—Corpus Domini nostri. Could it be? He knelt there sinless and timid: and he would hold upon his tongue the host and God would enter his purified body.—In vitam eternam. Amen. Another life! A life of grace and virtue and happiness! It was true. It was not a dream from which he would wake. The past was past.—Corpus Domini nostri. The ciborium had come to him.
One technique Joyce uses to indicate the development of Stephen's consciousness is to end each of the five chapters with a moment of epiphany in which Stephen recognizes the fallacy of one way of life and the truth of another. This passage is the epiphany that ends Chapter 3, the moment in which Stephen understands that he must turn to a religious life. The passage demonstrates one of the most revolutionary aspects of Joyce's narrative style: whereas other confessional novels usually involve narrators looking back at the events of their youth with an adult perspective, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is not mediated by such a detached voice. When Stephen declares, "Another life!" and "The past was past," we are given no indication that Stephen's religious life is eventually replaced by a calling to an artistic life. Rather, just like Stephen, we are led to believe that he will remain religious for the rest of his life and that the arrival of the ciborium symbolizes the arrival of his true calling. In this sense, we experience the successive epiphanies in Stephen's life just as he experiences them, knowing that a change is being made to life as he has lived it up to this point, but not knowing where this change will take him in the future.