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Yet another goodie from Monsignor Pope of the Washington Archdiocese:




Ho Hum on Heaven? Not only have many lost a proper fear of Hell, but also a deep longing for Heaven.
By: Msgr. Charles Pope



Many years ago I was taught that the essence of heaven is the Beatific Vision. That is, one will look upon the glorious and radiant face of God, and find in that look the fulfillment of all desires, and a joy (beatus) beyond all telling.

And surely this description remains both true and worth repeating. However,.  I have noticed that some get stuck on the the word “vision” and to some extent on the word “face,” and tend to reduce the experience to a kind of “static” (unchanging) vision.

For our experience of the “face” of another is that it does not change. And we are further taught that God does not change.

And thus, in being asked to consider heaven as a beatific vision (or beholding) of God’s face, some struggle to imagine what one might do after about twenty minutes, let alone for all eternity. Therefore, people often shift their thinking about heaven to playing golf, being reunited with loved ones, walking streets of gold, and having mansions.

I have quoted Pope Benedict regarding this problem before, but his statement of the problem is worth repeating:
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Quote: Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive….To continue living for ever —endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift….to live always, without end—this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable…. The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. “Eternal”, in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know…[which] very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it. (Spe Salvi, 10, 12).
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So, a lot of our terminology, though biblical and correct, is lost to modern ears and the modern imagination. It needs greater explanation, even among believers who are often very vague about the contours and promises of heaven.

I have articulated before that somehow we must communicate that the “eternal” in “eternal life” is not a reference only to the length of life, but to the fulness of life. To be in heaven is not merely to live forever, but to be fully and gloriously alive in a manner which we can barely even imagine now. It is to have all our gifts, and every aspect of who we are, gloriously perfected, with a God-like glory.

St. Ireneus says that the Glory of God is man fully alive. The Lord told St. Catherine of Siena that if she were ever to see a soul glorified in heaven, “You would fall down and worship because you would think you were looking at me.”

This is our glory and this is our dignity, to one day have a God like perfection and glory, and to become fully alive in an unimaginable and powerful way.

And as for our “vision” of God. We ought not think of it as some sort of static vision, as if we were looking at a picture or face that never changes.

Rather, because God is infinite our grasp of his glory with be inexhaustible. Thus, all eternity will never be enough for us to comprehend him. From moment to moment, one new and greater glory after another will be reveled. He will be our one desire, and our hearts will never tire of God and God alone.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux speaks to this in one of his sermons. He meditates on what will happen to us when we finally see Him whom our soul has longed for:
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Quote: Nor, I think, will a soul cease to seek him even when it has found him. … when the soul happily finds Him, its desire is not quenched but kindled…Rather it is oil poured upon the flames….Joy will be fulfilled, but there will be no end to desire, and therefore no end to the search. (Sermon 84.1 on the Song of Songs)
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Yes! Heaven will not be a static vision at all. It will be truly a beatific (happy) vision, but it will be anything but “static.” There will be Joy, after joy, glory upon glory, for all eternity. And each fulfilled desire will kindle a deeper desire as our hearts grow deeper and wider with love.

Do most Christians know of this understanding? Probably not. Frankly most of us are too vague about heaven and seldom meditate upon it.

Sadly, to be vague about the reward, tends to kill any effort to strive for it. And thus we face today, not only a lack of reverential fear of Hell (which we have well discussed here), but also a lack of zeal to seek God and Heaven.

It is a “perfect storm” which which explains a lot of spiritual tepidity today and the lack of evangelical zeal that has plagued the Church for at least the last 100 years.

We need to be a lot clearer about death, judgment, Heaven and Hell and also realize that our descriptions especially about heaven, often fail to communicate its vision let alone inspire others to seek it, whatever the cost.

To that end, I offer this little reflection and invite your own comments and reflections.


Vox Wrote:I have a big thing for Gospel music, too! NOT in the Church, NOT during the liturgy, where only chant -- preferably unaccompanied by musical instruments -- and traditional hymns should be the thing -- but at other times. Nice to see a video of it embedded by a Monsignor.
Since I was a kid "the beatific vision" has sounded a note in my mind like hitting an eggplant with a stick. No resonance. This is where my distaste for the saints that seem to walk but never touch the ground, comes from.  I'm a nuts and bolts guy and I dream that God has a much bigger plan of Creation, and we blew it back there. When this "time" is over I hope there is more. My limited mind looks forward to a "time" where the spiritual angels, and we flesh and blood spiritual creatures team up as was intended and have much more to do. 

I hope to play "scopa" or "briscola" with my old partner Oscaro from Madonna di Campiglio against Cardinal Bellarmine and say Jake the Rake. Of course we'll have grappa and caffe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_di_Campiglio

tim
Don't forget, that after Heaven comes the new Heaven and new Earth when we're all resurrected.  Smile I think that this often gets lost and people just focus on Heaven before the Last Day.

As for Hell...I'm still pretty scared of Hell. As much as people today seem to focus on God's mercy and love (good) to the exclusion of ever mentioning Hell (bad), I think that it's healthy to realize that as nice as Dad can be and likes to be when we're good, there comes a point when he means business, and there are certain lines that we shouldn't cross.
(11-02-2013, 11:50 AM)Deidre Wrote: [ -> ]Don't forget, that after Heaven comes the new Heaven and new Earth when we're all resurrected.  Smile I think that this often gets lost and people just focus on Heaven before the Last Day.

Yes, it's lost. And that's my biggest gripe. The final resurrection and the new eternal order (the kingdom of heaven) is the biggest, hugest doctrine of them all. it's our ultimate end. Yet most Catholics, even apologists on the radio, make little if any mention of it. Heaven is just a spiritual realm. It's where good souls go when they die. All we need is the Beatific Vision.

But one doesn't need a physical body to behold God. does he? One can see God with his intellect. Angels do it. So why is there a physical resurrection at all? People just don't think these things through hard enough. They have their heads in the clouds, strumming their harps and polishing their halos, they never graduate from third grade catechism class. Sigh.
I agree, and let's make a date. I'll meet you both for lunch before siesta in Cinque Terre for Trofie, and vino.

Ciao for now,
tim
(11-02-2013, 10:58 AM)Tim Wrote: [ -> ]Since I was a kid "the beatific vision" has sounded a note in my mind like hitting an eggplant with a stick. No resonance. This is where my distaste for the saints that seem to walk but never touch the ground, comes from.  I'm a nuts and bolts guy and I dream that God has a much bigger plan of Creation, and we blew it back there. When this "time" is over I hope there is more. My limited mind looks forward to a "time" where the spiritual angels, and we flesh and blood spiritual creatures team up as was intended and have much more to do. 

I hope to play "scopa" or "briscola" with my old partner Oscaro from Madonna di Campiglio against Cardinal Bellarmine and say Jake the Rake. Of course we'll have grappa and caffe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_di_Campiglio

tim

My kind of Heaven LOL  And you get the beautiful 7 all the time! Sticking tongue out at you
(11-02-2013, 12:13 PM)StrictCatholicGirl Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-02-2013, 11:50 AM)Deidre Wrote: [ -> ]Don't forget, that after Heaven comes the new Heaven and new Earth when we're all resurrected.  Smile I think that this often gets lost and people just focus on Heaven before the Last Day.

Yes, it's lost. And that's my biggest gripe. The final resurrection and the new eternal order (the kingdom of heaven) is the biggest, hugest doctrine of them all. it's our ultimate end. Yet most Catholics, even apologists on the radio, make little if any mention of it. Heaven is just a spiritual realm. It's where good souls go when they die. All we need is the Beatific Vision.

But one doesn't need a physical body to behold God. does he? One can see God with his intellect. Angels do it. So why is there a physical resurrection at all? People just don't think these things through hard enough. They have their heads in the clouds, strumming their harps and polishing their halos, they never graduate from third grade catechism class. Sigh.

Heaven before the resurrection is a state of perfect happiness.  The resurrection is a unfathomable completion, but doesn't imply any sadness in what come before, only the greatest joyful certainty.  I think the halos and harps come from misunderstanding heaven both before and after the resurrection. We will understand "the new heaven and new earth" when we are first in heaven before the resurrection better than we do now; our ideas (and fantasizing) of what we'll be doing after the resurrection probably won't match the reality.

I think that all the real joy of EVERYTHING we experience on earth will be matched, absorbed and ineffably (infinitely) exceeded with God in heaven - He is the source of all good.  This includes all the CHANGES we love on earth - music, dancing, the seasons, coming to learn new things, coming to love.  God is "ever ancient, ever new"

But God is infinitely more than all our reality and all our dreams.  We can't say heaven is like all we love on earth taken to the Nth degree; we shouldn't describe this and think we are describing heaven.  We have to reach further, by prayer, as saints have done.