What is heaven?

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What is heaven?

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:44 pm

Hope you will share any thoughts on this:

from chapter form "Holistic Christianity: the Vision of Catholic Mysticism" (Paragon publishing, 2005).

Chapter 17

The Happy Trinity is Her Home:
The Beatific Vision

“The Happy Trinity is her home: nothing can trouble her joy.”
-C.S. Lewis

As the liquidlike chirpings of a sparrow draw one’s gaze to a branch, God draws our inner eye to Himself in a moment of grace and conversion. To know God becomes our focused pursuit.
As a child you reached out to touch a rainbow but it ever eluded your grasp. Adults laughed, assuring you, as your heart secretly broke, that the rainbow could never be caught; it was merely the play of the sun and the mist. So it seems sometimes with our pursuit of God.
But God is the rainbow that lets us catch it-- and then colors the ceiling of our soul with Divine brightness Itself. This is the unitive state. This is our knowing of God as He is in ourselves, the divine Center of the soul.
But we want more: to know God in Himself. In our study of ecstasy, we found that the unitive self’s knowing of God is not the full revelation of God. For God cannot be known through self, even the God-united self. The soul in the unitive state is like a chick in an egg that enjoys her mother’s warmth, but does not yet see her.
Imagine a prince cursed to only see the face of his beloved in a mirror-- to never behold her face directly, nor embrace her. Yes, he has the consolation of her near presence in the glass, but not her embraceable presence. When he turns to see, she is not there. Frustratingly, she is only in the looking glass.
In the unitive state, God is present to us in the soul, but as a face in a looking glass. Just as earth’s boldest north wind cannot pierce the heavens and traverse the stars, and its purest river cannot run upon the sun, even the loftiest self cannot know the transcendent goodness, truth, and beauty of heaven.
God has promised us this full vision: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully...” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
What is the way to fully knowing God? Meister Eckhart summaries: “As long as we are just human beings...we do not see God. We have to be raised up, established in pure tranquility, and thus see God.” This is the beatific vision!-- the consumate Unity to which all partial unities have pointed.

What Is the “Beatific Vision”?

Christ reveals the essence of heaven in his Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
-Matthew 5: 8

Because this saying is one of a number of blessings pronounced by Christ known as the beatitudes, Christianity calls the divine experience of heaven the beatific vision: the direct and limpid vision of the divine Essence, a participation in the light and love of the Trinity, for “if the Three Divine Persons give themselves to us it is so that we may possess them, that they be ours” (Jacques Maritain). The beatific vision knows a
Tri-Personal Wholeness as exceeds every created wholeness seen or dreamed, the most exquisite of these being mere sketches of shadows of the One.

Transformed in God,
these blessed souls will live the life of God
and not their own--
although it will be their own life because
God’s life will be theirs.

Then they will truly proclaim:
We live, now now we, but God lives in us.
-John of the Cross

The destiny of the soul is to be transformed into Christ, to know the Father in Him. Heaven is the glorious condition of the Father in which the one eternal Son forever dwells. Meister Eckhart truly observed: “The scripture says, ‘No one knows the Father but the Son’ (Matthew 11:27); and so, if you want to know God, you should just be like the Son. Rather, you should be the Son himself.”
Clement of Alexandria wrote in the second-century:

I say, the Logos of God
became man
so that you may learn from man
how man may become God.

God has ever poured this heavenly draught, for the universe is awash with God, but the ocean of it has rushed over the sides of our little sea-shell. In the beatific vision, God the Father is the draught and God the Son is the chalice-- and the flow thereof is heaven.
Our understanding of heaven as the beatific vision of God, gives us new insight Christ’s prayer to the Father:
All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.
-John 17:10
Christ’s All is the Father in the Spirit, a heaven which He miraculously and fully shares with us by transforming us into Himself.

When the soul has been wholly transubstantiated into Christ by His recapitulating His Ascension in it, and thus has come to perfect Trinitarian rapport with the Father through the Spirit, there arises the ultimate Whole: The Holism of the Beatific Vision-- the Trinity being the beginning and end of Wholeness.

Affinity: the Holism of the Trinity (Chapter Three)
The heaven we will know is no different from the heaven Christ has always known in the Trinity. To conceive of it as any less is to conform it to our limited ideas-- which it is not. A right view of heaven is assisted by a right view of Christ’s eternal bliss in the Father, for Christ’s heaven is our heaven.

Father, by Your unfathomable grace, everything of Yours shall be ours! Your Vision will consume our separateness from You, like deer consuming sweet grasses.

Beyond Caricatures of Heaven

Unfortunately, the Church’s magnificent view of heaven has been overshadowed by misconceptions. Just the other day I heard a fundamentalist pastor say on the radio, “In heaven you can ski all day, and never fall! As you fly down the slopes, you take every hill perfectly, and never fall as on earthly skiing vacations. In all heavenly fun activities, you’re a winner!”
A friend told me about a conversation he had with a Christian friend in her twenties who told him: “In heaven, people do different fun things. Some serve God. Some sit around on clouds reading magazines all day.” (We wondered what was in the magazines, too.)
Such views of heaven are sadly abetted by literalistic reading of The Book of Revelation, the New Testament scripture that symbolically depicts the paradisiacal condition. “The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass” (Revelation 21:18). Some bible literalists take this to be a city-plan that specifies the materials of a heavenly city. But that is not the way the great Church tradition has read these verses. Early in Christian history, theologians developed a four-fold typology of biblical interpretation-- a typology that discerns symbolism in scripture, and not only literal significance.
From a symbolic perspective, the “walls” of heaven may represent its transcendence of all that is below the Absolute. That heaven is made of “pure gold” does not mean that its substance is the metal designated AU on the Periodic Chart, but may signify heaven as a participation in the uncontainable beauty of God’s inner Life.
There is no reason to be worried about facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of “Heaven” ridiculous by saying that they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps.’ The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolic attempt to express the inexpressible.
C. S. Lewis

Ecstasy Points to Our Soul’s Destiny

As noted in chapter ten, the ecstasy of the saints clarifies enormously the nature of our final estate in God, heaven. Though ecstasy is not, strictly speaking, identical to the heavenly condition, ecstasy’s state beyond all self in God suggests the character of the transformation which finally reveals heaven: the heavenly condition is a divine Knowing beyond all self, all consciousness. So ecstasy offers a unique clue of our destiny.
We earlier noted that the nature of consciousness allows us to really sense God’s presence from a standpoint of self, but prevents our fully knowing God as God knows God. Ecstasy is a special grace by which God temporarily suspends all self-consciousness, resulting in divine Knowing beyond self. Here are a few more lines from Teresa of Avila’s description of ecstasy, beyond what was earlier quoted:
What God communicates here to the soul in an instant is a secret so great and a favor so sublime --and the delight the soul experiences is so sublime-- that I don’t know what to compare it to. I can only say that the Lord wishes to reveal for that moment, in a more sublime manner than through any spiritual vision or taste, the glory of heaven.

Certainly if God can temporarily suspend self in some of his saints to reveal His own Knowing, He can do it permanently in all of us. Thus ecstasy reveals something that the human journey, ultimately, is a journey beyond self, beyond consciousness, into the everlasting splendor of the Trinity’s innermost Life and Knowing.
That divine Life is so transcendent in beauty, light, and love to anything we know through self, that a glimpse of it is incompatible with continued mortal life. We might say that people die because of the divine beauty their inner gaze comes to behold as they lay on their deathbed. This is the mystic meaning of words God spoke to Moses, who asked to see God. “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you...But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live” (Exodus 33:19-20). Not idly did John of the Cross say:

Reveal your presence,
and may the vision of your beauty be my death...
-John of the Cross

Father, everything of Yours will be ours! You hide your Your Face from the world, behind thickets upon thickets, for a universal glimpse of You would faint the world in an unrecoverable swoon of love.

The Mysteries Are Fulfilled in the Beatific Vision

God transform us beyond self-knowing to divine knowing through the Way of Christ’s Mysteries. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). By Christ’s recapitulating in us the Mysteries of His death, resurrection, and ascension to the glory of the Father, He transforms our souls in Himself, the one Trinitarian Son who knows the Father. Just as He changed bread and wine into Himself, He transforms us into Himself, whose Body dwells in the everlasting doxa or glory of the Father. At every Catholic Mass this truth is symbolized, as the priest dissolves a little water --our humanity-- into the chalice of wine, His divinity.
[A]s a little drop of water, mixed with much wine,
seems to vanish completely
as it takes on the taste and color of the wine...
as air flooded with sunlight is transformed
into the same brilliant light, so that it seems
to be no longer lighted but rather light itself.
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Dante called the blessed of heaven in Christ, splendori, after the Latin, splendere, Light. Transformed into Christ, the soul becomes
the Whole,
the very infinity of God’s life
which erupts in it
as if the whole sea
were to flow into a river,

I mean a sea of love
surging with vital operations
and able from its very source
to become one single spirit with the sea.
-Jacques Maritain

Father, everything of Yours will be ours! Your Vision devours our concepts of heaven as sparrows consume a scattering of seeds.

The Mysticism of Purgatory

At death, all immediately see God. But whether we are drawn instantly into the beatific Vision or pull back from it depends on all the moments of our life which precedes that one.
What if our love has been faint, mediocre, capricious? What if we have significantly resisted the purifying love? What if we have shirked great lessons of Love, even to the end?
The body is gone, has done its work.
The soul is naked.
The veil which separated it from God is vanished...
Vainly would she strive to say “Give me a little time.”
Time is no more.
Before the Face of God she enters
on a state of things in which time
as we know it here below is no more an element.
-Paul Claudel

If we have been ungenerous in mortal love, we will find this clear hard Light of Love shocking, daunting, seemingly unendurable, and will shrink back from it to a point that is tolerable to our gaze. Now begins our purgatory: our withstanding the trial of Love, and by grace gravitating closer to it, until Love paves the soul with mirth and becomes its All-in-all.
“And now it came. It was fiery, sharp, bright and ruthless, ready to kill, ready to die, outspeeding light: it was Charity, not as mortals imagine it...fallen upon them from the Third Heaven, unmitigated. They were blinded, scorched, deafened. They thought it would burn their bones. They could not bear that it should continue. They could not bear that it should cease” (C. S. Lewis).
A rose of fire--- Dante’s phrase for heaven. A Fire-rose ever-blossoming, ever-renewed, in timeless moment. “Nothing impure will ever enter it...” (Revelation 21:27). To the degree the soul bears the Vision, it goes forward into it, transformed into Christ, who alone dwells in the glory of the Father.
‘Father, everything of Yours is mine’!
Like lightening that falls upon the earth with bright talons as if to bear her away, you bear the soul beyond itself to Your nest.

The Hidden Nature of Faith

Some time ago on our spinning mote, a man went in quest for God, accompanied by his companion named Faith. Faith was an unobtrusive and gentle friend, and sometimes he found curious comfort in a phrase she would whisper to him, “All is well. God is here.” Other times he hardly heard these words, so absorbed was he in his quest for exciting experiences of God.
As the years continued, he indeed had a number of supernatural experiences. When he would tell Faith about them, she would smile and
gently say, “All is well. God is here.” Even as long spells passed without such experiences, and he began to despair, Faith would say, “All is well--”
“Yes, yes, I know-- God is here,” he would sigh, in frustration.
Finally, he passes beyond death-- his companion by his side. As he nears heaven, he hears Faith saying once again, “All is well. God is here”-- but now in a strangely new voice, beyond that of a whisper, a voice exquisite, roiling with majesty.
He turns to her, puzzled. And as his glance falls on her, Faith flings off the veil that veiled her from him. It is God! Faith has been God with him, all along!
“God is here. All is well!”
Yes, faith is a grace, and grace is God’s Life in us.
Faith is the Beatific Vision with us, even now-- gently pressing against consciousness! But since self-consciousness cannot see God, we tend to downplay the importance of this inner Voice, this mysterious knowing-- regarding it as non-mystical. When in truth, faith --God in us-- is the mysticism of the Most High because it is beyond all human experience...as God is! “All of this darkness signifies the obscurity of faith with which the divinity is clothed while communicating itself to the soul” (John of the Cross).
Faith is clothed divinity! Faith is not an intellectual capacity, or a “conditioned belief,” or an emotional response: faith is a supernatural instrument, a divine channel, given to us directly by God; most truly conceived, as said, faith is noneother that Almighty God in us.
‘Father, everything of Yours is mine’!
Your Vision rises in us as faith even now, like the rearing of white stallions on moonless night.

The Other Side

At the very beginning of our exploration of Christianity holistically considered, we reflected on the wistful pang that the beauty of the earth evokes in us. Now, in meditating on the beatific Vision, we have come to the final cause of this nostalgia, and That to which it beckons. C. S. Lewis stated this most piquantly:
God has given us the Morning Star already; you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more-- something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words-- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

...For we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure.

We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

But we get in only by being transformed into Christ, our LIfe.
Father, Everything of Yours is Mine!
Creation is Your laughter, but the Beatific Vision is Your inmost smile.


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