The Happiness of Heaven - By a Father of the Society of Jesus
by F. J. Boudreaux
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

* Luke xxiv.

So shall we rise on the last day, in our own material body of flesh and blood, with every organ and member glorified and made conformable to the body of Jesus Christ. According to the teachings of St. Thomas, our bodies shall rise of the same nature as they now are. For glory does not change or destroy nature, but perfects it.* Evidently, then, rising a spiritual body does not mean that our bodies are to be changed into spirits. What then does it mean? It means that, while retaining their essential material nature, they will be clothed with properties which naturally belong only to spirits, and not to bodies. These we shall now examine.

* Ponere enim corpus transire in spiritum est omnino impossibile. Non enim transeunt invicem nisi quae in materia communicant. Spiritualium autem et corporalium non potest esse communicatio in materia, cum substantiae spirituales sint omnino immaterialia. Impossibile est igitur quod corpus humanum transeat in substantiam spiritualem.... Similiter etiam impossibile est quod corpus hominis resurgentis sit quasi aereum et ventis simile.—S. Thom., Cont. gent., lib. 4, c. 84.

1. In the first place, rising a spiritual body implies that the glorified body will no longer need food, drink, and sleep, to sustain life and strength, as it now does. The risen body will, therefore, in this respect, become like a spirit, which needs neither food nor drink. Eating is a necessity of the present life, and makes our bodies animal. This necessity will no longer exist after the resurrection. When we reflect upon this, it seems to us that nearly one half of human life, and of its energies, are expended upon this one thing of eating, providing, and preparing food. Fields must be sown, and crops must be raised; grain must be ground; cattle must be cared for almost as children; ships must cross and recross the ocean; and all this to prepare food and raiment for our vile bodies. What a slavery this is! The soul, that noble image of the living God, instead of giving her time to the developing of her faculties and the contemplating of God and His works, must provide and prepare food for the body. Rising a spiritual body will forever emancipate us from this slavery.

But although it is true that there shall be no more eating and drinking in heaven, as we now understand these two actions, you must not infer from this that the sense of taste shall not be gratified in the blessed. It most certainly will be, as well as every other sense of the human body, though not by the corruptible food of the present life. When the butterfly was a caterpillar, it devoured green leaves with pleasure and avidity. They were its very life. But now that it is changed into a beautiful butterfly, it lives on the honey and exquisite perfume of flowers. If you offer it those same leaves that it loved so much while a caterpillar, it scorns them, and refuses even to touch them; for they are now unable, in its transformed state, to give it any pleasure. So shall it be with us after the resurrection. Our tastes shall be so refined that we shall scorn the low animal pleasures which are fit only for our present corruptible bodies. What a difference there is between the coarse green leaf which is the food of the caterpillar, and the exquisite honey of the blushing rose, which is the food of the butterfly! There is a still greater difference between the creatures that now gratify our senses, and those that are reserved in heaven to gratify our glorified senses after the resurrection.

But there is still another slavery besides that of eating and drinking, from which we shall be delivered by rising a spiritual body. It is the slavery of sleep, which takes up nearly one-third of our lives. We all know by experience, that it takes only a few hours of heavy physical labor or assiduous mental application to exhaust all our mental energies and bodily strength. And, whether we like it or not, we must sleep six or seven hours, in order to regain our lost strength, and to be ourselves again. How many saints have grieved over this necessity of our nature! Often have they desired to spend the nights in the contemplation of God; but in spite of their endeavors, they were overpowered by sleep. The spirit, indeed, was willing, but the flesh was weak.

This imperative necessity of our animal bodies will be totally removed by rising a spiritual body. Spirits have no need of sleep; their energies are never exhausted by the manifold acts which they constantly perform. They live in the continual enjoyment of that supernatural strength wherewith they were clothed the moment the Vision of God flashed upon them. It is this wonderful strength which will be poured out, as it were, over our bodies, at the resurrection. For, as St. Paul says of our body: "It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power."* Hence, however intense may be the application of our mental faculties or of our physical powers in heaven, we shall ever remain strangers to the well-known feelings of fatigue and prostration. All our energies shall ever remain fresh and unimpaired, and their continual exercise shall be the never-failing source of the most exquisite enjoyment.

* 1 Cor. xv. 43.

2. In the second place, rising a spiritual body implies vastly more than the mere emancipation from the necessities of nature. It means, besides, that the body will then be totally subject to the spirit, and consequently that concupiscence and other inordinate passions, which now war against the spirit, shall no longer exist. This is one of the most consoling of promises to persons who are endeavoring to lead a holy life. Their present corruptible body, in which "the law of sin" resides, is an enemy that is ever warring against the spirit. Often have they cried out with St. Paul: "Unhappy man that I am! who will deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord."*

* Rom. vii. 24.

Yes, the fulness of grace has come at last, and the body of sin and death is no more. It is now changed into a spiritual body, which is not only totally subject to the spirit, but even aids and perfects it, in all its intellectual operations, as well as in its moral affections. The spiritual body is, therefore, no lounger a burden and a temptation; it is become like a spirit, which cannot be enslaved to inordinate animal passions or instincts.

What a blessedness is here promised to us! No more involuntary cravings after forbidden pleasures; no more of those involuntary thoughts and inclinations which are so humiliating to pure souls; no more danger of being turned away from God by the beauty of creatures; no more wandering of the mind from His presence. In a word, the spiritual body is totally subject to the spirit, and "the law of sin," which received its birth at the fall of our first parents, is totally destroyed.

3. Rising a spiritual body means, in the third place, that the matter of which the body is now composed will become so refined and delicately organized, as, in some sense, to approach the nature of a spirit, while retaining its essential material nature. Our body will therefore lose its material grossness, roughness of texture, and weight, and will be clothed with the attributes of agility and subtlety.

Agility implies the power of transporting ourselves from place to place with the rapidity of thought. In this world we can, in the twinkling of an eye, send our thoughts on the wings of electricity across a whole continent, or the vast expanse of the ocean; after the resurrection, we shall possess that power in our very bodies, because they shall rise spiritual bodies, entirely under the control of the soul.

Subtilty means that our risen bodies will be endowed with the power of penetrating all things, even the hardest substances, as easily as the sun's rays penetrate a clear crystal. This is the power which our blessed Lord possessed and exercised, when He arose from the dead, without removing the stone that covered the mouth of the sepulchre. He simply passed through it with his glorified body. Again, after eight days, when the Apostles were gathered together, "Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you."* This is a supernatural gift with which we shall be clothed, because we must rise conformable to the glorious body of Jesus Christ.

* John xx. 26.

These, then, are some of the attributes of a spiritual body. They are evidently the natural properties of spirits. But God will clothe the bodies of his children with them, as a reward for their love of Him and the holy lives they have led in this world.



Besides the attributes which immediately flow from the fact that our animal bodies will rise spiritualized, there are two more qualities, which we shall now consider; namely, the impassibility and immortality of our risen bodies.

1. Impassibility implies the total loss of the power of suffering. What an enormous capacity we have for suffering! The power of receiving pleasure through our senses is only as a drop in the ocean, when compared to our manifold capacities for suffering, in every faculty of the soul, in every organ, member, and nerve of our frame. Every one of them is susceptible of tortures, which, while endured, make the enjoyment of life and its pleasures impossible. A violent headache or a burning fever drives a man almost to distraction, and destroys any pleasure he might otherwise experience. What consolation, therefore, to think that this body of suffering shall rise impassible! No more disease; no more pain or pang; no more suffering either of mind or body; for we shall enter a new world from which suffering is forever banished. St. John had a glimpse of this new world, when he said: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth were gone.... And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He shall dwell with them.... And God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away."*

* Apoc. xxi.

It was the thought of rising in glory, with a body free from suffering, that gave comfort to the holy man Job when the storm of adversity had burst upon him. Listen to his beautiful words: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day, I shall rise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God. Whom I myself shall see, and not another. This my hope is laid up in my bosom."* Lay up that hope in your bosom as he did, and when the storm of adversity bursts upon you, the thought of rising in a glorified, impassible body, and in a new world, will give you patience and resignation.

* Job xix.

But rising with the gift of impassibility does not mean that our bodies will be unfeeling as marble statues. It only means that they shall be free from the power of suffering; but that does not exclude the power of receiving pleasure. Glory does not destroy nature, but perfects it. The bodies of the blessed will remain sensible to impressions from suitable objects, and, according to St. Thomas, the blessed will use their senses for enjoyment in all that is not repugnant to a state of incorruption.*

* . . . . Et corpus igitur perfectum per animam proportionabiliter animae, immune erit ab omni malo, et quantum ad actum, et quantum ad potentiam: quantum ad actum quidem, quia nulla erit in eis corruptio, nulla deformitas, nullus defectus: quantum ad potentiam vero quia non poterunt aliquid pati quod sit eis molestum, et propter hoc impassibilia erunt; quae tamen impassibilitas non excludit ab eis passionem quae est de ratione sensus; utentor enim sensibus ad delectationem secundum illa quae statui incorruptionis non repugnant.—S. Thom., Cont. gent., lib. 4, c. 86.

2. We now come to consider the crowning glory of all the glorious supernatural attributes wherewith God will clothe our bodies on the last day. I say it is the crowning glory. For the splendor of form, the vigor of youth, and the complete perfection of our human nature—which are all included in the promise of rising conformable to the glorified body of Jesus Christ—would scarcely be worth working for or possessing, unless they were accompanied with the promise of incorruptibility. Indeed, of what use would be the rising with the bloom of youth and health on our cheek, and in perfect beauty of form, if time could again destroy them—as in this world! But there is no danger that the destroyer will ever enter our heavenly home. Listen to St. Paul. Speaking again of the body, he says: "It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption."*

* 1 Cor. xv 42.

Our bodies, as now constituted, are corruptible by their very nature. The elements of matter which compose them are held together by the laws of life, and not by their natural affinities. Hence, from the very first moment of our existence to our death, there is a continual struggle between the laws of life and those that govern inorganic matter. For a time, vigorous young life claims the supremacy, and the body grows to its degree of beauty and strength attainable in this world. But full soon the laws of decay and corruption begin to assert their empire. Beauty of feature and form gradually fade away; elasticity of limb gives way to the decrepitude of old age, and finally the whole frame becomes a burden under which nature groans and totters, until it falls into the gloomy grave, where corruption destroys every remaining vestige of beauty, and even of the human form. On the resurrection day, we not only shall rise in splendor and perfection of form, but we shall also be transferred to another world, whose laws are in perfect harmony with the laws of life, and into which corruption shall never enter.

In the present world, we already see things which, as far as we know nature's laws, are incorruptible. The diamond, for instance, is the most incorruptible of all known substances; and unless the now existing laws of nature should change, the splendid Koh-i-noor and other diamonds will glitter as brilliantly as they now do, when the angel sounds the trumpet to announce to the world that time shall be no more. These beautiful gems are therefore a faint image of our glorified bodies, which shall not only rise in perfection of form, but shall also be totally incorruptible. They shall forever be beyond the reach of death, decay, or corruption, resplendent in themselves, and increasing the very beauty of heaven, as sparkling gems enhance the beauty of a royal crown.

Yes, this vile and corruptible body must be changed into an incorruptible one. It must rise like the body of Jesus Christ, who, "rising again from the dead, dies no more; death shall no more have dominion over Him."* According to the beautiful and forcible words of the Apostle: "This corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"+

* Rom. 'vi. 9. + 1 Cor. xv. 53.

These, then, are some of the supernatural gifts wherewith God will clothe the bodies of the just on the last day. They are so great in themselves, that it would almost seem they should be worth working for even if there were no Beatific Vision. Yet, if taken separately, they are, so to speak, the mere external ornaments and finish of the happiness which heart of man cannot conceive. These glorious attributes of the risen body perfect and complete the happiness of man. As the soul and body reunited in glory form one human creature, so the happiness of the soul and body is one. After the resurrection, the beatitude of heaven can no longer be separated into the happiness of the soul in the Beatific Vision, and then the pleasures of the body through the glorified senses, as if there were two distinct beatitudes, or as if the soul and body were two distinct individuals. Whatever happiness comes from the union of the soul with God in the Beatific Vision, and whatever pleasures may reach the soul through the glorified senses, or from our communion with the saints, or the contemplation of the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other saints, it is all one happiness enjoyed by our human nature, which is one.



Now that the soul is again clothed in her body, glorified after the likeness of Christ's body, other pleasures and joys, besides those we have already contemplated in the Beatific Vision, claim our attention. They are the pleasures of the glorified senses, which, along with the Beatific Vision, are to gratify every rational appetite and craving of our human nature. And thus the whole man, in soul and body, will enjoy the complete happiness of heaven. But, in order to form a correct idea of these additional pleasures of the glorified senses, or rather of the integral happiness of heaven, we must be on our guard against several errors into which very good and even spiritual persons may easily fall.

The first error consists in ignoring or making little of the Beatific Vision, after the resurrection, and letting our mind pass from creature to creature, gathering exquisite pleasures from each, until practically we make man's happiness in heaven come almost exclusively from creatures. This is, substantially, the view which Protestants take of heaven. They have written books on the subject, in which they speak eloquently and even learnedly on the joys involved in the mutual recognition of friends and kindred, on the delights we shall enjoy in our social intercourse with the saints and angels, in the music that shall ravish our very souls, and other things of that nature. In a word, they maintain, as well as we do, that, in heaven, man will enjoy every possible intellectual, moral, and sensible pleasure, and that nothing will be wanting to make him perfectly happy in his whole being.

Here is the Protestant view of heaven. It is certainly far from being gross or carnal. It may even, at first sight, appear not to differ from that which is taught by the Catholic Church. But, on closer examination, the difference becomes apparent. In the Protestant view of heaven, the Beatific Vision is either entirely ignored, or, if mentioned at all, it is explained so as to mean next to nothing; at hast, it does not appear to add anything to the exquisite happiness already enjoyed in creatures. In their view heaven is really nothing more than a natural beatitude, such as might leave been enjoyed even in this world, if Adam had not sinned.

We must, therefore, be on our guard against any view of heaven which would make its principal happiness come from creatures. We must ever remember that no creature, either here or hereafter, can give perfect happiness to man. Wherefore, in our meditations on heaven, we must beware of making its chief happiness consist in delightful music, social intercourse with the saints, or in the pleasures enjoyed through the glorified senses, however pure and refined we may imagine them to be. This, then, is the first error to be avoided, and with much care; not only because it is untrue, but because also it lowers the beatitude of heaven, which consists essentially in the vision, love, and enjoyment of God himself.

The second error to be avoided consists in placing the whole happiness of man so completely and exclusively in the Beatific Vision, that neither the resurrection of the body with its glorious gifts, nor the communion of saints, nor heavenly music, nor any other creature, can increase the happiness already enjoyed by the soul in the possession of God. In this extreme and exclusive view of the Beatific Vision, man is so completely absorbed in God, and so perfectly happy in Him, that the whole creation is to him as if it were not; and if he were the only man ever created, or the only one in heaven, his joys would be precisely the same as they are, now that he is surrounded with angels, saints, and other creatures of God.

They who hold such extreme views may be very holy persons; but their opinions are far from being in accordance with sound theology. They remind us of those unskilful guides who taught St. Theresa that, in order to reach the most perfect contemplation in this world, we must raise our minds so completely above every creature, "that although it should be even the humanity of Christ, it is still some impediment for those who have advanced so far in spirituality, and that it hinders them from applying to the most perfect contemplation." It is almost needless to add that she soon discovered this to be a very dangerous error, and, as may be seen in the twenty-second chapter of her life, she expresses the deepest regret for having, even for a moment, entertained such an opinion. So will these persons of whom I speak discover their error, if they view the whole happiness of heaven, as it is taught by sound theology. Let us, then, see what theology teaches on the resurrection of the body, as increasing the happiness of the blessed, and on the accidental beatitude which comes to man from creatures.

1. It teaches, first, that the resurrection is not a mere accidental glory, which may or may not be given to the just, but that it is an essential element of man's happiness.* The soul of Abraham, for instance, that is now united to God in the Beatific Vision, is not, properly speaking, Abraham himself, but only a part of him. In order, therefore, to be perfect according to her nature, that soul must again be clothed with her own body of real flesh and blood, so that Abraham may again be a living man, and that God may be called, in the fullest sense of the word, "the God of the living." Evidently the same must be said of every other soul now basking in the light of God's countenance.

* Anima corpori naturaliter unitur; est enim secundum suam essentiam corporis forma; est igitur contra naturam animaae absque corpore esse. Nihil autem quod est contra naturam potest esse perpetuum ... oportet eam (animam) corpori iterato conjungi, quod est resurgere. Sum. contr. gent., lib. 4, cap. 79. .... Ad secundum, dicendum quod anima Abrahae non est proprie loquendo ipso Abraham, sed pars eius, et sic de aliis. Unde vita animae Abrahae non sufficeret ad hoc quod Abraham sit vivens, vel quod Deus Abraham sit Deus viventis: sed exigitur vita totius conjuncti, scilicet animae et corporis, quae quidem vita quamvis non esset in actu, quando verba proponebantur, erat tamen in ordine utriusque partis ad resurrectionem: unde Dominus per verba illa subtilissime et efficaciter resurrectionem profit.—S. Thom., Suppl., q. 75, art. 1.

We are not angels, but men. An angel is a superior being, and of a different order from us. He is a spirit, and complete as such without a body. But the human soul, although a spirit too, is not perfect without a body; for, as such, she is only a part of the being called man. Besides, it is not the soul alone that is to enjoy the happiness of heaven; it is man. And as he is composed of both soul and body, it is necessary that the soul should again be clothed with her body, so that man may be placed in the enjoyment of heaven's happiness in his whole being.

2. Theology teaches, in the second place, that the happiness of the blessed is increased by the resurrection, because the soul is enabled to receive new pleasures by her reunion with a glorified body. And, first, the human soul, which is not only intellectual, but also sensitive, receives those organs by which she is again enabled to exercise her imagination, and other faculties of her emotional or sensitive nature; all of which are sources of great enjoyment. Secondly, by her reunion with the body, she is again empowered to receive pleasure through the glorified senses. Thirdly, the soul is made more perfect in all her operations by her reunion with a glorified body.* The human body as now constituted, or rather as injured by sin, does not, it is true, always perfect the soul in her operations; it rather impedes her, at hast in many of them. Hence, the Wise Man tells us that "The corruptible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind that museth many things."+ If therefore, a glorified soul were reunited to such a body, undoubtedly her operations would not be made more perfect than they are in her separate state. But it is not to be so. The soul is to be reunited to a glorified body, that will be entirely subject to the spirit, and will, in consequence, perfect all its intellectual operations, its moral affections, and every other act which, according to its nature, it can perform.

*... Si ergo a corpore removeatur omne illud per quod actioni animae resistit, simpliciter erit anima perfectior in tali corpore existens quam separata: quanto autem perfectius in esse, tanto perfectius potest operari. Unde et operatio animae conjunctae tali corpori erit perfectior quam operatio animae separatae. Hujusmodi autem corpus erit gloriosum, quod omnino subdetur spiritui: Unde cum beatitudo in operatione consistat, perfectior erit beatitudo animae post resumptionem corporis quam ante.—S. Thom., Suppl. q. 93, art. 1.

+ Wis. ix. 15.

But, perhaps, some may say: Will not the Vision of God, at hast, be lessened or obscured by the reunion of the soul to a material body? It certainly will not. If the Vision of the Divine Essence could be obscured by the risen body, then, as Suarez wisely observes, the resurrection would be a punishment to the just, rather than a reward. Hence, he maintains that even the Beatific Vision is more perfect after the resurrection than it was before. This becomes evident when we remember that the Beatific Vision consists of the three human acts of knowledge, love, and enjoyment of God. These acts are evidently more perfect after the resurrection, since the human soul acts more perfectly in union with a glorified body than when separated from it. It follows, then, that even the essential beatitude of the saints is both increased and perfected by the resurrection of the body. Let us now see what theology teaches about accidental glory.

3. It teaches that accidental glory is any perfection of supernatural beatitude coming to the blessed from any object outside of the Beatific Vision, that is, from creatures. Thus, when our Blessed Lord tells us that "There shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner doing penance,"* He manifestly speaks of a new joy which comes to the blessed from an object outside of the Beatific Vision. So then, evidently, some of heaven's joys do come from creatures, though, ultimately, we may say, they all come from God.

* Luke xv, 2.

In this world, we receive a portion of our light from the moon; but that light is still from the sun, because the moon has no light of her own. She is a mere reflector, or instrument by which, during the night, the sun conveys to us a portion of his light. So in heaven. God is the only source of happiness and joy; and no creature is or can be a source of happiness independently of Him. But He can and does make use of creatures to adorn, perfect, and complete the happiness of the whole man.

* Beatitudo accidentalis, proprie et generatim loquendo, est quaelibet beati perfectio supernaturalis quae versatur circa aliquid quod est extra objectum beatificum, prout beatificum est.... Quia nulla est essentia creata quae non egeat aliquo accidente ad consummationem suae perfectionis. Essentialis autem beatitudo est quid creatum; ergo ornatur accidentibus. Et sicut essentialis beatitudo consistit in operatione, ita et haec accidentalis. Jam vero, istius accidentalis beatitudinis causa, seu praemii accidentalis meritum provenit ex bonis operibus, quae dum merentur praemium seu beatitudinem essentialem, etiam simul merentur accidentalem tamquam proprietatem in essentiali radicaliter contentam.... Ita qui meretur beatitudinem essentialem, simul meretur accidentalem, et utramque per modem unius praemii.—Suarez. de Beat. disput. 11.

Nevertheless, though this accidental glory comes to the blessed from creatures, it is radically contained in the essential, and is given with the essential as one reward, and not as two. For there are not two beatitudes in heaven. There is only one, which comprises both the essential and the accidental. It is true, we make a distinction between them, because the one comes immediately from God, while the other comes from creatures. But it does not, in the hast, follow that this last is of little use or to be despised. Considering the needs of our nature, which is not destroyed, but perfected in heaven, accidental glory is necessary to perfect and complete the blessedness of God's children, and to gratify every rational craving of human nature.

Thus the crown of the virgins—who sing a canticle that no one else can sing, and who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth—is a mere accidental glory; and yet it is one so much prized that many have given life itself, amidst the most cruel torments, in order to enjoy it. Thus again, our social intercourse with the saints, and the pure joys resulting therefrom, the meeting of our kindred and friends in heaven, the ravishing music which resounds through the vaults of heaven, the pleasures of the glorified senses these and a thousand other joys are the accidental beatitude with which God perfects and completes the happiness of the whole man.

The third error which we shall now examine flows naturally from the mistaken and exclusive views which some persons take of the Beatific Vision. They imagine that the vision of God will so completely absorb and monopolize every faculty of man, that, practically, he will become motionless and inactive as a statue. There can be no greater mistake. It is true that our union with God, in the Beatific Vision, is happiness and joy, greater than mortal man can conceive; but it by no means follows that it will hinder the free exercise of our mental faculties, or the activities of our glorified bodies. Indeed, the very reverse will take place; for glory does not destroy nature, but perfects it.

We are active by nature. Action, therefore, both of mind and body, is a law of our being, which cannot be changed, without radically changing, or rather destroying our whole nature. As glory perfects our whole nature, instead of destroying it, it follows that in heaven we shall be far more active than we can possibly be here below; for there all our powers will exist in their highest perfection. Therefore, the intellect, elevated and strengthened by the light of glory, will continue to think and to contemplate the truth; for such is the natural action of the human intellect. Thus, also, the will, which is the loving power of the soul, shall continue forever to love; for its natural action is to love the good, the beautiful, and the perfect. The memory, also, will forever continue to recall the many graces received from God, thus keeping alive a deep sense of gratitude for His benefits; while the imagination will still continue to make to itself new and captivating pictures of beauty. Thus, also, the eye will continue to see material objects; for such is the natural action of that organ. The ear will continue to hear delightful sounds, and the whole body will continue to receive pleasurable sensations, and to perform all other actions which are natural to it, if we except those that belong to the animal life of man; for, as we have already seen, such actions are incompatible with a life and state of incorruption.

The soul of Jesus Christ enjoyed the Beatific Vision, even while here on earth in mortal flesh. Was He, on that account, prevented from doing anything, except contemplating the Divine Essence? He certainly was not. He labored and preached; he ate, drank, and slept; he visited his friends, and did a thousand other things, without losing sight of the Divine Nature.*

* Ad quartum dicendum, quando unum duorum est ratio alterius, occupatio animae circa unum non impedit nec remittet occupationem eius circa aliud.... Et quia Deus apprehenditur a sanctis ut ratio omnium quae ab eis agentur vel cognoscentur: ideo occupatio eorum circa sensibilia et sentienda, vel quaecumque alia contemplanda aut agenda, in nullo impediet divinam contemplationem, nec e converso. Vel dicendum quod ideo una potentia impeditur in actu suo quando alia vehementer operatur, quia una potentia de se non sufficit ad tam intensam operationem, nisi ei subveniatur per id quod erat aliis potentiis vel membris instituendum a principio vitae: et quia erunt in sanctis omnes potentiae perfectissimae, una poterit ita intense operari, quod ex hoc nullum impedimentum praestabitur actioni alterius potentiae; sicut et in Christus fuit.—S. Thom., Suppl., q. 82, art. 8.

Moreover, if the Beatific Vision is to overpower us, suspend our activities, and change us into statues, what would be the use of bestowing upon us the gift of agility? As we have seen, by that wonderful gift we shall be empowered to transport ourselves, with the rapidity of thought, to the most distant parts of God's universe. Is such a power to be given as a reward to God's children, and then rendered totally inactive and useless? We might as well say that though we shall have eyes, we shall not see. Wherefore, St. Thomas maintains that the blessed will go from place to place, according to their will, to exercise the power of agility which they have received, and to enjoy the beauty of God's creatures, which eminently reflect the divine wisdom.* nor shall they, on this account, lose anything of their essential happiness, which consists in the vision of God, for they will find Him everywhere present.

* Respondeo dicendum, quod corpora gloriosa aliquando moveri necesse est ponere.... Verisimile est quod aliquando movebuntur pro suae libitu voluntatis, ut illud quod habent virtute actu exercentes, divinam sapientiam commendabilem ostendant; et ut etiam visus eorum reficiatar pulchritudine creaturarum dtversarum, in quibus Dei sapientia eminenter relucebit. Sensus autem non potest esse nisi praesentium, quamvis magis a longinquo sentire possint corpora gloriosa, quam non gloriosa: nec tamen per motum aliquid deperibit eorum beatitudini quae consistit in Dei visione, quem ubique praesentem habebunt.—S. Thom., Suppl., q. 84, art. 2.

From all this sound theology it is evident that our union with God in the Beatific Vision, far from suspending or destroying the activities of our nature, will rather increase and perfect them. It will do so, first, by taking away from soul and body whatever now makes us sluggish; and, secondly, by adding to our now existing faculties supernatural powers, which will give to our nature its highest degree of perfection and similitude to God, who is all activity.

We must be careful to remember all this; otherwise it will be impossible for us ever to understand how the saints can possibly enjoy each other's society, rejoice at the conversion of sinners, listen to delightful music, enjoy the pleasures of the glorified senses, and otherwise exercise all the faculties and powers of their nature. The little glimpse of heaven given in the Apocalypse, certainly does not represent the saints and angels as inactive statues. On the contrary, all is life and a wonderful activity.

We are now prepared to meditate upon the integral happiness of heaven, which includes the resurrection of the body. This is the happiness which is to gratify every rational appetite of man.



Having examined the glorious gifts with which the risen body is clothed, and seen that it perfects the soul in all her operations; understanding, moreover, that the glorified senses are to contribute their share to the happiness of man—we shall now consider the happy life of the blessed in heaven, including the resurrection. But, remember, it is not a new life that is now to occupy our thoughts. It is a continuation of the same life that was begun the moment the vision of God flashed upon the soul. This heavenly life, which was enjoyed by the soul alone before the resurrection, is now enjoyed by the whole man, in its fulness and perfection.

If you dig in a dry and barren spot, and happen to strike a vein of living water, it bubbles up, overflows, and moistens the surrounding earth, clothing it with beautiful verdure and smiling flowers. So it is in the resurrection. The life which had been concentrated in the soul alone, overflows to the body, giving to it life, beauty, and glory, and causing it to thrill with inexpressible pleasure. The Beatific Vision, which was the essential happiness of the soul before the resurrection, is now the essential happiness of man.

In our meditations on the life of Christ, we make ourselves present to the mysteries we are contemplating. We do not look upon them as past, but as actually taking place under our eyes. Thus we see Jesus lying in a manger; we see Him flying into Egypt, disputing with the doctors in the temple; we see Him laboring, preaching, and dying upon the cross. We shall endeavor to do the same in our meditations on the life of the blessed.

Let us, then, transport ourselves in spirit to that great day, which St. John saw, when a mighty angel, coming down from heaven, stood upon the land and sea, and, lifting up his hand on high, swore by Him who liveth forever and ever, that "time should be no more." Then, says St. John, "I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened, and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books.... And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people; and God himself shall be their God. And He that sat upon the throne said: Behold I make all things new."*

* Apoc. xx.

Here is a new order of things, in a new world—a world of beauty and perfection inconceivably greater than the one wherein we now live. This is the world in which we are to live the life of the blessed. In this chapter, we shall examine five of its most prominent attributes.

1. First, it is a life of peace. When Jesus was born, the angels sang: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will." And when He arose from the dead, his first words to the Apostles were: "Peace be to you." But, though the peace He wished and gave was great; it was not, and, in the existing order of things, could not be perfect. For they still had to battle against the world, the devil, and the flesh. But in heaven that peace is perfect, because it flows immediately from the bosom of God himself. Besides, none of those things which in this world disturb our peace, can ever enter the kingdom of peace.

We now have perfect peace with God, of whose love for us we no longer doubt, as we may have often done when on earth. We also have peace with ourselves; for those unruly passions which formerly disturbed our peace, no longer exist in our glorified bodies. We enjoy perfect peace with our neighbor; for conflicting interests, envies, and jealousies, which gave rise to dissensions and enmities, have not found and never will find their way into heaven. We also have peace from the devil, who no longer "goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." He has found no admittance into the kingdom of peace. We also have peace from our past life; for the sins which so often made us tremble, are washed away in the blood of Jesus, and are, therefore, no longer a source of trouble. The remembrance of them rather intensifies our love for the God of mercy and therefore increases our happiness. We now, also, have peace from our future. That awful future was formerly shrouded in impenetrable darkness, and often filled us with gloomy forebodings. But now the judgment is over; we have heard the consoling sentence: "Come ye, blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world." We now gaze undismayed into that bright outspread eternity, wherein we see nothing that can ever disturb our peace. The wish and prayer of St. Paul, expressed to the first Christians, is now completely fulfilled in us: "And the peace of God which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."*

* Phil. iv. 7.

This, then, is the first feature of heavenly life, and, as is evident, this peace is absolutely necessary to enjoy the life itself, and whatever else of happiness is in store for the children of God.

2. The life of heaven is one of rest. St. John says: "And I heard a voice from heaven, saying to me, Write: Blessed are they that die in the Lord. From henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors."* This is one of the most captivating features of heavenly life for the poor, and for all others who labored much in this world. It also gives the most exquisite consolation to those who, on account of peculiar difficulties in the practice of virtue, have been fatigued and wearied almost unto death. Their whole spiritual life was one of continual labor and struggle, which at times so disheartened them, that they felt strongly tempted to give up all further attempt at Christian perfection, and to seek consolation and rest in the pleasures of this world. Oh, how happy they now are! How grateful to God, who gave them the grace of final perseverance! They now enter into their rest, which shall never more be disturbed by toil or struggle. They now live a life of everlasting rest, though not one of inactivity. For, as we have already seen, the life of heaven is not one of inactivity, but one in which every energy of mind and body has its full and free action. As our life in heaven is a participation of the life of God himself, it must resemble that Divine Life, which, while it is ineffable rest, is ever active and operative in the creation, conservation, and government, not only of our own world, but of those millions of other worlds that shine above our heads. Nevertheless, this continual exercise of our manifold faculties in heaven, does not, as in this world, generate fatigue, weariness, or disgust; but is the never-failing source of the highest and most rational pleasure.

* Apoc. xiv.

What a consoling thought this is for the poor! They labor much, and for scanty wages, which, in many instances, scarcely suffice to keep themselves and families from starvation. What a consolation also for persons who have devoted themselves to God in religious communities! By their vows they became poor for Christ's sake, and, like Him, they labored much. The wear and tear of the religious life deprived many of their health and strength; and yet they continue to labor as if they were in full vigor. Their day of rest has come at last. Their beloved Spouse has called them to himself, that they might rest from their labors. The last words of the Church over them is a solemn prayer for that heavenly rest: "Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord. And let everlasting light shine upon them. May they rest in peace." Here is the end of all labor, struggle, and fatigue. Here is the beginning of a life of eternal, undisturbed repose.

3. The life of heaven is also one of intellectual pleasure. We saw, in a former chapter, that man's intellect is filled to overflowing with all knowledge in the vision of God. We must now say a few words on the exquisite and pure pleasures which this knowledge produces.

Intellectual pleasures are, perhaps, the hast generally known of all those which our nature can enjoy. For the great majority of the human race is made up of the poor, who are compelled to spend their lives in toiling for food and raiment. They are, in consequence, unable to develop their mental faculties and to enjoy high intellectual pleasures. And yet these pleasures are the highest, the most rational and satisfying which man can enjoy; because they are produced by the exercise of the intellect, which is the noblest faculty of the soul.

Men of highly cultivated minds, such as theologians, philosophers, astronomers, mathematicians, and literary men, separate themselves from the world and its pleasures; they spend the day, and a great part of the night, in study, in the contemplation of the truth; they even forget to eat and drink, and must be compelled by their friends to attend to the necessities of nature. Many of them have completely ruined their health by study; and some of them, as Democritus the philosopher, are reported to have even plucked out their eyes, that they might have less distraction, and thereby be enabled to meditate more profoundly upon the truths of their respective sciences. Now, I ask, is it in our nature to go through such terrible self-denials without compensation? Surely it is not. Therefore, the natural inference is that knowledge is a source of the most exquisite pleasures.

If it is so, in this world, where the curse of sin has darkened the mind, and where knowledge is so limited, and so mingled with error and doubt, what shall we say of those pleasures in heaven? There the intellect of man receives a supernatural light; it is elevated far above itself by the light of glory; it is purified, strengthened, enlarged, and enabled to see God as He is in His very essence. It is enabled to contemplate, face to face, Him who is the first essential Truth. It gazes undazzled upon the first infinite beauty, wisdom, and goodness, from whom flow all limited wisdom, beauty, and goodness found in creatures. Who can fathom the exquisite pleasures of the human intellect when it thus sees all truth as it is in itself? This is one of heaven's secrets which we shall never fully understand, except when united to God in the Beatific Vision. Nevertheless, if ever we have enjoyed the pleasures produced by the perusal of a highly intellectual work, or felt the irresistible fascinations of some favorite science, we can, it seems, form some distant conception of intellectual pleasures in heaven.

4. The life of heaven is also one of love. As we have seen before, man cannot rest satisfied with the mere contemplation of truth and beauty, however pleasurable and satisfying such a contemplation may be. His will immediately seizes upon the truth and beauty presented by the intellect, and loves with an intensity proportioned to the perfection of the object presented. Now, as God himself, in This unveiled majesty, is the object presented to the will, and as He is the most perfect of all beings, it follows that the will loves, in heaven, with an ardor, an intensity whereof we can form but a faint conception in our present state of trial.

There, at last, do the blessed fulfil to perfection the law which commands us to love God with our whole heart, with our whole soul, with all our strength, with all our mind—and our neighbor as ourselves. Not only does each one of the blessed love, but he sees himself loved in return both by the Almighty and by every one of the saints. This makes heaven a life of love, and consequently one of perfect happiness.

Think of this, ye mortals, who crave after human love. You desire to love and to be loved. Love is the sunshine of your lives. But, do what you will, it can never give you perfect happiness here below; for when you have, at last, succeeded in possessing the object after which you so ardently sighed, you discover in it imperfections which you had not suspected before; and these lessen your happiness. But suppose, even, that you are of the few who are as happy as they expected to be, how long will your blessedness last? A few years, at most. Then, death, with a merciless hand, tears away from you the objects of your love. Is not this the end of all earthly happiness?

Look up to heaven, and there see the blessed in the presence of God. They are as happy to-day in their love as they were hundreds of years ago; and when millions of ages have rolled by, they shall still possess the object of their love, which is the Eternal God. Thus the blessed live a life of love, and, consequently, one of perfect happiness.

5. The life of heaven is, moreover, one of perfect enjoyment. In this world, there can be no perfect and lasting enjoyment; and this not only because creatures have not the power of giving perfect happiness, but also because our powers of enjoyment are imperfect in themselves, and because also our bosom swarms with ungoverned passions, which spread the gall of bitterness over our joys. How many thousands are there not, for whom fortune smiles in vain! How many are there not, who, though surrounded with untold wealth, are nevertheless more wretched than the tattered beggar! One, for instance, is always suffering from bad health, and hence he cannot enjoy the pleasures which fortune has placed within his reach. Another is not only wealthy, but is, moreover, elevated to some honorable position, and one would think he must enjoy the honors with which he is surrounded; but there is in his bosom an ungoverned passion, which, like a canker-worm, eats away his joys one by one.

Holy Scripture gives us a striking instance of this in the person of Haman. He had been highly exalted by King Assuerus; and the servants of the king bent the knee before him, and worshipped him, "only Mardochai did not bend the knee nor worship him." This apparent slight so wounded the pride of Haman, that he could enjoy neither peace nor happiness so long as Mardochai, the Jew, sat at the king's gate. Listen to his own confession: "He called together his friends and Zares his wife, and he declared to them the greatness of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and with how great glory the king had advanced him above all his princes and servants. And after this he said: Queen Esther also hath invited no other to the banquet with the king, but me: and with her I am also to dine to-morrow with the king. And whereas I have all these things, I think I have nothing, so long as I see Mardochai, the Jew, sitting at the king's gate."* What a revelation this is! How little it takes to destroy our powers of enjoyment! It is only a small worm that eats away the very core of the most delicious fruit, leaving it tasteless and rotten.

* Esther v.

In heaven only shall we live a life of perfect enjoyment; not merely because all the objects of happiness exist there in their highest perfection, but because we shall also be made perfect by our union with God. "We shall be like Him, because we shall see him as He is." Wherefore, no inordinate passion will ever lurk in our bosom, and spread bitterness over our joys. No torturing disease ever will enervate or prostrate the energies of our glorified bodies, and render them incapable of enjoyment. All the powers of enjoyment which belong to the glorified state will ever remain fresh and unimpaired. It follows from this, that our life in heaven will be one of continued, undisturbed enjoyment of God himself, of the society of the saints, and of all other creatures that He has prepared to perfect and complete the beatitude of man.



The life of heaven is also one of pleasure through the glorified senses. These pleasures, as well as those of the Beatific Vision, are certainly beyond our comprehension. Still, we may form some idea of them by reflecting on the exquisite delights which reach our soul through our senses, in our present state of imperfection. They are so fascinating that the world runs wild with their intoxication. What, then, must they be in heaven, where everything is perfect? For, in that world of God's magnificence, both the senses and their respective objects exist in their highest perfection, which is far from being the case here below.

Now, give free scope to your imagination. Let it roam among the blessed, and flutter from creature to creature. Build up all you can of pure pleasure, and you will never reach any more than the dimmest and faintest shadow of the reality. Gaze upon the glorious body of Jesus Christ, the most perfect and lovely that ever came from the hand of God. It is the very sun that gives beauty to the whole of heaven. Then contemplate the transcendent beauty of the Immaculate Mother, who, next to Jesus, is clothed with the greatest glory. Feed your eyes upon that countless multitude of saints. They are all beautiful, because they have all risen with a body glorified after the likeness of Christ's glorious body. Each one has a beauty and perfection of his own, according to his merits; and the very lowest is clothed with a loveliness far superior to anything ever seen in this world.

If there is a rush to see beautiful objects, grand and sublime sights, magnificent scenery, and the works of art, on account of the intense pleasure enjoyed through the sense of sight, what shall we say of the exquisite pleasures in store for that sense in heaven! Then again reflect how very captivating, soothing, and enlivening music is. The ear revels in it, and pours into the soul torrents of harmony, which make her, for the time, altogether forget the outer world. So captivating is it, that hours pass by unheeded, and she would almost fancy it is the echoes of angels' voices she hears. What, then, must heavenly harmony be, if our imperfect music is so delightful? Think, also, how exquisitely the odors of flowers, incense, and all manner of perfumery produce a soothing effect upon man, banishing cares, and infusing a new life into him. What must those pleasures be in heaven?

We have already seen that, in heaven, there is to be neither eating nor drinking, as we now understand these two actions. But this does not mean that the sense of taste is not to be gratified. It most certainly will be, though not by corruptible objects, as in this world. The same must be said of the sense of touch or feeling, which is diffused over the whole body.

The five senses of the human body are not mere accidental ornaments, which may or may not exist; they are essential to the integrity of its nature. Thus a blind or a deaf and dumb man is not a perfect man, because he lacks something which is essential to the integrity of his nature. Now, as glory does not destroy the nature of the body, but perfects it, it follows that all the blessed must rise with their five senses in their full perfection. And as their perfection consists in their activity and power of receiving impressions from external objects, and conveying them to the soul, it is evident that the senses must remain active in heaven, and have suitable objects to act upon. This is precisely what we learn from the angelic doctor, who maintains that the glory of the body does not destroy its nature, but perfects it, and even preserves the very color that is natural to it.* He maintains, moreover, that every power or faculty is more perfect when acting upon its proper object, than it is when inactive; and, as human nature will reach its highest degree of perfection in heaven, it follows that every sense will there act according to its nature.+

* Corporis gloria naturam non tollet, sed perficiet: unde color qui debetur corpori ex natura suarum partium, remanebit in eo, sed superaddetur gloria animae.—S. Thom., Suppl., q. 85, art. 1.

+ Potentia conjuncta actui suo perfectior est quam non conjuncta: sed humana natura erit in beatis in maxima perfectione: ergo erunt ibi omnes sensus in suo actu. Praeterea, vicinius se habent ad animam potentiae sensitivae, quam corpus: sed corpus praemiabitur vel punietur propter merita vel demerita animae: ergo et omnes sensus praemiabuntur in beatis, et punientur in malis, secundum delectationem et dolorem vel tristitiam, quae in operatione sensus consistunt.—S. Thom., Suppl., q. 82, art. 4.

According to this doctrine, not one sense of the human body is either dead, inactive, or excluded from enjoyment, in heaven. And why should any one of them be excluded? Why should the sight, or the hearing, or even the sense of smell, be rewarded, rather than the taste, or the sense of touch? Certainly no valid reason can be given.

Theologians teach that in hell every sense of the human body shall have its own peculiar punishment; and that the sense of feeling, especially, shall be tortured; because, in most cases, it is principally in that sense that the reprobate have most offended God. Surely we must not imagine that God is more severe in punishing the wicked, than He is good and liberal in rewarding the just. Now, is it not precisely in the senses of taste and feeling that the saints have suffered most for God? Look at that countless multitude of martyrs. Many were starved to death; others were scourged until they died under the torture; others were torn by the wild beasts; others were crucified; others were burnt with a slow fire; while others were tortured for days together in every limb and sense, and that, too, with all the ingenuity and appliances that the most refined cruelty could devise.

Then again, look at that countless multitude of confessors, virgins, and others, who, in the practice of virtue, became their own executioners. They suffered inconceivably by frequent and long fastings, by coarseness of diet, by wearing hair-cloths, and by otherwise torturing their flesh. And now, shall these senses go unrewarded in the blessed, while they are so terribly punished in the reprobate? Certainly not. All that we can say is that, at present, we do not know how all this is to be realized; but as the whole man in all his senses has served God, and suffered for Him, it is but just that he should be rewarded in his whole being, which includes every sense of the body, as well as every faculty of the soul.

Hence, in our meditations on heaven, we must let the pleasures of the glorified senses enter as an integral element of man's happiness. We must contemplate these pleasures as seriously as we do the pain of sense in the reprobate, only avoiding the introduction of anything gross or carnal, and, therefore, repugnant to a state of incorruption. Hence we must, as already shown, avoid introducing eating, drinking, sleep, or anything else which, by its very nature, belongs to the animal life of man.

We must also banish from our ideas of heaven all the carnal pleasures of this world, as they are now understood. Our blessed Lord himself told the Jews, who believed such pleasures to exist in heaven: "You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For, in the resurrection, they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the angels of God in heaven."* All such pleasures, which were intended only for this world of imperfection, will be replaced by others of a superior order, and suited to our spiritualized bodies.

* Matt. xxii. 29.

So, then, we see that the life of heaven is one of sensible pleasure through the glorified senses, as well as one of exquisite mental and moral enjoyment in the Beatific Vision. These sensible pleasures have, moreover, a peculiar characteristic, which the pleasures of sense have not in our present state of imperfection. In heaven the blessed can enjoy them all without fear; for none of them are forbidden, and, consequently, they can never be followed by bitter remorse or shame. Neither have they, as in this world, a tendency to darken the mind, and turn the heart away from God. They will rather intensify our love for Him, who is the Author of our exceeding blessedness, whether it comes immediately from himself or partly from the beautiful creatures He has prepared to complete the happiness of His beloved children.



The life of heaven is also one of pure social joys. Among all the joys outside of the Beatific Vision, there are certainly none so sweet as those which arise from our social intercourse with the blessed. We are social beings by nature. Our highest and best powers are framed for society; and we are never in our normal state except when in communion with our fellow-men. Hence all men love society, if we except the misanthrope or man-hater, who is a moral monster. He has unfortunately developed in his bosom some of the worst passions of our fallen nature, and they have built an element of hell in his heart. For in that godless and hopeless region there is no love either for God or neighbor, and, therefore, social joys can have no existence therein. With the exception of a few persons of this kind, all men love society. Even the lonely hermit loves it. But he sees in it dangers to his soul, and he cuts himself off from it in this world, that he may enjoy it in the next, where it shall have lost its dangerous element.

Social intercourse with our fellow-beings affords us some of our purest joys in this world; yet they are not, and never can be perfect. They are roses with cruel thorns, that wound and make us bleed, almost as often as they delight us with their delicious perfumes. How often does it not happen that we go into society with a light heart, and return home sad and heavy? And why so? Because our heart has been wounded, perhaps crushed, by some wicked insinuation, or some unkind interpretation of an action performed with the best Of intentions on our part. Even our holiest actions are criticized, and unworthy motives, which never entered our minds, are attributed to us. Then again, they, whom we had considered our best friends, may betray us, and reveal to a cold and cruel world the secrets which, in our simplicity, we had confided to them. In a word, if intercourse with our fellow-creatures is often the source of pure joys, it is not infrequently the occasion of our keenest sufferings. And why? Because in our present state of imperfection we are sinful and selfish. Because we allow ourselves to act toward others through jealousy, envy, natural aversion, and other ungoverned passions of our fallen nature. We do not love all men, and all men do not love us. We see many defects in others, which make them unamiable; and they see as many in us, which make their love for us almost an impossibility. Wherefore, so long as we live in the flesh, our social joys must always be mingled with a certain amount of bitterness.

Let us now raise our eyes to our heavenly home, and there contemplate a life of the purest, and most perfect social pleasures. There, neither selfishness, nor uncharitableness, nor any unruly passion can exist, and, consequently, our social joys will never be mingled with the gall of bitterness. Putting aside, for a moment, all the shortcomings and imperfections that mar our social joys in this world, let us look at their bright side only, and see what it is that makes our social intercourse with others a pleasure. This will be as a mirror wherein we shall behold some faint reflections of social joys as they exist in heaven. What are the personal attributes or qualities in others that make our social intercourse with them a pleasure? They may be reduced to six, which really include all others that could be mentioned. These are virtue, learning, beauty, refinement, mutual love, and the ties of kindred. We shall say a few words on each of these.

1. Virtue is the attribute which gives us our highest similitude to God, and it is this also which imparts to us some of the purest social pleasures we enjoy on earth. Purity of life, or at hast the absence of gross vices, is a condition without which we can enjoy no one's society, unless we ourselves are depraved. Neither beauty, nor learning, nor any other endowment, can replace virtue, while it alone can, to a great extent, supply all other deficiencies. Hence it is, that when depraved persons are in the society of the good, they feel compelled to be guarded in their words and actions. They must put on an exterior appearance, at hast, of virtue, well knowing that otherwise their presence would be extremely offensive, and calculated to mar the pleasures of others.

When we meet with one who is evidently a man of God, one whose every word is instinct with the spirit of God, whose whole exterior betokens the intimate union of his soul with God, in whose very countenance the beauty of angelical purity shines forth, we deem it a happiness to spend a few moments in his society. The pleasures enjoyed in his company are not only exquisite—they are also sanctifying. If that is so in this world, where all holiness is imperfect, what shall we say of the pleasures of heavenly society? Holiness is an essential attribute of every inhabitant of heaven. They are all pure; for none else can see God. They are all made partakers of the Divine Nature in a far higher degree than is attainable in this world, and consequently they are all clothed with the spotless purity of God himself. Not only are they all pure, but they are, moreover, totally free from those natural defects of character, which, in this world, make many holy persons unamiable, and even repulsive. As nature is not destroyed, but perfected by glory, our natural character will not be destroyed by our union with God. But whatever is faulty in it, or offensive to others, will disappear, leaving it amiable and perfect in its own kind. Hence, our social intercourse with the saints will ever be the source of the purest pleasures.

2. Learning, in those with whom we associate, is another source of pleasure. We can sit for hours listening to the interesting conversation of a learned man, even if he lacks virtue, and only wears its exterior appearance. In such a man's society we drink in, as it were, torrents of pleasures, which are among the most rational we can enjoy in this world. If these pleasures are so exquisite here below, where, after all, the wisest know so little, what shall we say of those same pleasures in heaven? There all are learned, all are filled with knowledge, though all do not possess it in the same degree. Nevertheless, each one's knowledge will be a source of pleasure to others.

3. Personal beauty is also a source of pleasure in this world. Every one knows that perfect personal beauty sweetly but powerfully draws men to itself, and that one endowed therewith gives far greater pleasure than another who does not possess this attribute. It is in heaven, and there only, that every one will possess the attribute of beauty in its fullest perfection. For the soul is clothed with the beauty of God himself, which He communicates to her in the Beatific Vision; while the whole body is beautified and glorified after the likeness of Christ's glorious body. Every saint is therefore clothed with a loveliness far superior to anything we ever can see on earth. If, then, it is so great a pleasure to associate with persons who possess the natural and perishable beauty of this world, what shall we say of the pleasures which must flow from our intercourse with persons who are clothed with the beauty of God himself!

4. Refinement is another attribute which makes our social intercourse with others pleasurable. A great personal beauty that might at first attract others to itself, would soon repel and even disgust them, should they perceive in its possessor unpolished manners, coarseness, and stupidity. A cultivated intellect, refined feelings, and elegant manners are necessary to adorn personal beauty, and make it a source of pleasure to those who are attracted thereby. It is very certain that in heaven, where our whole nature is to be elevated and perfected, this refinement of mind and heart, as well as the elegance of personal bearing which flows from both, will exist in its highest perfection, and ever be the source Of exquisite pleasures in our social intercourse with the blessed.

5. Another source of social joys is mutual love. The four personal attributes we have been considering, make up an amiable character; that is, one which we love spontaneously, and whose love we are certain to have in return for ours. It is this love which crowns and perfects a character of this kind, and produces a very large share of the pure pleasures we enjoy in the society of such persons. But, however pure human love may be, even when elevated by grace to the virtue of charity, it never can produce unalloyed social pleasures; because it never reaches its full perfection in this world.

It is in heaven only that charity is perfect. There we shall love every one with a most tender charity, and see ourselves loved as tenderly and as purely in return. Our charity will be mutual, and, therefore, our intercourse with the blessed will produce joys and pleasures second only to the unspeakable happiness of the Beatific Vision. Meditate well, Christian soul, on these exquisite delights. Think what an unspeakable pleasure that mutual and perfect charity must be to the inhabitants of heaven. That feature alone would almost change for any one of us this cold world into a heaven.

Suppose you could say, with truth, "Every one of my acquaintances loves me with the purest charity; and every stranger who is introduced to me, loves me immediately with the purest affection. I have no enemies; no, not one. No one is ever envious or jealous of me; no one ever says an unkind word of me, nor has any one even an unkind thought of me. All seem to take a singular pleasure in speaking well of me, and in doing me all manner of kind services; and, in return, I sincerely love all, and take a singular delight in doing good to all." Surely, such language never was spoken by any one in this world of imperfection. If, therefore, you could speak it with truth, you would have reached a blessedness which neither our Blessed Lord nor any of his saints ever reached on earth. Every one would look upon you, and with reason, as the most highly-favored person that ever lived in this world.

Now, this is precisely the blessedness which awaits us in our heavenly home. There we shall love every one with the most perfect charity, and every one will return our love. There we shall have no enemies; no one to think uncharitably of us; no one to criticize our sayings and conduct; no one to spread reports injurious to our character; no one to put an unfavorable construction upon our most innocent actions. "God is charity," and as "we shall be like Him because we shall see him as he is," it follows that we, too, shall possess that divine charity, in a far higher degree than is attainable here below. Our social intercourse with the blessed will, therefore, ever be the source of the purest and sweetest joy.

6. Besides the things already enumerated, there is one more which is to be the source of still greater joy. And what may that be? It is the meeting, in heaven, of them whom we loved so well here, because they were bound to us by the sacred ties of kindred, or of true friendship. It is the meeting of parent and child, of husband and wife, of brother and sister, of relatives and friends—with whom we were united by the bonds of the purest love. As glory does not destroy our nature, neither does it destroy our natural virtues, but perfects them. Hence, we shall take along with us our natural love for our relatives and friends. Thus Jesus Christ, our Model, now loves His Blessed Mother with the natural love of a dutiful son. He loves her, not only because she is so pure and holy, but also because she is His own mother. The elevation of His human nature above everything that is not God, has neither destroyed nor diminished in him that natural love which every child has for its mother. Thus, again, Mary now loves Jesus most tenderly, not only because he is her God, but also because he is her own son—flesh of her flesh, and bone of her bone. Her elevation to the highest glory, after that of Jesus, has neither destroyed nor diminished in her the natural love which every mother has for her child. If anything, it has made her love more ardent even than it was in this world.

So we, also, shall enter heaven with the natural love we now have for our kindred and friends; but in us it will be purified from everything inordinate or imperfect. What a delight that meeting must be for the blessed! We can even now form some faint idea of that heavenly joy, by reflecting on what takes place when a beloved father returns home from a long and perilous Voyage, or from some cruel war, where he was daily exposed to captivity and death. What outbursts of gladness among the members of his family! How happy they are to see him and embrace him! If these joys are so great in this world, what must they be in heaven! Especially since there they are coupled with the thought that there is no more separation. No, no more separation! What delightful music there is in that short sentence! Death shall be no more, and therefore we shall never more be torn away from the society of our kindred and friends.

However, it seems to me I hear you say, "There is no difficulty in believing that the meeting of our own in heaven is an unspeakable joy; but suppose we do not meet them there—what then? Suppose that on entering heaven we learn that our father, our mother, or some other loved one is lost forever; shall we still be happy? Will there not be in such a case an essential element wanting to complete our happiness?" We shall devote the next chapter to answering this difficulty, which is a lifelong torture to many a pious mind.



This is a difficult question to answer satisfactorily, on account of our instinctive feelings of natural affection, which arise, and, like a mist, obscure our judgment. Nevertheless, the difficulty is much lessened, and even entirely removed from some minds, at hast, by the following considerations.

1. Our happiness, even in this world, does not depend on the happiness of those who are bound to us by the ties of kindred or of friendship. This is especially the case when their unhappiness proceeds from their own misdeeds. In such a case, we even inflict the punishment ourselves, and feel satisfied to see them suffer according to their deserts. Thus a father banishes from the paternal roof a son or a daughter who has committed a deed that has brought disgrace upon the family. And what is more, the whole family ratify the terrible sentence. The presence and happiness of that brother or sister is no longer necessary for their own happiness. Again, a husband banishes from his presence an unfaithful wife, whom he had formerly loved as his own life. While she was pure, it seemed to him that he could never be happy without her; and now her society has become a positive hinderance to his happiness. Therefore she must go and live alone in her disgrace. It is a just punishment for her infidelity.

If such is the case in this world, why not in heaven? Those of our own who die in sin appear before God in disgrace. He disowns them as unworthy children, or as unfaithful spouses, and as such He banishes them from the kingdom of glory; and we shall undoubtedly ratify the just sentence. Nor will their wretchedness, which is the work of their own hands, disturb our peace or mar our happiness.

2. In heaven, we shall be like God, because we shall see Him as he is. This moral transformation, as we have already seen, is the work of the Beatific Vision. By that glorious vision, and consequent union with God, we shall participate in all the attributes of God which are communicable to a rational nature. One of these attributes is justice—that is, the power of judging as God does, without passion, prejudice, or any of those motives which, in this world, render our judgments rash, unjust, or partial. Not only shall we be clothed with the power of judging justly, but with it we shall have a desire that every one be rewarded or punished according to his works; and we shall rest perfectly satisfied to see the just sentence carried into effect.

Even now we possess that attribute, as well as others which make us the living images of the Most High. But it is far from being perfect, because our feelings, private interests, and passions warp our judgments, and even reverse them after we have pronounced a just sentence. Suppose, for instance, you hear of a man who has committed a premeditated murder. You are horrified at the atrocious deed, and without a moment's hesitation you pronounce in your heart that man's sentence. Your judgment is that he must die on the scaffold, or, at least, that he be deprived of liberty and condemned to hard labor for the remainder of his days. But you have scarcely pronounced this just sentence when you discover that the murderer is your own father! What a change this one circumstance will bring about in your judgment! If you are of an affectionate nature, you will do all in your power to find circumstances that may lessen or palliate his guilt; and perhaps you may even succeed in making him appear, in your eyes, wholly innocent; and thus your first judgment is entirely reversed. What is it that has thus changed your first judgment? Is it your deep sense of justice? Not at all. Your instinctive feelings of love have blinded you, and made it impossible for you to judge his case fairly, and on its own merits.

But, again, if you are not of an affectionate nature, you may be so transported with rage at your father's crime, that you can find no punishment severe enough for him. And why so? Because you see yourself and your family forever disgraced. You feel your cheek burning with shame, and, in your desire for revenge, you heap maledictions upon your unfortunate father's head. Here, again, your judgment is wrong, because it is dictated by an unmanly desire of revenge. So, in either case, you are unable to judge fairly, and to pronounce a just sentence, simply because the criminal is your own father.

Now, it is very certain that none of these prejudices or passions, which now so much interfere with our judgments, will follow us into heaven. There, clothed with the justice and sanctity of God himself, we shall judge as He does, without passion or prejudice. And the fact that the criminal is our own father, or mother, or other loved one, will neither influence nor reverse our judgments. I do not mean to say that we shall actually sit in judgment and pronounce the sentence of condemnation against our own kindred; but I do mean that, seeing the justice and fairness of God's judgments, we shall readily acquiesce therein, and ratify them, and rest satisfied to see all suffer according to their deserts.

3. A third consideration is taken from the nature of love. When love for any one has taken full possession of our soul, it so completely changes our whole moral nature into the person beloved, that we forget our own private interests, and embrace his cause, his interests, as if they were our own. Henceforth, our will is so absorbed by his, that we seem no longer to possess any will of our own.

Holy Scripture gives us a striking instance of this transforming power of love, in the friendship of Jonathan for David. According to the forcible expression of Holy Writ: "The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul."* David had slain the famous Goliath, and when the Jewish army was returning home in triumph, the women sang: "Saul slew his thousand, and David his ten thousand." King Saul was filled with anger and envy on hearing David praised more than himself; and, from that day, he hated him, and did all in his power to destroy him. His son Jonathan, who loved David as his own soul, left nothing undone to save his friend. He watched everything his father said or did, discovered all his plans against David, and then would go into the forest, at his own peril, and warn his friend of approaching danger. He did more: he forgot, or gave up all his own private interests, and embraced those of David. For, being the son of a king, he had the presumptive right to succeed his father upon the throne; but, instead of himself, he wanted David to reign in his father's place. He did even more: he embraced a line of conduct entirely opposed to the temporal interests of his own father, and he thus materially aided in placing David upon the throne of Israel.

* 1 Kings xviii.

This is a striking instance of the wonderful transforming power of love. Now, if human love has such a power in this world, what shall we say of the power of divine love in heaven! There we shall see God as He is, and that vision will kindle in us a love far greater than ever we had, or could have, for any one in this world. We shall, therefore, spontaneously espouse God's cause, and embrace his interests. We shall love all that He loves, and we shall find it impossible to love them whom he does not and cannot love. Hence, we shall never love Lucifer, nor any of those fallen spirits who sided with him in his rebellion against God, and became demons on that account. Nor shall we ever love any of those who lived a bad life, stubbornly persisted in their sins, and died at enmity with God. They have, by their own act, excommunicated themselves, as it were, from the heart of God. They have, consequently, made it impossible for Him ever to love them. They have also made it impossible for us to love them, even were they father, mother, or any one else that was dear to us in this world. If we can no longer love them, we shall certainly not lose a single degree of our happiness on finding that they are not in heaven.

4. The fourth and last consideration I place before you is, that if the salvation of all their own were necessary for the happiness of the blessed, it might follow that very few, if any, could be happy in heaven. For it may be that there are only very few, if any, among the blessed, who see every member of their family, all their relatives and friends, around them in the abode of bliss. It would follow, too, that even the angels are unhappy; for, before the rebellion of Lucifer and his accomplices, they certainly loved each other, and probably with more perfection and intensity than we ever loved any one in this world. And now they see a vast multitude of their former friends and associates in endless misery. Are they unhappy on that account? Certainly not. It is evident, then, that if we once admit that the salvation of our own is necessary for our individual happiness, we find ourselves compelled to admit also that heaven is a place of sadness and mourning, since there are many there who are not surrounded by those whom they loved in this world. The absurdity which necessarily follows from such an admission is, by itself, a sufficient answer to the difficulty.

Once more: Remember that, in heaven, we shall be like God, because we shall see Him as he is. We shall, therefore, be like God in beatitude. Now, is God made unhappy because some of His creatures have refused him obedience and love, and have, in consequence, lost themselves forever? Certainly not. And did He ever love those same creatures as much as we love father, or mother, brother, sister, or friend? Certainly He did. His love for them was so great, that ours, however pure and ardent, sinks into insignificance when compared to His. Did we ever offer ourselves to suffer every imaginable indignity and torture for our kindred? Did we ever offer even to die a most shameful and cruel death for them? We never did; and if we had even attempted it, we should have found our puny and imperfect love unable to carry us through the terrible sacrifice.

God alone is capable of so great a love. He assumed our nature, and in it He suffered more than human mind can conceive. Look at Him in the garden, oppressed and overpowered with an agony of sorrow. Follow Him through the different stages of his bitter passion. Contemplate that cruel scourging, the crowning with thorns, the filthy spittle which covers His sacred face, and the other insults and indignities heaped upon him. Follow Him to Mount Calvary; see Him there nailed upon an infamous gibbet, suffering every torture of mind and body to his very last breath. And why did He undergo all this? Because He loved us. And now, are all they, whom He loved so well, and for whom he suffered so much, around the throne of his glory in heaven? They certainly are not. Are even all they, who were his special friends in this world, around him in heaven? Surely we have every reason to fear that one of them at least, Judas the traitor, is not there. And is Jesus unhappy because they are not all there? Certainly not. If, then, His happiness is not marred by the loss of those whom he loved so much, neither shall ours be, if we find that some of our own are lost. We shall be like him in beatitude, because we shall see him as he is.

In the mean time, do all in your power to instil principles of virtue into your children, if you are a parent; into your pupils, if you are a teacher, or clothed in any other way with authority over your fellow-creatures. See that none of them be lost through your own fault. For if there is one thing above all others difficult to understand, it is how fathers and mothers can be happy in heaven, when they see their own children lost through their own negligence, or bad example? Again, how can teachers, guardians, and pastors of souls be happy in heaven, when they see those committed to their care ruined forever, through their negligence? Again, how can those men be happy who have seduced others from the path of virtue, by immoral discourses, bad books, and evil actions? These certainly are hard things to understand; and still we must believe that all they who enter heaven are happy. We must believe, moreover, that careless, and even bad parents, negligent teachers, seducers of the innocent, and writers of bad books, will eventually be admitted into heaven, if they die truly repentant. We must believe, moreover, that all such persons will be happy in heaven, no matter how many they have ruined, for the simple reason that no unhappiness can ever find its way into the abode of bliss.



Having, in the foregoing chapters, endeavored to form an idea of heaven's happiness, we must now endeavor to understand something of the different degrees in which each one of the blessed enjoys that unspeakable beatitude.

It is an article of faith that every one in heaven, except baptized infants, is rewarded according to his own personal merits, acquired in this life by the assistance of God's grace. Baptized children, who die before they reach the age of discretion, are admitted into heaven, in virtue of their adoption as children of God on the day of their baptism. But all others who have lived long enough to be responsible or their deeds, besides being admitted there in virtue of their adoption as children of God, are, moreover, rewarded according to their own personal merits.

But, it seems to me, I hear you ask, Does not the happiness of heaven consist in the Beatific Vision? Undoubtedly it does. And is the little boy, who dies before he can make an act of faith, or of charity, admitted to that glorious vision as well as the Apostle and the martyr? Certainly he is. And the little girl, who dies before reaching the age of discretion, is she too admitted to the vision of God, as well as the Sister of Charity, the nun, and others who spend their lives in teaching the ignorant and ministering to the poor? Undoubtedly she is. And the murderer, who dies on the scaffold, after making an act of perfect contrition, is he, too, eventually admitted to the vision and possession of God? Yes, he, too, will see God face to face, and be made happy by that glorious vision. Well, then, if all see and possess God, how can there be a difference in the happiness of the saints? Are they not all equally happy? This is the question we are now to answer, by examining the meaning and the nature of the Light of glory. This examination will make it evident, that, though all see God, yet no two of the blessed enjoy precisely the same degree or amount of happiness.

Theologians define the Light of glory to be, "A supernatural intellectual power infused into the soul, by which she is enabled to see God, which she never could do by her own unassisted natural powers."* It is called supernatural, because it is not a natural talent or power of our nature, as the talent for poetry, music, painting, and others, all of which may be developed and highly improved by study. But the Light of glory is an elevation, expansion, or development of the mind, which comes directly from God, and is, in no sense, the result of human endeavors, except in so far as it has been deserved by a holy life. We shall understand better the meaning of the Light of glory by an illustration.

* Per lumen gloriae intelligitur qualitas creata, et habitus virtusque intellectualis supernaturalis, ac per se infusa intellectui, qua redditur proxime potens et habilis ad videndum Deum.... Ita D. Thomas, sicque ratione probatur: Ut virtutes infusae requiruntur, ut eorum actus fiant connaturali modo, nempe a principio intrinseco et proportionato, ita etiam lumen ut fiat visio. Cum enim activitas ex parte intellectus sit in suo ordine deficiens et imperfecta, ideo oportet ut lumen illi virtutem conferat altioris ordinis, supernaturalem et actui proportionatam per quam elevatur ad efficiendam visionem cum illo. Suarez, de Deo, cap. xiv.

Let us suppose that you never could learn mathematics or astronomy. In spite of the most intense application, you never could master even the multiplication table; and when you gazed upon the heavens, you could never see there any more beauty and magnificence than does the untutored savage. But, on a sudden, there is a flash of light from above, and your mind is enlightened far beyond its natural capacity, and you can see all the heavenly bodies as they are. You now know their names, motions, distances, laws, and relations to each other, and to the whole universe. Formerly, they appeared all alike, except the sun and the moon; but now, you see that no two of them are alike. Each one has its own size, velocity, beauty, and glory. You even soar far beyond the discoveries of science, and you gaze with delight upon millions of shining worlds, which the most powerful telescope never did, and never can, reach. You can, moreover, in the twinkling of an eye, calculate with astonishing precision the day, the hour, the minute, yea, the very second, at which an eclipse will occur. Gazing upon the heavens, which hitherto had given you so little satisfaction, now becomes the source of the most exquisite and rational pleasure. For you now see in these countless worlds so much beauty and magnificence, so delightful a harmony, that you can spend whole nights in the contemplation of the heavens.

This sudden elevation and expansion of your mind to see such wonders in the natural order, illustrates what takes place in heaven the moment a pure soul enters there. In the supposition just made, you receive an accession or addition of intellectual power, which enables you to see clearly and to understand what was invisible and unintelligible to you before the flash enlightened you. The Light of glory produces a similar effect upon the soul at her entrance into heaven. Our mind, which is now unable to see God except "as through a glass, in a dark manner," is suddenly elevated in power, and enabled to see God as he is, face to face, and to contemplate his divine beauty and his other perfections. Our individual mind is neither destroyed nor changed into another: it is only strengthened and elevated in power and capacity far beyond anything we could ever have reached by our own unassisted endeavors.

But we shall still better understand the meaning of the Light of glory by contrasting it with the light of faith. What is faith? Faith is also a supernatural elevation of the mind, by which we are enabled to believe, as firmly as if we saw them, mysteries which are far above our comprehension. It is called supernatural, because it comes from God alone; for no man ever can bestow faith upon himself. Here, then, the light of faith and the Light of glory resemble each other, inasmuch as they both come immediately from God, and elevate man above himself. But they vastly differ in intensity; for by faith we see God imperfectly and unsatisfactorily, whereas by the Light of glory we see God as he is in himself. Faith, therefore, is as the first faint blush of the morning, while the Light of glory is as the sun shining in his meridian splendor.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse