By Jose Ma J Fernandez
In that wonderful series of books with Christian overtones – The Chronicles of Narnia – there is reference to the Kingdom of Aslan. The Lion King Aslan, seen to be a type of Christ, talks of his kingdom beyond where those of noble and good hearts go. In like manner, Christians and many others of different faiths, yearn for entrance into Heaven, a wonderful place where everything is good and all is well. Of course, the various faiths that believe in an afterlife each have their own perception of what life in the hereafter is all about. But for now, I will dwell only on our own Catholic-Christian belief in the Kingdom of God – Heaven.
It is said that when fully one-third of the angels failed their entrance exam and were prevented from entering into the Beatific Vision, they were cast into Hell. Their places in Heaven were then set aside for the human race, a fact that grates with the demons, and is the reason why they envy Man so much and try to prevent as many as they can from taking their place in the Kingdom of God. When Jesus walked the Earth, He talked continuously of the Kingdom and how He would go ahead to prepare many mansions for good people. His many parables refer to Heaven as a treasure worth working for, where one would be expected to give up everything else to gain this great prize. Jesus mentions the eternal banquet in Heaven – of which the Eucharist is a foretaste – and the special union He calls the Nuptials, the union between God and Man, the union between God and His Church.
In Roman Catechism, Heaven is said to “…consist in the perfect and total possession of the Good, without any mixture of evil.”
One of the early Church Fathers gives this description: “…the Happiness of Eternal Life is an exemption from all evil and an enjoyment of all good.” In various sections of the New Testament, we find Heaven being compared to a banquet where the desire for happiness is satisfied. However, one is reminded to become like a child, to fight strenuously to gain Heaven, and to always comply with the Will of the Father. Seemingly difficult tasks that Jesus reduces to a simple formula: Love God and Love Neighbor (as one would love God). Christian Doctrine explains the existence of Heaven in the same way as hell: It is fitting to the infinite justice and sanctity of the Love of God that the Just – those who die in friendship with God – receive a suitable award.
There are many people who think that Heaven is just one big, white, well-lighted place where everyone looks upon the Trinity, soaking up all the goodness of the Divinity while listening to the angels singing. Jesus Himself talked often of the wonders of Heaven, and many saints have made mention of the wonders awaiting the elect. St John’s description of the heavenly Jerusalem and the many wonderful palaces and abodes of the elect, made of the most precious materials, should give one pause.
St. Teresa has this to say: “The Blessed Mother gave me a jewel, and hung around my neck a superb gold chain, to which a cross of priceless value was attached. Both the gold and precious stones thus given to me are so unlike those that we have here in this world that no comparison can be instituted between them. They are beautiful beyond anything that can be conceived, and the matter whereof they are composed is beyond our knowledge. For what we call gold and precious stones beside them appear dark and lusterless as charcoal.” Saints Augustine, Anselm, and Didacus make mention of real trees, real fruits, real flowers, each one extremely beautiful to the eye and incapable of deterioration unlike the fleeting beauty of things of this earth. Remember that after the Last Judgment, when the bodies of the elect rise from wherever they are and reunite with their respective souls to become Glorified bodies, everyone thus situated will be able to see, feel, hear, and touch in Heaven in ways that no one ever could while still earthbound. This is proof positive that Heaven is a place and not just a concept; not an empty but a happy state of being.
When those fortunate to be in Heaven get to enjoy their Glorified bodies, they will find that they will possess certain qualities or attributes. Among them are those of BEAUTY (Glorified and radiant, dazzling in brilliance and brightness); IMPASSIBILITY (incapable of suffering, never growing old); AGILITY (able to traverse immense distances with the speed of thought); and SUBTLETY (able to penetrate matter). The SENSES will be heightened so that the elect will have Perfect Eyesight, Perfect Hearing, and other qualities. The singing of the Angels in Heaven will be heard and enjoyed in a special way by the elect.
The best reward of all in Heaven is to be admitted into the Beatific Vision. This Vision of God that the Angels and Saints enjoy in Heaven is not like the knowledge of God that we have here on earth, even when it is revealed knowledge. According to St Paul: “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then, I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”
It is virtually impossible for human beings to imbibe any image from creation and use this to comprehend the Divine Essence. The only means of coming into knowledge of the Divine Essence is if God Himself were to unite with the soul concerned. In Heaven, there is direct vision of God because God unites Himself to the intelligence of the Blessed in Heaven. From this union flow the other characteristics of heavenly bliss. The Beatific Vision allows the Blessed to retain their own nature, but at the same time, makes them assume a certain admirable and almost divine form. This divinization of the soul and of its powers, which affects the body after the resurrection, does not take away the difference between Creator and creature. God is absolutely transcendent and cannot enter into composition with any creature. This is the great mystery of the Beatific Vision, and shows in a limited way how a finite being – even if immortal – can share in the essence of the Infinite Divinity. There is an analogy that can be used for this. When placed in a fire, an iron rod becomes red-hot much like the fire itself, but it does not and cannot become the fire itself. One truism we must always keep in mind is that the Blessed can never know God with absolute fullness and depth as He knows Himself, because of the immensity of His perfection, goodness, and beauty. The Blessed may only know a very small extent of this immensity at the risk of annihilation. To be able to see God face to face, the soul of the Blessed has to be elevated by the lumen gloriae.
In St Paul’s 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians, he makes reference to a Third Heaven. Christian Doctrine is replete with teachings that suggest that there are different levels in Heaven – something even our Muslim brothers believe in. Basically, those among the Blessed who earn more Grace by doing good and practicing charity and following the many other tenets of the Faith, manage to garner a higher place in Heaven than, say, someone who got there literally by a hair-breadth. Thus, the highest level, the Seventh Heaven, is said to be for the Apostles and Disciples who distinguished themselves while Christ was on earth, and so forth. Special places are up there too for Virgins and Martyrs, for those who distinguished themselves in the defense of the Faith as Doctors and Scholars.
The existence of a heavenly hierarchy is also seen in the Nine Choirs of Angels, with the Seraphim all the way on top and closest to the throne of the Trinity, and the Angels who interact with humans at the bottom of the rung. What is important to know is that in Heaven, there is no jealousy whatsoever no matter what level one may be in. Those at the higher levels because of their having lots of Grace, pass on the good things flowing out of the Trinity to the lower levels. This is the same arrangement with the Angels. Above all the Saints and Angels is she who has more Grace than all of them combined – the Most Holy Mother of God, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the Special Daughter of the Father. Only she has this special position by way of Grace, she being Gratia Plena, and the delight of the Trinity. Just below her is St. Joseph, also by way of Grace and chosen by the Trinity for the protection and care of the earthly trinity, the Holy Family.
Finally, we must explain briefly some properties of the Blessed in Heaven. They have a most perfect love for God that cannot be changed anymore. They will have absolute impeccability, incapable of doing anything wrong. They will exist for the balance of eternity and will share in the Essential Glory that each soul gets upon entering Heaven while being able to share also in the Accidental Glory that comes very often to the elect. For example, the Blessed are given a large dose of Accidental Glory at the celebration of various Marian feasts.
Try and contemplate for a moment how the Blessed would be able to enjoy all these, continuously, for all eternity, and one will be inspired to do good, rather than do bad and end up in eternal fire and damnation.
The Second Coming of Christ will take place in your lifetime.
According to this book which contains a series of incredible messages and prophecies to an Irish seer, our present generation will witness the Second Coming of Christ.
Click here to read a book review that summarises the key messages of the book.
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