eyes of the living, that they may not by forgetfulness be also withdrawn from men's hearts.For both the term Memorial(20) most plainlyshews this, and Monument is so named from monishing, that is, putting in mind. For which reason theGreeks also call that mnhmeon which we call a Memorial or Monument:because in their tongue the memory itself, by which we remember, is called mnhmh. When therefore the mind recollects where the body of a very dear friendlies buried, and thereupon there occurs to the thoughts a place rendered venerable by the name of aMartyr, to that same Martyr doth it commend the soul in affection of heartfelt recollection(21) and prayer. And when this affection is exhibitedto the departed by faithful men who were most dear to them, there is no doubt that it profits themwho while living in the body merited that such things should profit them after this life. But even ifsome necessity should through absence of all facility not allow bodies to be interred, or in suchplaces interred, yet should there be no pretermitting of supplications for the spirits of the dead:which supplications, that they should be made for all in Christian and catholic fellowship departed,even without mentioning of their names, under a general commemoration, the Church hath chargedherself withal; to the intent that they which lack, for these offices, parents or sons or whateverkindred or friends, may have the same afforded unto them by the one pious mother which is common toall. But if there were lack of these supplications, which are made with right faith and piety for thedead, I account that it should not a whir profit their spirits, howsoever in holy places the lifelessbodies should be deposited.

7. When therefore the faithful mother of a faithful son departed desired to have his bodydeposited in the basilica of a Martyr, forasmuch as she believed that his soul would be aided by themerits of the Martyr, the very believing of this was a sort of supplication, and this profited, ifaught profited. And in that she recurs in her thoughts to this same sepulchre, and in her prayersmore and more commends her son, the spirit of the departed is aided, not by the place of its deadbody, but by that which springs from memory of the place, the living affection of the mother. For atonce the thought, who is commended and to whom, doth touch, and that with no unprofitable emotion,the religious mind of her who prays. For also in prayer to God,(22) men do with the members of their bodies thatwhich becometh suppliants, when they bend their knees, when they stretch forth their hands, or evenprostrate themselves on the ground, and whatever else they visibly do, albeit their invisible willand heart's intention be known unto God, and He needs not these tokens that any man's mind should beopened unto Him: only hereby one more excites himself to pray and groan more humbly and morefervently. And I know not how it is, that, while these motions of the body cannot be made but by amotion of the mind preceding, yet by the same being outwardly in visible sort made, that inwardinvisible one which made them is increased: and thereby the heart's affection which preceded thatthey might be made, groweth because they are made. But still if any be in that way held, or evenbound, that he is not able to do these things with his limbs, it does not follow that the inner mandoes not pray, and before the eyes of God in its most secret chamber, where it hath compunction, castitself on the ground. So likewise, while it makes very much difference, where a person deposits thebody of his dead, while he supplicates for his spirit unto God, because both the affection precedingchose a spot which was holy, and after the body is there deposited the recalling to mind of that holyspot renews and increases the affection which had preceded; yet, though he may not be able in thatplace which his religious mind did choose to lay in the ground him whom he loves, in no wise ought heto cease from necessary supplications in commending of the same. For wheresoever the flesh of thedeparted may lie or not lie, the spirit requires rest and must get it: for the spirit in itsdeparting from thence took with it the consciousness without which it could make no odds how oneexists, whether in a good estate or a bad: and it does not look for aiding of its life from thatflesh to which it did itself afford the life which it withdrew in its departing, and is to renderback in its returning; since not flesh to spirit, but spirit unto flesh procureth merit even of veryresurrection whether it be unto punishment or unto glory that it is to come to life again.

8. We read in the Ecclesiastical History which Eusebius wrote in Greek, and Ruffinus turned intothe Latin tongue, of Martyr's bodies in Gaul exposed to dogs, and how the leavings of those dogs andbones of the dead were, even to uttermost consumption, by fire burned up; and the ashes of the samescattered on the river Rhone, lest any thing should be left for any sort whatever of memorial.(23) Which thing must be believed to have been to noother end divinely permitted, but that Christians should learn in confessing Christ, while theydespise this life, much more to despise sepulture. For this thing, which with savage rage was done tothe bodies of Martyrs, if it could any whir hurt them, to impair the blessed resting of their mostvictorious spirits, would assuredly not have been suffered to be done. In very deed therefore it wasdeclared, that the Lord in saying, "Fear not them which kill the body, and afterward have no morethat they can do,"(24) did not mean that Hewould not permit them to do any thing to the bodies of His followers when dead; but that whateverthey might be permitted to do, nothing should be done that could lessen the Christian felicity of thedeparted, nothing thereof reach to their consciousness while yet living after death; nothing avail tothe detriment, no, not even of the bodies themselves, to diminish aught of their integrity when theyshould rise again.

9. And yet, by reason of that affection of the human heart, whereby "no man ever hateth his ownflesh,"(25) if men have reason to know thatafter their death their bodies will lack any thing which in each man's nation or country the wontedorder of sepulture demandeth, it makes them sorrowful as men; and that which after death reacheth notunto them, they do before death fear for their bodies: so that we find in the Books of Kings, God byone prophet threatening another prophet who had transgressed His word, that his carcase should not bebrought into the sepulchre of his fathers. Which the Scripture hath on this wise: "Thus saith theLord, Because thou hast been disobedient to the mouth of the Lord, and hast not kept the charge whichthe Lord thy God commanded thee, and hast returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place inwhich He commanded thee not to eat bread, nor drink water, thy carcase shall not be brought into thesepulchre of thy fathers."(26) Now if inconsidering what account is to be made of this punishment, we go by the Gospel, where we have learnedthat after the slaying of the body there is no cause to fear lest the lifeless members should sufferany thing, it is not even to be called a punishment. But if we consider a man's human affectiontowards his own flesh, it was possible for him to be frightened or saddened, while living, by thatoff which he would have no sense when dead: and this was a punishment, because the mind was pained bythat thing about to happen to its body, howsoever when it did happen it would feel no pain. To thisintent, namely, it pleased the Lord to punish His servant, who not of his own contumacy had spurnedto fulfill His command, but by deceit of another's falsehood thought himself to be obeying when heobeyed not. For it is not to be thought that he was killed by the teeth of the beast as one whosesoul should be thence snatched away to the torments of hell: seeing that over hisvery body the samelion which had killed it did keep watch, while moreover the beast on which he rode was left unhurt,and along with that fierce beast did with intrepid presence stand there beside his master's corpse.By which marvellous sign it appeareth, that the man of God was, say rather, checked temporally evenunto death, than punished after death. Of which matter, the Apostle when on account of certainoffenses he had mentioned the sicknesses and deaths of many, says, "For if we would judge ourselves,we should not be judged of the Lord. But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we maynot be condemned with the world."(27) ThatProphet, truly, the very man who had beguiled him, did with much respect bury in his own tomb, andtook order for his own burying beside his bones: in hope that thereby his own bones might be spared,when, according to the prophecy of that man of God, Josiah king of Judah did in that land disinterthe bones of many dead, and with the same bones defile the sacrilegious altars which had been set upfor the graven images. For he spared that tomb in which lay the prophet who more than three hundredyears before predicted those things, and for his sake neither was the sepulture of him who hadseduced him violated. By that affection namely, which causes that no man ever hateth his own flesh,this man had taken forethought for his carcase, who had slain with a lie his own soul.By reason thenof this, the natural love which every man hath for his own flesh, it was both to the one a punishmentto learn that he should not be in the sepulchre of his fathers, and to the other a care to take orderbeforehand that his own bones should be spared, if he should lie beside him whose sepulchre no manshould violate.

10. This affection the Martyrs of Christ contending for the truth did overcome: and it is nomarvel that they despised that whereof they should, when death was overpast, have no feeling, whenthey could not by those tortures, which while alive they did feel, be overcome. God was able, nodoubt, (even as He permitted not the lion when it had slain the Prophet, to touch his body further,and of a slayer made it to be a keeper): He was able, I say, to have kept the slain bodies of His ownfrom the dogs to which they had been flung; He was able in innumerable ways to have deterred the rageof the men themselves, that to burn the carcases, to scatter the ashes, they should not dare: but itwas fit that this experience also should not be lacking to manifold variety of temptations, lest thefortitude of confession which would not for the saving of the life of the body give way to thesavageness of persecution, should be tremblingly anxious for the honor of a sepulchre: in a word,lest faith of resurrection should dread the consuming of the body. It was fit then, that even thesethings should be permitted, in order that, even after these examples of so great horror, the Martyrs,fervent in confession of Christ, should become witnesses of this truth also, in which they hadlearned that they by whom their bodies should be slain had after that no more that they coulddo.(28) Because, whatever they should do todead bodies, they would after all do nothing, seeing that in flesh devoid of all life, neither was itpossible for him to feel aught who had thence departed, nor for Him to lose aught thereof, Whocreated the same. But while these things were doing to the bodies of the slain, albeit the Martyrs,not frightened by them, did with great fortitude suffer, yet among the brethren was there exceedingsorrow, because there was given them no means of paying the last honors to the remains of the Saints,neither secretly to withdraw any part thereof, (as the same history testifies,) did the watchings ofcruel sentinels permit. So, while those which had been slain, in the tearing asunder of their limbs,in the burning up of their bones, in the dispersion of their ashes, could feel no misery; yet thesewho had nothing of them that they could bury, did suffer torture of exceeding grief in pitying them;because what those did in no sort feel, these in some sort did feel for them, and where washenceforth for those no more suffering, yet these did in woful compassion suffer for them.

11. In regard to that woful compassion which I have mentioned, are those praised, and by kingDavid blessed, who to the dry bones of Saul and Jonathan afforded mercy of sepulture.(29) But yet what mercy is that, which is afforded tothem that have feeling of nothing? Or haply is this to be challenged back to that conceit of aninfernal river which men unburied were not able to pass over? Far be this from the faith ofChristians: else hath it gone most ill with so great a multitude of Martyrs, for whom there could beno burying of their bodies, and Truth did cheat them when It said, "Fear not them which kill thebody, and after that have no more that they can do,"(30) if these have been able to do to them so greatevils, by which they were hindered to pass over to the places which they longed for. But, becausethis without all doubt is most false, and it neither any whit hurts the faithful to have their bodiesdenied sepulture, nor any whir the giving of sepulture unto infidels advantageth them; why then arethose who buried Saul and his son said to have done mercy, and for this are blessed by that godlyking, but because it is a good affection with which the hearts of the pitiful are touched, when theygrieve for that in the dead bodies of other men, which, by that affection through which no man everhateth his own flesh, they would not have done after their own death to their own bodies; and whatthey would have done by them when they shall have no more feeling, that they take care to do byothers now having no feeling while themselves have yet feeling?

12. Stories are told of certain appearances or visions,(31) which may seem to bring into this discussion aquestion which should not be slighted. It is said, namely, that dead men have at times either indreams or in some other way appeared to the living who knew not where their bodies lay unburied, andhave pointed out to them the place, and admonished that the sepulture which was lacking should beafforded them. These things if we shall answer to be false, we shall be thought impudently tocontradict the writings of certain faithful men, and the senses of them who assure us that suchthings have happened to themselves. But it is to be answered, that it does not follow that we are toaccount the dead to have sense of these things, because they appear in dreams to say or indicate orask this. For living men do also appear ofttimes to the living as they sleep, while they themselvesknow not that they do appear; and they are told by them, what they dreamed, namely, that in theirdream the speakers saw them doing or saying something. Then if it may be that a person in a dreamshould see me indicating to him something that has happened or even foretelling something about tohappen, while I am perfectly unwitting of the thing and altogether regardless not only what hedreams, but whether he is awake while I am asleep, or he asleep while I am awake, or whether at oneand the same time we are both awake or asleep, at what time he has the dream in which he sees me:what marvel if the dead be unconscious and insensible of these things, and, for all that, are seen bythe living in their dreams, and say something which those on awaking find to be true? By angelicaloperations, then, I should think it is effected, whether permitted from above, or commanded, thatthey seem in dreams to say something about burying of their bodies, when they whose the bodies areare utterly unconscious of it. Now this is sometimes serviceably done; whether for some sort ofsolace to the survivors, to whom pertain those dead whose likenesses(32) appear to them as they dream; or whether that bythese admonitions the human race may be made to have regard to humanity of sepulture, which, allowthat it be no help to the departed, yet is there culpable irreligiousness in slighting of it.Sometimes however, by fallacious visions,(33)men are cast into great errors, who deserve to suffer this. As, if one should see in a dream, whatAeneas by poetic falsity is told to have seen in the world beneath: and there should appear to himthe likeness of some unburied man, which should speak such words as Palinurus is said to have spokento him; and when he awakes, he should find the body in that place where he heard say while dreaming,that it lay unburied, and was admonished and asked to bury it when found; and because he finds thisto be true, should believe that the dead are buried on purpose that their souls may pass to placesfrom which he dreamed that the souls of men unburied are by an infernal law prohibited: does he not,in believing all this, exceedingly swerve from the path of truth?

13. Such, however, is human infirmity, that when in a dream a person shall see a dead man, hethinks it is the soul that he sees: but when he shall in like manner dream of a living man, he has nodoubt that it is not a soul nor a body, but the likeness of a man that has appeared to him: just asif it were not possible in regard of dead men, in the same sort unconscious of it, that it should notbe their souls, but their likenesses that appear to the sleepers. Of a surety, when we were at Milan,we heard tell of a certain person of whom was demanded payment of a debt, with production of hisdeceased father's acknowledgment,(34) whichdebt unknown to the son the father had paid, whereupon the man began to be very sorrowful, and tomarvel that his father while dying did not tell him what he owed when he also made his will. Then inthis exceeding anxiousness of his, his said father appeared to him in a dream, and made known to himwhere was the counter(35) acknowledgment bywhich that acknowledgment was cancelled. Which when the young man had found and showed, he not onlyrebutted the wrongful claim of a false debt, but also got back his father's note(36) of hand which the father had not got back whenthe money was paid. Here then the soul of a man is supposed to have had care for his son, and to havecome to him in his sleep, that, teaching him what he did not know, he might relieve him of a greattrouble. But about the very same time as we heard this, it chanced at Carthage that the rhetoricianEulogius, who had been my disciple in that art, being (as he himself, after our return to Africa,told us the story) in course of lecturing to his disciples on Cicero's rhetorical books, as he lookedover the portion of reading which he was to deliver on the following day, fell upon a certainpassage, and not being able to understand it, was scarce able to sleep for the trouble of his mind:in which night, as he dreamed, I expounded to him that which he did not understand; nay, not I, butmy likeness, while I was unconscious of the thing, and far away beyond the sea, it might be, doing,or it might be dreaming, some other thing, and not in the least caring for his cares. In what waythese things come about, I know not: but in what way soever they come, why do we not believe it comesin the same way for a person in a dream to see a dead man, as it comes that he sees a living man?both, no doubts neither knowing nor caring who, or where, or when, dreams of their images.

14. Like dreams, moreover, are also some visions of persons awake, who have had their sensestroubled, such as phrenetic persons, or those who are mad in any way: for they too talk to themselvesjust as though they were speaking to people verily present, and as well with absent as with present,whose images they perceive, whether persons living or dead. But just as they which live, areunconscious that they are seen of them and talk with them; for indeed they are not really themselvespresent, or themselves make speeches, but through troubled senses, these persons are wrought upon bysuch-like imaginary visions; just so they also who have departed this life, to persons thus affectedappear as present, while they be absent, and whether any man sees them in regard of theirimage,(37) are themselves utterlyunconscious.

15. Similar to this is also that condition when persons, with their senses more profoundedly inabeyance than is the case in sleep, are occupied with the like visions. For to them also appearimages of quick and dead; but then, when they return to their senses, whatever dead they say theyhave seen are thought to have been verily with them: and they who hear these things pay no heed tothe circumstance that there were seen in like manner the images of certain living persons, absent andunconscious. A certain man by name Curma, of the municipal town of Tullium, which is hard by Hippo, apoor member of the Curia,(38) scarcelycompetent to serve the office of a duumvir(39)of that place, and a mere rustic, being ill, and all his senses entranced, lay all but dead forseveral days: a very slight breathing in his nostrils, which on applying the hand was just felt, andbarely betokened that he lived, was all that kept him from being buried for dead. Not a limb did hestir, nothing did he take in the way of sustenance, neither in the eyes nor in any other bodily sensewas he sensible of any annoyance that impinged upon them. Yet he was seeing many things like as in adream, which, when at last after a great many days he woke up, he told that he had seen. And first,presently after he opened his eyes, Let some one go, said he, to the house of Curma the smith, andsee what is doing there. And when some one had gone thither, the smith was found to have died in thatmoment that the other had come back to his senses, and, it might almost be said, revived from death.Then, as those who stood by eagerly listened, he told them how the other had been ordered to be hadup, when he himself was dismissed; and that he had heard it said in that place from which he hadreturned, that it was not Curma of the Curia, but Curma the smith who had been ordered to be fetchedto that place of the dead. Well, in these dream-like visions of his, among those deceased personswhom he saw handled according to the diversity of their merits, he recognized also some whom he hadknown when alive. That they were the very persons themselves I might perchance have believed, had henot in the course of this seeming dream of his seen also some who are alive even to this presenttime, namely, some clerks of his district, by whose presbyter there he was told to be baptized atHippo by me, which thing he said had also taken place. So then he had seen a presbyter, clerks,myself, persons, to wit, not yet dead, in this vision in which he afterwards also saw dead persons.Why may he not be thought to have seen these last in the same way as he saw us? that is, both the onesort, and the other, absent and unconscious, and consequently not the persons themselves, butsimilitudes of them just as of the places? He saw, namely, both a plot of ground where was thatpresbyter with the clerks, and Hippo where he was by me seemingly baptized: in which spots assuredlyhe was not, when he seemed to himself to be there. For what was at that time going on there, he knewnot: which, without doubt, he would have known if he had verily been there. The sights beheld,therefore, were those which are not presented in the things themselves as they are, but shadowedforth in a sort of images of the things. In fine, after much that he saw, he narrated how he had,moreover, been led into Paradise, and how it was there said to him, when he was thence dismissed toreturn to his own family, "Go, be baptized, if thou wilt be in this place of the blessed." Thereupon,being admonished to be baptized by me, he said it was done already. He who was talking with himreplied, "Go, be truly baptized; for that thou didst but see in the vision." After this he recovered,went his way to Hippo. Easter was now approaching, he gave his name among the other Competents, alikewith very many unknown to us; nor did he care to make known the vision to me or to any of our people.He was baptized, at the close of the holy days he returned to his own place. After the space of twoyears or more, I learned the whole matter; first, through a certain friend of mine and his at my owntable, while we were talking about some such matters: then I took it up, and made the man in his ownperson tell me the story, in the presence of some honest townsmen of his attesting the same, bothconcerning his marvellous illness, how he lay all but dead for many days, and about that other Curmathe smith, what I have mentioned above, and about all these matters; which, while he was telling me,they recalled to mind, and assured me, that they had also at that time heard them from his lips.Wherefore, just as he saw his own baptism, and myself, and Hippo, and the basilica, and thebaptistery, not in the very realities, but in a sort of similitudes of the things; and so likewisecertain other living persons, without consciousness on the part of the same living persons: then whynot just so those dead persons also, without consciousness on the part of the same dead persons?

16. Why should we not believe these to be angelic operations through dispensation of theprovidence of God, Who maketh good use of both good things and evil, according to the unsearchabledepth of His judgments? whether thereby the minds of mortals be instructed, or whether deceived;whether consoled, or whether terrified: according as unto each one there is to be either a showing ofmercy, or a taking of vengeance, by Him to Whom, not without a meaning, the Church doth sing "ofmercy and of judgment."(40) Let each, as itshall please him, take what I say. If the souls of the dead took part in theaffairs of the living,and if it were their very selves that, when we see them, speak to us in sleep; to say nothing ofothers, there is my own self, whom my pious mother would no night fail to visit, that mother who byland and sea followed me that she might live with me. Far be the thought that she should, by a lifemore happy, have been made cruel, to that degree that when any thing vexes my heart she should noteven console in his sadness the son whom she loved with an only love, whom she never wished to seemournful. But assuredly that which the sacred Psalm sings in our ears, is true; "Because my fatherand my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord hath taken me up.(41) Then if our parents have forsaken us, how takethey part in our cares and affairs? But if parents do not, who else are there of the dead who shouldknow what we are doing, or what we suffer? Isaiah the Prophet says, "For Thou art our Father: becauseAbraham hath not known us, and Israel is not cognizant of us."(42) If so great Patriarchs were ignorant what wasdoing towards the People of them begotten, they to whom, believing God, the People itself to springfrom their stock was promised; how are the dead mixed up with affairs and doings of the living,either for cognizance or help? How say we that those were favored who deceased ere the evils camewhich followed hard upon the decease, if also after death they feel whatever things befall in thecalamitousness of human life? Or haply do we err in saying this, and in accounting them to be quietlyat rest whom the unquiet life of the living makes solicitous? What then is that which to the mostgodly king Josias God promised as a great benefit, that he should first die, that he might not seethe evils which He threatened should come to that place and People? Which words of god are these:"Thus saith the Lord God of Israel: concerning My words which thou hast heard, and didst fear beforeMy face when thou didst hear what I have spoken concerning this place and them which dwell therein,that it should be forsaken and under a curse; and hast rent thy garments, and wept before Me, and Ihave heard thee, saith the Lord of Sabaoth: not so; behold, I will add thee unto thy fathers, andthou shalt be added unto them in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evils which I ambringing upon this place and upon them that dwell therein."(43) He, frightened by God's comminations, had wept,and rent his garments, and is made, by hastening on of his death, to be without care of all futureevils, because he should so rest in peace, that all those things he should not see. There then arethe spirits of the departed, where they see not whatever things are doing, or events happening, inthis life to men. Then how do they see their own graves, or their own bodies, whether they lie castaway, or buried? How do they take part in the misery of the living, when they are either sufferingtheir own evils, if they have contracted such merits; or do rest in peace, as was promised to thisJosiah, where they undergo no evils, either by suffering themselves, or by compassionate sufferingwith others, freed from all evils which by suffering themselves or with others while they lived herethey did undergo?

17. Some man may say: "If there be not in the dead any care for the living, how is it that therich man, who was tormented in hell, asked father Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers not asyet dead, and to take course with them, that they should not come themselves also into the same placeof torments?"(44) But does it follow, thatbecause the rich man said this, he knew what his brethren were doing, or what they were suffering atthat time? Just in that same way had he care for the living, albeit what they were doing he wist notat all, as we have care for the dead, albeit what they do we confessedly wet not. For if we cared notfor the dead, we should not, as we do, supplicate God on their behalf. In fine, Abraham did not sendLazarus, and also answered, that they have here Moses and the Prophets, whom they ought to hear thatthey might not come to those torments. Where again it occurs to ask, how it was that what was doinghere, father Abraham himself wist not, while he knew that Moses and the Prophets are here, that is,their books, by obeying which men should escape the torments of hell: and knew, in short, that richman to have lived in delights, but the poor man Lazarus to have lived in labors and sorrows? For thisalso he says to him; "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime hast received good things, but Lazarusevil things." He knew then these things which had taken place of course among the living, not amongthe dead. True, but it may be that, not while the things were doing in their lifetime, but aftertheir death, he learned these things, by information of Lazarus: that it be not false which theProphet saith, "Abraham hath not known us."(45)

18. So then we must confess that the dead indeed do not know what is doing here, but while it isin doing here: afterwards, however, they hear it from those who from hence go to them at their death;not indeed every thing, but what things those are allowed to make known who are suffered also toremember these things; and which it is meet for those to hear, whom they inform of the same. It maybe also, that from the Angels, who are present in the things which are doing here, the dead do hearsomewhat, which for each one of them to hear He judgeth right to Whom all things are subject. Forwere there not Angels, who could be present in places both of quick and dead, the Lord Jesus had notsaid, "It came to pass also that the poor man died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham'sbosom."(46) Therefore, now here, now there,were they able to be, who from hence bore thither whom God willed. It may be also, that the spiritsof the dead do learn some things which are doing here, what things it is necessary that they shouldknow, and what persons it is necessary should know the same, not only things past or present, buteven future, by the Spirit of God revealing them: like as not all men, but the Prophets while theylived here did know, nor even they all things, but only what things to be revealed to them theprovidence of God judged meet. Moreover, that some from the dead are sent to the living, as, on theother hand, Paul from the living was rapt into Paradise, divine Scripture doth testify.(47) For Samuel the Prophet, appearing to Saul whenliving, predicted even what should befall the king:(48) although some think it was not Samuel himself,that could have been by magical arts evoked, but that some spirit, meet for so evil works, did figurehis semblance:(49) though the bookEcclesiasticus, which Jesus, son of Sirach, is reputed to have written, and which on account of someresemblance of style is pronounced to be Solomon's,(50) contains in the praise of the Fathers, thatSamuel even when dead did prophesy. But if this book be spoken against from the canonof theHebrews,(51) (because it is notcontainedtherein,) what shall we say of Moses, whom certainly we read both in Deuteronomy to havedied,(52) and in the Gospel to have, togetherwith Elias who died not, appeared unto the living?(53)

19. Hence too is solved that question, how is it that the Martyrs, by the very benefits which aregiven to them that pray, indicate that they take an interest in the affairs of men, if the dead knownot what the quick are doing. For not only by effects of benefits, but in the very beholding of men,it is certain,(54) that the Confessor Felix(whose denizenship among you thou piously lovest) appeared when the barbarians were attacking Nola,as we have heard not by uncertain rumors, but by sure witnesses. But such things are of Godexhibited, far otherwise than as the usual order hath itself, unto each kind of creaturesapportioned. For it does not follow because water was, when it pleased the Lord, in a moment changedinto wine, that we are not to regard the worth and efficacy of water in the proper order of theelements, as distinct from the rarity, or rather singularity, of that divine work: nor becauseLazarus rose again, therefore that every dead man rises when he will; or that a lifeless man israised up by a living, in the same way as a sleeping man by one who is awake. Other be the limits ofhuman things, other the signs of divine virtues: other they be that are naturally, other that bemiraculously done: albeit both unto nature God is present that it may be, and unto miracles nature isnot lacking. We are not to think then, that to be interested in the affairs of the living is in thepower of any departed who please, only because to some men's healing or help the Martyrs be present:but rather we are to understand that it must needs be by a Divine power that the Martyrs areinterested in affairs of the living, from the very fact that for the departed to be by their propernature interested in affairs of the living is impossible.

20. Howbeit it is a question which surpasses the strength of my understanding, after what mannerthe Martyrs aid them who by them, it is certain, are helped; whether themselves by themselves bepresent at the same time in so different places, and by so great distance lying apart one fromanother, either where their Memorials are, or beside their Memorials, wheresoever they are felt to bepresent: or whether, while they themselves, in a place congruous with their merits, are removed fromall converse with mortals, and yet do in a general sort pray for the needs of their suppliants, (likeas we pray for the dead, to whom however we are not present, nor know where they be or what they bedoing,) God Almighty, Who is every where present, neither bounded in(55) with us nor remote from us, hearing and grantingthe Martyrs' prayers, doth by angelic ministries every where diffused afford to men those solaces, towhom in the misery of this life He seeth meet to afford the same, and, touching His Martyrs, dothwhere He will, when He will, how He will, and chiefest through their Memorials, because this Heknoweth to be expedient for us unto edifying of the faith of Christ for Whose confession theysuffered, by marvellous and ineffable power and goodness cause their merits to be had in honor. Amatter is this, too high that I should have power to attain unto it, too abstruse that I should beable to search it out; and therefore which of these two be the case, or whether perchance both oneand the other be the case, that sometimes these things be done by very presence of the Martyrs,sometimes by Angels taking upon them the person of the Martyrs. I dare not define; rather would Iseek this at them who know it. For it is not to be thought that no man knows these things: (notindeed he who thinks he knows, and knows not,) for there be gifts of God, Who bestows on these someone, on those some other, according to the Apostle who says, that "to each one is given themanifestation of the Spirit to profit withal; to one(56) indeed," saith he, "is given by the Spiritdiscourse of wisdom; to another(57) discourseof science according to the same Spirit; while to another(58) faith in the same Spirit; to another(59) the gift of healings in one Spirit; to one(60) workings of miracles; to one(61) prophecy; to one(62) discerning of spirits; to one(63) kinds of tongues; to one(64) interpretation of discourses. But all theseworketh one and the same spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will."(65) Of all these spiritual gifts, which the Apostlehath rehearsed, to whomsoever is given discerning of spirits, the same knoweth these things as theyare meet to be known.

21. Such, we may believe, was that John the Monk, whom the elder Theodosius, the Emperor,consulted concerning the issue of the civil war: seeing he had also the gift of prophecy. For thatnot each several person has a several one of those gifts, but that one man may have more gifts thanone, I make no question. This John, then, when once a certain most religious woman desired to seehim, and to obtain this did through her husband make vehement entreaty, refused indeed this requestbecause he had never allowed this to women, but "Go," said be, "tell thy wife, she shall see me thisnight, but in her sleep." And so it came to pass: and he gave her advice, whatever was meet to begiven to a wedded believing woman. And she, on her awaking, made known to her husband that she hadseen a man of God, such as he knew him to be, and what she had been told by him. The person wholearned this from them, reported it to me, a grave man and a noble, and most worthy to be believed.But if I myself had seen that holy monk, because (it is said) he was most patient in hearingquestions and most wise in answering, I would have sought of him, as touching our question, whetherhe himself came to that woman in sleep, that is to say, his spirit in the form of his body, just aswe dream that we see ourselves in the form of our own body; or whether, while he himself was doingsomething else, or, if asleep, was dreaming of something else, it was either by an Angel or in someother way that such vision took place in the woman's dream; and that it would so be, as he promised,he himself foreknew by the Spirit of prophecy revealing the same. For if he was himself present toher in her dream, of course it was by miraculous grace that he was enabled so to do, not by nature;and by God's gift, not by faculty of his own. But if, while he was doing some other thing or sleepingand occupied with other sights, the woman saw him in her sleep, then doubtless some such thing tookplace, as that is which we read in the Acts of the Apostles, where the Lord Jesus speaks to Ananiasconcerning Saul,(66) and informs him that Saulhas seen Ananias coming unto him, while Ananias himself wist not of it. The man of God would makeanswer to me of these things as the case might be, and then about the Martyrs I should go on to askof him, whether they be themselves present in dreams, or in whatever other way to those who see themin what shape they will; and above all when the demons in men confess themselves tormented by theMartyrs, and ask them to spare them; or whether these things be wrought through angelic powers, tothe honor and commendation of the Saints for men's profit, while those are in supreme rest, andwholly free for other far better sights, apart from us, and praying for us. For it chanced at Milanat (the tomb of) the holy Martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, that Ambrose the bishop, at that timeliving, being expressly named, in like manner as were the dead whose names they were rehearsing, thedemons confessed him and besought him to spare them, he being the while otherwise engaged, and whenthis was taking place, altogether unwitting of it. Or whether indeed these things are wrought,somewhiles by very presence of the Martyrs, otherwhiles by that of Angels; and whether it bepossible, or by what tokens possible, for us to discriminate these two cases; or whether to perceiveand to judge of these things none be able, but he which hath that gift through God's Spirit,"dividing unto every man severally as He will:"(67) the same John, me-thinks, would discourse to meof all these matters, as I should wish; that either by his teaching I might learn, and what I shouldbe, told should know to be true and certain; or I should believe what I knew not, upon his telling mewhat things he knew. But if peradventure he should make answer out of holy Scripture, and say,"Things higher than thou, seek thou not; and things stronger than thou, search thou not; but what theLord hath commanded thee, of those things bethink thee alway:"(68) this also I should thankfully accept. For it isno small gain if, when any things are obscure and uncertain to us, and we not able to comprehendthem, it be at any rate clear and certain that we are not to seek them; and what thing each onewishes to learn, accounting it to be profitable that he should know it, he should learn that it is noharm that he know it not.

22. Which things being so, let us not think that to the dead for whom we have a care, any thingreaches save what by sacrifices either of the altar, or of prayers, or of alms, we solemnlysupplicate: although not to all for whom they are done be they profitable, but to them only by whomwhile they live it is obtained that they should be profitable. But forasmuch as we discern not whothese be, it is meet to do them for all regenerate persons, that none of them may be passed by towhom these benefits may and ought to reach. For better it is that these things shall be superfluouslydone to them whom they neither hinder nor help, than lacking to them whom they help. More diligentlyhowever doth each man these things for his own near and dear friends, in order that they may belikewise done unto him by his. But as for the burying of the body, whatever is bestowed on that, isno aid of salvation, but an office of humanity, according to that affection by which "no man everhateth his own flesh."(69) Whence it isfitting that he take(70) what care he is ablefor the flesh of his neighbor, when he is gone that bare it. And if they do these things who believenot the resurrection of the flesh, how much more are they beholden to do the same who do believe;that so, an office of this kind bestowed upon a body, dead but yet to rise again and to remain toeternity, may also be in some sort a testimony of the same faith? But, that a person is buried at thememorials of the Martyrs, this, I think, so far profits the departed, that while commending him alsoto the Martyrs' patronage, the affection of supplication on his behalf is increased.

23. Here, to the things thou hast thought meet to inquire of me, thou hast such reply as I havebeen able to render: which if it be more than enough prolix, thou must excuse this, for it was donethrough love of holding longer talk with thee. For this book, then, how thy charity shall receive it,let me, I pray thee, know by a second letter: though doubtless it will be more welcome for itsbearer's sake, to wit our brother and fellow-presbyter Candidianus, whom, having been by thy lettermade acquainted with him, I have welcomed with all my heart, and am loath to let him depart. Forgreatly in the charity of Christ hath he by his presence consoled us, and, to say truth, it was athis instance that I have done thy bidding. For with so great businesses is my heart distraught, thathad not he by ever and anon putting me in mind not suffered me to forget it, assuredly to thyquestioning reply of mind had not been forthcoming.parparpar