HEAVEN - Eternal Happiness
"Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor entered into the heart of
man, what things God has prepared for those who love him"
Purgatory is a state in which beatitude is temporarily deferred; it is a place of preparation and expectation, Heaven is a state in which beatitude is possessed; it is a place of achievement and fulfillment.
A complete and perfect knowledge of heaven is not possible in this life. "Eye has not seen nor ear heard, not has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him" (I Corr. 2:9). Yet the certainty of eternal happiness I provided by the Scriptures and guaranteed by the authoritative teaching of the Church. Moreover, reason enlightened by faith is able to perceive some faint idea of a twofold glory in heaven: an essential and unchanging glory, and an accidental and secondary glory which can increase until the time of its consummation.
The Scriptures frequently speak of eternal life as the reward and the happiness for which we must strive. This happiness is God's own infinite and beatifying glory. It is manifested in the elect who are raised up to see and to partake of the glory given by the Father to the Son.
St. Paul teaches that the charity whereby we love God, yourself and neighbor in this life endures even into the next, where God is the essence of heavenly happiness. Faith forever, will cease at our entrance into heaven, and will give way to a direct vision of God in which we will know his as we ourselves are known. (16).
St. John's teaching centers around the idea of the divine sonship which we share through adoption. By this we become co-heirs with Christ. On earth, this process is begun by grace, and it will become like to Christ because we will see him as really is. Thus there will be fulfilled the words of Christ which tell us that eternal life is to know the true God And Jesus Christ whom he has sent. The faith of this life will give way to vision, and a knowledge of the divine Son will cause us to resemble him. (17)
In his constitution Benedictus Deus, Pope Benedict XII summarizes the teaching of Scripture and tradition by declaring that the blessed in heaven "see God's essence directly, and face to face, and thus the souls of the departed enjoy the divine nature, and are thereby rendered truly happy in the possession of eternal life and peace."(18) A more precise meaning is given to this teaching by the words of the Counsil of Florence. "…the elect will see God himself clearly, as he his in his unity and Trinity.(19) 15Cf. Jn. 17:22-24; I Pet. 4;4; Rom. 5:2, 2:18; II Cor. 4:17 Col.3:4 16 Cf. I Cor. 13:8; II Cor. 5:6-8 17Cf I JN.3:12; Jn. 14:6-9,21, 17:3 18Denz. 530. 19Decree for the Greeks, 1439; Denz. 693
1. The Essential Joy of HeavenHow can the immediate vision of God make a human soul supremely happy? To see God is beyond any human power. But by a special gift known as the "light of Glory" the soul is raised to heights impossible to unaided nature. This gift raises and strengthens the soul so that it may enter into an intuitive union with the Uncreated Light which is God. This results in the closest possible union in the order of knowledge Now God's distinctive and intimate life consists in knowing, loving and delighting in himself. The soul does not lose its individuality; it is not absorbed into God. Yet it partakes of God's own life, knowing and loving him in a way comparable to that in which he knows and loves himself. This is to be caught up into the inexpressible joy of the Blessed Trinity; it is to take hold of God, to posses him in himself. Between God and the blessed there is a union intimate as that between the mind ant the idea it conceives. The entire soul is penetrated by God, filled with perfection, held by divine love and filled with divine joy. Just as iron plunged into fire absorbs the very nature of the flames, so does the soul become like unto God. Heaven is to know, to see to live in an ecstasy of the divine illumination and love.
This is the essential joy of heaven. But how can a finite and limited being enjoy such union with the infinite God? The theologians tell us that the blessed see God entire and entirely.That is to say, God is seen in such a way that the blessed see the infinite being of God, but they see it according to the limits their own being which cannot encompass divinity. The act of seeing God and its mode are limited by the nature of a creature, but the object seen is truly the infinite being of God.
2. The Accidental Joys Of Heaven
In their vision of the Godhead, the blessed will also see whatever concerns them and whatever they may rightfully wish to know. All reality is mirrored in divinity, and this is open to the gaze of those in heaven. They will penetrate the meaning of the mysteries of faith which they believed during life. They will see the nature of the Mystical Body of which they are triumphant members, the nature of the sacraments by which they were directed to salvation. They will also have a clear knowledge of the wonders of creation to a degree that will satisfy every natural desire of the sol. They will know whatever con-cerns themselves, their loved ones, or their labors. They know of the prayers offered in their honor, and the progress of works in which they were interested on earth.
3. Degrees Of Glory
We know that there are degrees of glory of glory in heaven, for the Father's house has many mansions, and star differ from star in glory. 20 This different participation in glory is rooted in the different degrees in which the "light of glory" is given to each. The mea-sure, however, is not some earthly endowment, but divine charity, "for the greater the charity the more ardent is the desire, and it is from the ardor of the desire that arises the capacity of receiving what is desired." 21 There are also differences among the things seen by the blessed in the divine essence, because all do not share the same desires. Such diversity is not necessary a form of inequality. The basic principle governing all these things is this, that in God the saints will each find the full satisfaction of all desires.
4. Further Joys
Two further points are worthy of mention:
First: One of the great sources of accidental joy among the blessed is the captainship they share with one another. In Heaven the Communion of Saints becomes a communication among saints.
Second: After the general resurrection, the bodies of the just will be reunited with their souls. More will be said of this later, but for the present, let it suffice to mention that some spiritualization will have to take place in the senses of taste, olfaction and touch. But the more lofty senses of sight and hearing will operate by listening to the heavenly chorus and by seeing the glories bodies o Christ and all his saints.
20Cf. Jn 14:2; I Cor. 15:41 21 St. Thomas, Summa, I, q. 12, a. 1.