Is heaven on your spiritual radar? The question may seem strange, but the truth is that heaven is not a big part of people’s spiritual life today. It has been remarked that there are very few sermons on hell any more but it is also true that there are very few sermons on heaven! Until the last hundred years or so life was brutal and it was short. Heaven was a longed-for release from this valley of tears. People longed for heaven and feared to lose it. But most sermons and spiritual books today focus on life in this world and how to make it a better place. This is not wrong but heaven has moved to the periphery. Even our so-called spiritual life is mostly about worldly matters. When people pray aloud they usually pray for things like better health, better finances, a job opportunity, improvement in a relationship, etc. It almost seems like our main focus is to ask God to make this world a better place, so much so that if we have enough health, creature comforts, and friendship we’d just assume stay here forever. It is not wrong to pray for these things but again, we must remember that are true destination is heaven and to be with God and we should long for it and pray for it every day. When was the last time you really meditated on heaven, when was the last time you really longed for it and to be with God?
But how is heaven to be understood? At one level, we are beyond our league here. The Scripture says that eye has not seen in years not heard nor is it ever dawned on the heart of man what God has in store for those who love and trust him (1 Cor 2:9). The first letter of John says “What we shall later be has not yet come to light. But we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Hence, we long for something beyond our wildest imagining, something so glorious and fulfilling that we cannot now grasp it. And perhaps this is why it is difficult to meditate on heaven. The Book of Revelation however does gives us some touchstones for our meditation.
In an occasional series on heaven I’d like to look at some of the Biblical descriptions of heaven. Today we can consider the heavenly vision of John at the culmination of the Book of Revelation (21 & 22).
As you can see the passage is not brief and neither is the commentary by me. You may not feel inclined to read all this text at your computer just now. Perhaps then you might like to print this article and read it later in a more comfortable and prayerful place. Here is a PDF of this article: When Was the Last Time You Meditated on Heaven?
Here then is the Passage and commentary to follow which I prepared a couple of years ago:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.” Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia;£ its length and breadth and height are equal. He also measured its wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits by a man’s measure, that is, an angel’s. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day—and there shall be no night there; they shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 22: 1Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev 21:1-22:5)
1. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away – notice here that in order to inherit heaven we have to die from this world. Don’t miss the obvious. In order to go to heaven, we have to leave here. What does heaven cost? Answer — everything! It is interesting how strongly we cling to this world, how difficult it is for us to let go. But the truth is, heaven comes only once earth passes away.
2. And the sea was no more — in the ancient world the sea was a symbol of chaos. We often think of the sea as a place to go on vacation. We go down to the beach. But for the ancient world the sea was a frightening place. Terrible storms came from there, monsters lived out in the deeps. The sea was also unpredictable. One moment calm, the next moment stormy. One of the most unpleasant aspects of life here in this world it is unpredictable quality. At one moment we are enjoying the pleasures of life and family but suddenly the phone rings with tragic news. Heaven will not contain this desperately unquieting chaos. Heaven will be a place of serenity and stability.
3. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband – heaven is described as the beauty of a bride on her wedding day. The book of Revelation is filled with marital imagery. And, in fact, all throughout the Bible God uses marriage imagery to describe his relationship with his people and what heaven will be like. Imagine the desire and excitement of the groom on his wedding day as his bride approaches beautifully clothed. We have to get beyond the rather cynical attitudes of today’s world. In the ancient Jewish world promiscuity prior to marriage was largely unknown. For a young Jewish man and woman their wedding signaled the first time they could be together an intimate was near at hand. Hence the wedding day was truly a time of deep desire and excitement regarding the communion they would enjoy. God permits us to think of heaven in this way. We will enjoy a deep and fulfilling communion with God, not in a sexual way of course, but in even deeper, more joyful, and desirable communion. God allows for the intimacy of the marriage act to symbolize this far more satisfying communion we will one day enjoy with him.
4. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them – We must avoid the tendency to be “self-centered” in our imaginings of heaven. Often when I ask people to described heaven I am surprised what they leave out. They mention mansions, streets paved with gold, the fact that they will be happy, that they will see relatives and friends who’ve died, Angels, clouds etc. and I keep waiting and wondering if God will be mentioned! Many people leave God out of their description of heaven! But, as we shall see, the heart of heaven is to be with God! But the heart of heaven is to be with God! Think not so much of mansions and pearly gates and streets of gold, rather, think of being with God in a deep rapturous communion. We will be swept up into a praise filled place of exquisite beauty where we will enjoy deep communion with God and with one another in God. Heaven is to be with God! God and God alone would be the joy of our eternal home. He will be are one desire, our hearts will never tire of God and God alone.
5. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away – not only will we enjoy the unspeakable joy of being with God but we will also know that the sorrows of earth are long past, never to afflict us again. Regret and sorrows like tears will be wiped from our eyes, there will be no more fear and anxiety, no more pain. And, unlike the brief and passing joys we experienced on earth only to see them replaced with a new round of challenges and pain, this joy will last forever. The former things that cause pain and grief and sorrow have passed away!
6. And he who set upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” – we all have had the experience of the excitement over a new car, or some new gadget. Even more the excitement over a newborn baby. But all too soon our excitement over the newness can pass away and become boredom. But in heaven this excitement over the newness of all things, this delight over something new, will never pass away. The terrible affliction of boredom will never afflict again. Notice too, the God says he will make all things new. At the end of time when Jesus comes again in glory the earth and the universe will not be destroyed but rather, gloriously transformed it renewed. They will be restored to their original perfection and perhaps, receive even greater glory. Everything will be new, everything will be renewed. God and God alone created all these things we call our own; from the mighty to the small the glory in them all is God’s and God’s alone.
7. Also he said, “write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. – God is our beginning in our end. We were made for God! We were made to know God love him and serve him and be with him forever. God is our all and all. To say that God is our end, our Omega means that he is our destination, our fulfillment, our perfection.
8. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment – Again, notice the image: thirst and the satiation out of that thirst. Try to remember a time when you were really thirsty, dehydrated. How wonderful that water felt as it rushed to fill the spaces that the thirst created! Here is a symbol of all our desires and cravings. Think of the joy and satisfaction that will be created as God himself satisfies all our desires, all our thirsts, all our cravings.
9. He who conquered shall have this heritage, and I will be is God and he will be my son. – Notice that in order to receive the incredible blessings we have been meditating upon we must conquer. By God’s grace we must persevere. We must overcome temptation and remain faithful. For now there is a battle to wage. But just like the soldier who willingly fights because he knows what is at stake we fight on. Just like the athlete who has his mind fixed on the prize we too discipline ourselves and train for glory. Remember, we are meditating on the joys of heaven not just to have a pleasant experience but to stir ourselves up for the battle that is at hand. We keep our eyes on the prize knowing that the victory comes only after the battle, a crown comes only after the cross. What a prize, what a victory heaven will be. O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold, Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old, And win with them the victor’s crown of gold. Alleluia! And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear a distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong, Alleluia. The golden evening brightens in the West, soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest, sweet is the calm paradise most blest, Alleluia.
10. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, they’re a lot shall be in the lake that Burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. – Whoops, where did this verse come from! We are having such a nice time meditating upon heaven and suddenly God mentions hell. But remember, God loves us too much to avoid telling us the truth. It is appropriate, when meditating on the joy and beauty of heaven, to remember what a terrible loss it would be were we not to inherit it. The Lord warns of certain behaviors here that can exclude us from the kingdom of heaven. We should not consider it an exhaustive list but rather as a representative list. Cowards do not inherit the kingdom. At one level this means those who, in order to receive blessings from the world, turned away from the gospel and rejected Christ. But at another level, a coward is any one who refuses to take up the cross and follow Jesus. People who reject the cross by refusing to resist temptation for example, or those who never confront evil, who preferred to remain popular and well liked rather than to risk any self harm that might come from speaking the truth. The faithless are those who did not keep faith, the polluted are those who refuse to seek cleansing forgiveness for their sins, those who made light of their sins or declared them not to be sins at all; these are the polluted. Fornicators are those who indulge in sexual promiscuity. Please note many people make light of this sin today but it is very serious to God. If you have relatives or friends who are promiscuous warn them! Heaven is too great a blessing to lose! The sorcerers are those who invoke elemental spirits or demonic spirits for self-serving and magical purposes. Idolaters are those who placed something else on the throne that belongs to God alone. Liars are those who do not speak the truth about God and what he has revealed. Rather, they spread lies and heresy. None of these sinners shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. As we said the first night, we need to sober up. Sin is serious and it renders us incapable of being in communion with God both now and in eternity. As beautiful and joyful as heaven is, hell is just as desperate and awful at the other extreme. There is emptiness in a fire of limitless desire with no hope of satisfaction. Rather than being fully alive souls in Hell are half dead. They burn with indignation have longings that will never be satisfied and are ultimately frustrated because they cannot attain the end for which they were really made: to be with God. They don’t want God but they need him
11. Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” – Again, notice the marriage imagery here. The Church is Jesus’ bride as we see elsewhere in Scripture (e.g. Ephesians 5). Jesus is the groom, his Church is the bride. Heaven is like a marriage, a good marriage of deep communion and intimacy with God and his bride.
12. And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and breadth and height are equal. He also measured its wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits by a man’s measure, that is, an angel’s. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass. – the bride is described with exquisite beauty. Heaven, which is the communion of God and his bride is a beautiful place! There are too many details to look at each of them individually but note some of the elements below:
a. It may seem a bit confusing reading this passage. What or who exactly is being described? The bride is beautiful but the description seems to be more about heaven as a physical city rather than the bride. A place is described more than a person and yet this place is called a bride. Here we have to confront one of our distorted notions about heaven. Heaven is not so much a place as it is a communion with God, a marriage union. Heaven is a place to be sure but the heart of heaven is to be with God. Heaven is a place where God is at one with his church. Hence, the bride and groom together is heaven. Heaven is the communion. The physicality of the place is quite secondary. Hence the bride that is described here is at once the Church and also heaven: the Church, (the bride), with her God.
b. Notice that the word “like” appears quite frequently in this passage. The bride has the glory of God which is “like” a Jewel, “like” precious stones like gold. The point in using this word “like” is that the glory cannot really be compared to any earthly glory. It far surpasses any earthly glory or beauty. The Beauty is “like” a gold or precious stones but it far surpasses them!
c. Heaven is a high wall – city walls in the ancient world signified safety. The walls were not to keep people in them but to keep enemies out. Heaven is a protected place. The foundation of the wall is that of the apostles themselves.
d. Heaven has 12 gates and these gates face in all four directions of the compass. Heaven is open to all who will accept the invitation to God’s kingdom and choose to live in the righteousness of that kingdom. No one is excluded. God is open to every part of the world. Jesus had sent them to every nation to some of the nations to say. The 12 tribes of Israel now include every nation: From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost: Alleluia, Alleluia!
e. The city is quite large and spacious. It is 1800 miles wide in each direction and 1800 miles tall! The fact that it is foursquare is a symbol of perfection. Don’t become too literal and try to imagine a giant cube. The point is that the city which is heaven is beautiful, spacious, magnificent!
13. And I saw no Temple in the city, for his Temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb – since heaven is communion with God, God is everywhere. There is no need for a Temple because all of heaven is a Temple, a place where God dwells in all his splendor with his bride.
14. In the city has no need of Sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and the lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk…and there shall be no night there. This city is not lit from above by the son or the moon but from within by the very presence of God. There are no shadows, for God is present everywhere. People who have been saved out of every nation shall walk in communion with God and enjoy the light of his presence. Never shall this light be extinguished, there shall be no darkness that comes with night for God is always present to his bride and she to him.
15. But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who were written in the Lamb’s book of life. – Here again is a sobering declaration that we must be capable of entering heaven. Christ is our only hope of ever being able to enter. Only by his precious blood can we be perfected and washed clean. Think about it for a minute, if it were possible for an imperfect human being to enter heaven, heaven would not be heaven! Rather, prior to entering heaven we must be made perfect by the blood of Jesus. We must have every tear wiped from our eyes. We cannot bring with us any sorrow any regrets, any sinful habits, any lack of perfection. These things must be purged from us prior to our entering heaven. Ideally this purging takes place fully here on earth. But realistically, most of us will probably need some purification after death. It is a text like this that causes the Church to teach of the reality of purgatory. Purgatory is that place or process wherein those who die in friendship of God are purified of the last vestiges of sin, and have tears wiped from their eyes, and the sorrows are regrets removed. Whether this process takes time and exactly how it happens is not clear but that it must happen is set forth in a text like this. Sign me up for the Christian Jubilee, write my name on the roll! I have been changed since the Lord has lifted me, I want to be ready when Jesus comes! Notice how this old song equates having our name in the Lamb’s book of life with having been changed, that is to say, having been cleansed and perfected.
16. Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. – The grace and favor of God flow freely through the streets of heaven giving constant life and fruit to all who live there. There is a kind of reminder of the garden in the book of Genesis here. Once again, the human family is at one with its God and they can walk with God in the garden and enjoy his company. Paradise is restored and even greater than it ever was!
17. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light,. There is a great liturgy going on in heaven that is described in greater detail in Revelation Chapters 4 and 5. The text here says merely that they servants of God worship him but oh what a mighty liturgy it is! The Saints must surely be having church up there! They look upon the face of God which is a biblical way of saying they enjoy very special intimacy with God. All their longings are fulfilled as they gaze upon the beauty of God. The book of Psalms says, “My heart within me says, is your face the Lord I seek, hide not your face from me! ” (Psalms 27:8) Now is fulfilled the longing of the heart to see the face of the Lord. That his name is on their foreheads is a Jewish way of saying that God is always on their mind. They are in living conscious contact with God at every moment.
18. and they shall reign for ever and ever – to be in heaven is to conquer, to reign with God. To share his glory! And this shall be forever. This joy, this serenity, will never pass.
This song says, The sky shall unfold; Preparing His entrance. The stars shall applaud Him; With thunders of praise. The sweet light in His eyes, shall enhance those awaiting And we shall behold Him, then face to face.
O we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him; Face to face in all of His glory; O we shall behold Him, yes we shall behold Him Face to face, our Savior and Lord
The angel will sound, the shout of His coming; And the sleeping shall rise, from there slumbering place; And those remaining, shall be changed in a moment; And we shall behold him, then face to face; We shall behold Him, o yes we shall behold Him; Face to face in all of His glory
39 Replies to “When Was the Last Time You Meditated on Heaven? That Long?! Try This.”
It is true that I do not spend much time thinking about heaven … because when I do it is most often for very selfish reasons (wanting to meet Jesus, my mother, my grandparents who died before I was born, the Saints! etc. and sometimes to be released from pain and suffering) but then immediately I feel guilty because I feel unworthy of meeting my Lord (oh, the impudence of such a thought) and of leaving behind my young children.
This is why I love the Hail Mary, and the O, My Jesus prayer … surely Mother Mary will lead me to Jesus.
Father, is there any room for reincarnation within the Catholic thought? If we have not lived our lives properly, could we be sent again to learn the lessons to love God and our neighbor again? Or this is it? If we fail now, it’s off to hell? I ask because coming from an Indian background, it’s very difficult to not think of this possibility given a merciful God and second and third chances to redeem our souls. Your thoughts?
Reincarnation is not compatible with Catholic belief. Heb 9:27 says ” And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” I think, as others have noted the second chance is accomplished by purgatory. It is not so much a second chance as a purification of what is.
In Catholic Tradition there is also Purgatory a place of preparation for Heaven that is apparently just as painful as Hell but not eternal. It is my understanding that one suffers in Purgatory for the temporal punishment for sin that has not been removed by indulgences and good works in this life.
I don;t know that the Catholic Faith positively rules out incarnation but it certainly does not affirm it as a reliable truth. You are wise to rely on the intercession of Mary to ensure your salvation. She was the Mother of Jesus and the first to believe in Jesus (the greatest Apostle), Immaculately concieved (The perfect daughter of the Father) and the (Spouse of the Holy Spirit). Her will was perfectly conformed to God’s Will and some Saints have maintained that Jesus can deny her nothing she requests of Him.
To be sent to Hell requires that one die in a state of unrepented and unconfessed Mortal Sin. Mortal Sin requires a radical turning away from God in a serious matter with a full intent of rebellion against God. Invincible ignorance does mitigate the seriousness of some grave Sins. IE, someone raised in Godless or ignorant environment with no contact with true Christians.
God is Merciful but also Just so we must use our talents wisely and not test God by willfully doing things that we know are sinful. If we have done something we know is seriously sinful we must go to confession and humbly ask for absolution from a priest. If we willfully conceal serious sins in confession they are not forgiven. If we accidentally forget a sin and remember it later it is forgiven but should be forgiven at the next opportunity.
Leonard, hi. I am not aware of any concept of purgatory being “painful” or, more so, “just as painful as hell”. Please cite.
I suppose “pain” could be pain in the sense of a longing to be with an otherwise-oh-so-close beatific vision, and the pain in the sense of, post-personal judgment, being aware of all one’s mistakes while wayfaring, but I have never seen references to purgatory being “painful” as in the suffering of the damned.
Yes, Brad is correct. The Catechism is clear to distinguish purgatory from any similarity to hell: “The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).
Sorry for the poor grammar and long windedness of the reply above…Last line should say “…it is forgiven but should be confessed at the next opportunity.”
One last thought that gives me comfort…you can pray for the Souls in Purgatory and obtain Indulgences on behalf of them. A few weeks ago there was the The Portiuncula Indulgence where you could gain a Plenary Indulgence for your self and a deceased relative (They Can be sent straight to Heaven). It comes every year and I am sure there are others. So God is Merciful. I have heard it said that once you release a soul from Purgatory they never cease praying for you!
I heard you on EWTN satellite this morning on my way to breakfast with “old” friends……..very good comments on suffering and its benefits….as has been my experience.
Oh glad to know you heard the interview. It must have been a rerun since I was live on Thursday originally.
Hebrews 9:27, says ‘It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment’. This is taken by the Church to rule out the notion of re-incarnation, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church says firmly (no. 1013) ‘There is no reincarnation after death.’
Ah good thanks for both references.
Thank you, Leonard. I do understand that purgatory is for final purification and cleansing before we meet God, but did wonder about those second and third chances to learn to love God and neighbor as a human. I cannot imagine a God that would want a single soul eternally separated from Him, but I suppose that is the nature of some souls — they don’t want anything to do with Him. See, I can’t think of heaven without thinking about hell as well …
Long for the reward, the judgment is up to God. I think if we long for it, God will surely supply us the grace to receive it.
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, in part III PARADISO, gives a vision of heaven as Dante tours heaven with his guide Beatrice (Dante had been to the Inferno, and Purgatorio in parts I and II). In Dante’s vision there are nine Spheres of Heaven; the 1st sphere of the Moon is the souls who abandoned their vows, and so were deficient in the virtue of fortitude; the 2nd sphere of Mercury is that of souls who did good out of a desire for fame, but were deficient in the virtue of justice; the 3rd sphere of Venus is that of souls who did good out of love, but were deficient in the virtue of temperance; the 4th sphere is the Sun is that of the souls of the wise, who embody prudence. Dante is addressed by St. Thomas Aquinas who recounts the life of St. Francis of Assisi; the 5th sphere of Mars is that of souls who fought for Christainity, and who embody fortitude. The souls in this sphere form an enormous cross. the 6th sphere of Jupiter is that of souls who personified justice. The souls here spell out “Love justice, ye that judge the earth,” and are arranged into an imperial Eagle of Christ; the 7th sphere of Saturn is that of the contemplatives, who embody temperance; the 8th sphere of fixed stars is the sphere of the Chruch Triumphant. Here Dante sees visions of Christ and of the Virgin Mary. He is tested on faith by St. Peter, on hope by St. James, and on love by St. John; the 9th sphere the Primum Mobile (“first moved” sphere) is the abode of angles. Dante sees God as a point of light surrounded by nine rings of angles, and is told about creation of the universe. From the Primum Mobile, Dante ascends to a place called the Empyrean. Here the souls of all the believers form the petals of an enormous white rose singing a song most sweet, Holy, Holy, Holy (Rev. 4:6-9). Dante comes face to face with God himself. God appears a three equally large circles within each other representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, with the essence of each part of God, separate yet one. Dante’s soul, through God’s absolute love, experiences a unification within itself and all things “but already my desire and my will were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed by the Love that turns the sun and all the other stars.” “The Love that moves the sun and the other stars (Line 145; last line of book; Canto XXXIII).”
Yes, a remarkable book. I only wish it were more rooted in Scripture.
The official teaching on Reincarnation according to Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When “the single course of our earthly life” is completed,586 we shall not return to other earthly lives: “It is appointed for men to die once.”587 There is no “reincarnation” after death.
Thanks for posting this citation.
Sorry, I should have included a link:
Thank you for this link.
Thanks for a fine post. Perhaps you have come across “A Travel Guide to Heaven” by Anthony DeStefano found at Amazon [http://www.amazon.com/Travel-Guide-Heaven-Anthony-DeStefano/dp/B003TO6EIQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1283186916&sr=8-1]. Given the coming rush to get in Heaven by the Baby Boomers, Heaven is a good topic for pastors across the country to speak about and this book is a most joyful treatment of the topic.
THank you for this recommendation.
My thought is that God gives us a new chance all the time in our current life. When we have failed to love Him and our neighbor, He will do something to get our attention. Each time we come to a fork in the road, and we take the wrong path, there is another fork further up the road (maybe even an hour later) – until there isn’t. Unfortunately, for me, sometimes He has had to take drastic steps to get my attention – but thank God, He is persistent. He really wants heaven for us. I feel that I have been “reincarnated” each time I go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation – starting anew once again with the grace that is so greatly needed.
Yes, God is the God of the Second Chance in this life.
Thank you for this very crucial article and I will read as often as possible and enlighten people that I come into contact with
Thanks for spreading the word.
A very nice column, including some of the blog additions and the Dante descriptions. Am I correct that the bulk of your column is dictated, and someone else transcribes it? Some of the scripture quotes “Eye has not seen, nor year heard..”, e.g. SOUND ok when read aloud, but look funny if read silently. TeaPot562
No it’s just a typo. 🙂 Thanks for pointing it out.
The Catholic teaching of eternal judgement in a nutshell is (my little grasp it), when u stand in front of God on the day you die, He will “play-back” your life to you and ask you to judge yourself. No amount of “sales pitch” will help us there becase we are in front of the all knowing One. Also He is such a completely perfect judge, that our eyes having seen everything so perfectly objetively, we will be incapable of a wrong judgement. So if ever a soul enters eternal damnation, he / she has wholeheartedly chosen it, rejecting the millions of chances God gave him / her – perhaps even on the death-bed. The other point you mentioned about leaving the loved ones will disappear when a: you desire God to sucha a degree, that you are incapable of dispropotionately attaching yourself to anything else. B: Thankfully in heaven’s eternal vocabulary – there is no such thing as “never again”! So teaching our children young, (like St Terese of Lisiuex used to tell his daughters) “We will meet in heaven” is a very good idea!
Thank you all for helping me to put to rest this idea of reincarnation. Sherry, so true that God gives us so many chances in this one life itself — I am living proof of it!
Yes, you got quite a lot of good answers. Thanks for generating the topic
@Vijaya: I think that such a concept of imagining the reincarnation in a Christian way, as shared by Sherry, it could be much fair then and logical, than the “re-incarnation after death” concept, where in, one will not have any reference on one’s past life. So in the later concept, there will be no clue on what mistakes to be corrected exactly, during one’s present life. But with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, one can always have this reference of past mistake vivid, to make a better step forward from, and towards the Truth.
My husband and kids say ‘leave a side window open for me, Mom!”
They aren’t kidding! I am surrounded by lax adult Catholics who figure
I can pray for all 6 of them! You can’t tell them what is right and wrong, they are full
of the world and relavitism. Even teaching them in the 80s and 90s about faith;
they never took the step to continue to grow and learn in adulthood.
If did tell them all what is their issues are (I am not a tactful person)I wouldn’t have a family anymore.
So you walk this tightrope loving them unconditionally, despite their sins, and hope
that all the rosaries and prayers take affect in the long run.
I sometimes wonder how St Monica really did it, but then it isn’t us that convert our
children and soften their hearts its the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Keep praying and correct were necessary and possible.
I enjoy discussion on this subject. I may sound like a broken record to some having discussed this before but I was forunate enough to have experienced a sort of meditative revelation into death and purgatory when I was twenty two and attempting to seek God’s council through meditation. After having read a book on meditation by Bradford Smith who was a quaker and english professor who died around the age of 54 back about 1962, I was experiencing the challenges of people in my life moving away in 1973. Wanting to let go of a parting relationship who had moved away to college ,without hurting feelings I sought council through attempting meditation. Not having any experience and somewhat of a sceptic, I went through the basic preparations of centering my thoughts and focusing on Jesus and a personal audience with Him concerning advising me on what to do. I went through several phases where my physical sensations withdrew over time as I experienced different changes of colored inner skies with my eyes closed from the usual black darkness, to blue, to green, to red to orange to bright sunlight gold evolving into a white florescent space where I was acutely aware what was happening but totally without bodily sensation;weight sensation or sense of breathing. Here I experienced a profound satisfied peace and no longer troubled by thoughts or worries of my worldly problems. At some point like a spirit from the movie Scrooge, I started recalling events that had happened when I was 4 or 5 years old that seem to have no relation to what I had come to seek God’s advice on. Yet by the time these many forgotten events were through being revealed,I opened my eyes profoundly changed by the meditative experience. to summarize what was revealed, my mother who had died when I was 15 months old, had on three separate occasions spoken to me concerining circumstances in these occasions. The first two times I looked around expecting to see someone there but no one was there, but each time the voice stopped me from doing something that stood to endanger my well being. I was perplexed but not afraid because I didn’t really understand what or where the voice was coming from but I did leave the area where I was in possible harms way. One day sometime later, my nursery school teacher read a Bible story about an angel appearing to a man and telling him what God wanted him to do. When she was through with the story she said we all have guardian angels and sometimes our’s might talk to us. I was certain that was the voice I had heard. Although the girl sitting next to me called me a liar when I told her my guardian angel had spoken to me, I was determined to speak back if I heard the voice again. Some time Later I was playing outside in my driveway with a toy roadgrader when an anguished voice called my name and pleaded for me to help. Startled and expecting to see some one behind me, I saw no one so I stood up, looked to the sky and said, “I’ll help you guardian angel! Where are you?” The voice repeated my Name twice with an equal excitement and faded away. Now several other event’s were recalled in which I had told my older brother which led to him becoming very angry with me and eventually scared me with threats which caused me to put it all to rest and forget it had ever happened for 17 years until my meditative revelation. It wasn’t until these meditative revelations did I realize the voice I had heard was my deceased mother whom I had never remembered as a child since I was so young when she died. The reason she had spoken the third time was because at that time a friend at school had asked me what my mother was like and since I did’t know, I occasionally would ask my five older siblings about her. They would always bring the subject to a quick end because they suffered when recalling things about her since they were so emotionally attached. The day she had pleaded for my help. my brother who was 4 years older than I had been in the backyard garage when I came looking for him to tell him my guardian angel had just spoken to me asking for help.He became angry and threatened to run away and never come back if I didn’t stop talking about moma. The revealation made me realize he was in the garage looking in an old cedar chest that had my mothers belongings that my father had kept. I recalled when my brother one day had pointed the chest out to me in the garage and had said our father told us never to go near it or open it. I had never noticed the weathered dust covered chest at the back of the garage or even wondered what was in it until my brother brought it to my attention. The meditative revealed intuitive insight to the past and how it was revelant to my present circumstances of lives departing and letting go of ending relationships. Purgatory is not necessarily a separation from the experiences in the physical worldfor the soul if one still has responsibilities and deep atachments to people and things in the worldly physical realm. Neither is heaven any father away than the state of ones consciousness of God. By no means do I understand it all, but I know through my experience and don’t have the luxury of those who haven’t experienced it. For me faith is not the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. I have witnessed the presence of God, and had an audience with Christ. But just like that little girl at nursery school and my brother, most people feel more comfortable with faith rather than God.
Hi Brad, Dismas and E H Castleton and Msgr Pope
Check out this link to St. Thomas Acquinas on new advent. He basically said the pain of purgatory is worse than anything on earth….That is pretty close to hell in my book but I will admit that close only counts in horseshoes so I don’t mind being corrected and encourage you to do so as to perfect my understanding.
Also, I did say that “I was not aware that the Church had positively ruled out Incarnation.” That was a true statement at the time. I do appreciate your informing me of the fact that the Church has positively ruled it out..but frankly, it has never been a big stumbling block in my Faith since I was not raised in India. I can see where it would cause a lot of spiritual turmoil for someone from that background.
I’m not sure why you singled me out regarding the pains of purgatory, but for what it’s worth, here’s my take. I’m not a theologian or catechist and therefore always defer in humble submission to the Magisterium of the Church, the safe Barque of Peter. With that said I’ve always personally believed Purgatory to be a place of GREAT pain and suffering, a place to be feared and avoided at all costs. My belief is that my remaining imperfections and disordered attachments will be purified in purgatory by being burned away in the divine fires of love. I also believe that the repayment I owe (Economy of Salvation?) for the damage wrought by my sins will be need to be recompensed in this furnace of love as well. I’ve always pictured purgatory as images I’ve seen of the Sacred Heart of Jesus depicted as a fiery furnace of love. As painful as I expect all that to be, I believe the most painful of all will be the separation from seeing God (the beatific vision?) while this process is taking place.
Needless to say, I try to remember and pray for the holy souls in purgatory each day. The church teaches that if you assist them, they will be forever grateful and in turn plead for you upon their release into the Church Triumphant I noticed in another post, you mentioned indulgences. I also take advantage of these whenever possible hoping to reduce my time in purgatory. I also apply their benefit on occasion to the Holy Souls. The tricky part though is the requirement of total detachment to sin in order to gain their benefit.
Sorry about that Dismas I must have confuted you with someone else. Short term memory is not as good as it once was my boy. Hang in there on the detatchment from sin. I’m sure you will be a Saint in no time! Don’t forget to pray for me when I’m in Purgatory. I will need it!
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