chapter  8
27 Pages

Refreshment and reunion in the garden of light: sculpting paradise at the grave

With a richness of detail unmatched in the writings of Tertullian or Cyprian, Augustine describes an early Christian community in which the power and reality of the spiritual realm intermingled with and infused ordinary everyday experience. As it always had been, interaction with the divine realm was mediated through dreams as well as through the body and material things. Sometime around the year 415, Augustine received a letter from bishop Evodius of Uzalis, relaying the sad news that Evodius’s pious and devoted secretary had died unexpectedly at the tender age of 22. Following the young secretary’s death, Evodius had taken comfort in a vision reported to him by a local widow named Urbica. In her vision, Urbica had seen a gleaming silver palace being prepared for the young secretary’s arrival by a multitude of virgins and widows under the direction of a deceased deacon. As an old man directed two attendants clad in white to transport the body into heaven, the young secretary’s grave burst forth in a profusion of budding roses (Letter 158).