Posted tagged ‘Heaven’

Overdose of Glory?

July 12, 2011

I built a model of the Old Testament Tabernacle recently. Every time I give the RCIA presentation on the Exodus I wish I had one & this year I found a printable that made it feasible.

(The covering needs help, but there’s only so much I can do with printer paper)


I tweaked a few things & made my own version of the ark of the covenant (complete with flowers, leaves & ripe almonds on Aaron’s rod!).

Passages I usually skim came to life before my eyes. It was striking just how many things lined up with the way we worship today, with special vestments for priests, water for purification before worship (holy water fonts, Father washing his hands before consecrating the Eucharist), the veiled Tabernacle where God was present to His people with the lamp burning constantly before it–and the showbread, most holy to the Lord (another foreshadowing of the Eucharist), etc.

That experience was on my mind as we prayed before the Tabernacle after Mass. It made me appreciate just what a privilege it is to be so close to the Holy of Holies, unveiled (and that’s not even touching Holy Communion!!!). It brought to mind what happened when people in the Old Testament didn’t honor that separation, especially Uzziah touching the ark (2 Samuel 6). That juxtaposed with a bit I’ve been reading out of Mystical Body, Mystical Voice: Encountering Christ in the Words of the Mass, by Christopher Carstens & Douglas Martis (on the new translation of the Mass) about our need to learn the language of Heaven through the liturgy in order to be happy in Heaven. They quote John Henry Cardinal Newman:

Now is it not plain that those who are tired, and wearied, and made impatient by our sacred services below,
would most certainly get tired and wearied
with Heaven above?
Because there the Cherubim ‘rest not day and night,’
saying,’Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.’
Such as this, too, will be the way of the Saints in glory,
for we are told that there will be
a great voice of much people saying,
Alleluia; and again they said, Alleluia;
and the four-and-twenty elders said Alleluia.
Such, too, was our Lord’s way,
when in His agony
He three times repeated the same words,
‘Thy will, not Mine, be done.’
It is the delight of all holy beings,
who stand around the Throne,
to use one and the same form of worship;
they are not tired,
it is ever new pleasure to them to say the words anew.
They are never tired;
but surely all those persons
would soon be tired of hearing them,
instead of taking part in their glorious chant,
who are wearied of Church now,
and seek for something more attractive and rousing.
(Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 8, Sermon 1).

Mystical Body, Mystical Voice also references C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, in which people from hell travel to the outskirts of Heaven, only to find that they’re not real enough to walk on the grass or to endure the drops of rain–the grass is like swords that go right through their ghostly feet & the raindrops like bullets that wound them.

Heaven is overwhelmingly glorious for those who are prepared for it–but not for those who aren’t (which is why God mercifully provided a place for those who don’t like Heaven).

The upshot was a question: what if the reason Uzziah died by touching the ark wasn’t because “God went after him,” but rather because he connected with Power beyond his ability to bear–like touching a downed power line? What if he died of an overdose of divine glory? And what if he ultimately went to Heaven?

Saints who’ve had ecstasies have said they would’ve died from such proximity to God if He hadn’t sustained them, and I’m reminded of
Bl. Imelda Lambertini who kept asking how anyone could receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and not die of happiness (and then she did–both–in a miraculous First Communion).

God is all-powerful. He makes an atomic bomb look like a lightning bug. People fell down terrified at encountering an angel, never mind God Almighty Himself. There are constructive ways to approach such power, but there are destructive ways too (I shudder to think of all the sacrilegious and careless Communions!). But since the God doesn’t often reveal the spiritual destruction in a physical way, we don’t notice–this side of the veil. He makes Himself SO available to us here!

Life here is our training for Heaven–not just to see if we can be “good enough” to squeak into a celestial amusement park, but rather a program of discipline in humility and caritas that will enable us to do the spiritual equivalent of running a triathelon with exhilaration instead of agony–to be radiant with the power of the Almighty instead of being fried by it–forever.

It gives a whole new dimension to the necessity of Purgatory!

God’s purpose is to build us up, to ennoble us, to make us real. He wants to empower us to stand before His glory in overflowing exuberance. Some things fulfill that purpose and some detract from it–and He knows better than we do which is which!

I want to be in on this training!

Why Religion?

October 25, 2010

This isn’t my writing–and I’ve lost track of where I found it–but it’s worth sharing! A post here references the same story as being from Talks on the Creed by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1946)

A priest in a parlor car was joined by three well-dressed gentlemen. One of them asked the padre: “Do you think a man could get to Heaven without joining the Church?”

“I think he could,” the priest replied.

They laughed, patted him on the back and called him broadminded.

“Now let me ask you a question,” said the priest, “and I want you to answer me just as quickly as I answered you. Why do you want to go to Heaven that way?”

They stared at one another, speechless.

“Why don’t you ask me another question,” suggested the man in the Roman collar. “Why don’t you ask me if a man could get to England without going on a boat?”

This time they found words, and blurted out: “Well, what is the answer to that one?”

“I see no reason a man could not get to England without going on a ship,” the priest admitted, “provided he was a good swimmer, tied some food between his shoulders to eat on the way, had strength to buffet all the waves, and, provided a shark did not get him or a floating log knock him out. And supposed you did get to England without a ship, do you think you would get there faster or in much better condition than the man who did take a boat?”

Ascension

May 13, 2010

Today, our great High Priest enters the sanctuary not made by hands, bearing with Him the only sacrifice worthy to be offered to the Most High (Hebrews 8:1-2). He pleads for me.

Today my Head is lifted up in glory.
Jesus, my Head (see Ephesians 5:26, Colossians 1:18), rises gloriously into Heaven to take His place at the right hand of God. He Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) has opened a path for me, that where He is, I also may be (John 14:3).

“In Jesus Christ, our Lord and King,
we are already seated at Your right hand.”
-Psalm prayer for Psalm 110 from Sunday, Week I, Evening Prayer II of the Liturgy of the Hours

In Him (I Corinthians 12:27), I, too, am lifted into the heavens, seated at the right hand of the Most High, with my enemies placed beneath my feet (Acts 2:34-35).

“He has lifted up my head above my enemies.
I have gone around,
and have offered in His tabernacle
a sacrifice of jubilation:
I will sing, and recite a psalm to the Lord” -Psalm 27:6

It’s “the now and the not yet”, foretaste and fulfillment, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when I unite myself with the eternal sacrifice which Jesus offers in Heaven.

Blessed be Jesus in His most glorious Ascension!

Heaven

May 6, 2010

One of our RCIA participants asked about Heaven the other day.  “What’s your personal idea of what Heaven is like?  What’s the goal of all this that you’re telling us?”  My husband fielded that question (he’s the Q&A man), but it got me thinking.  It’s an excellent question that we can never exhaust (a good example of a mystery).

As a small child, St. Therese of Lisieux used to just sit and think about Heaven.  It was her first experience of meditation (although she didn’t know the word at the time).  The last night the twins St. Scholastica and St. Benedict spent together they were talking about Heaven (it was a memorable night–St. Scholastica had asked her brother to stay & he refused–it was against his Rule–so she prayed & wept & God sent so fierce a storm that Benedict couldn’t leave!).  When St. Clare begged St. Francis to have a meal with her, they got so wrapped up in talking about Heaven that they completely forgot about the food.  People from the surrounding area saw flames leaping high into the sky and came running with buckets of water to put out the fire–only to find that it was not a material fire at all.  All they found were the saints deep in holy conversation.  Good things happen when we turn our hearts to our final end.

Unfortunately for us, the actual words of those meditations and conversations have not been recorded.  So what is Heaven like?  Why should we want to go there?  Sitting on clouds playing harps all day–at least as we know harps and clouds now–would get boring.  And whatever Heaven is, it’s not boring!  (just read the book of Revelation!)  Boredom is of hell, born of an inner emptiness and dissatisfaction.

I started my own mental juices flowing with two questions: “When have you felt most alive?”  That’s a dim foreshadowing of Heaven (Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and have it to the full”-John 10:10).  And “What do you enjoy?”  All good things will be perfectly fulfilled in Heaven.  We will find them in God.  Will we dance in Heaven?  I like to think so, but if it’s not dance, it’ll be something that makes me feel even more alive, even more radiant.

For me, beauty is a source of life and enjoyment.  In Heaven, everyone will be so beautiful!  And we will see their true beauty.  That in itself would be worth the effort to get there!

One day God showed St. Catharine of Siena the beauty of a soul in the state of grace. It was so beautiful that she could not look on it; the brightness of that soul dazzled her.  “O my God!” she cried out, “if I did not know that there is only one God, I should think that this was one!” The blessed Raymond, her confessor, asked her to describe to him, as far as she was able, the beauty of the soul she had seen. St. Catharine thought of the sweet light of the morning, and of the beautiful colors of the rainbow, but that soul was far more beautiful. She remembered the dazzling beams of the noonday sun, but the light which beamed from that soul was far brighter. She thought of the pure whiteness of the lily and of the fresh snow, but that is only an earthly whiteness. The soul which she had seen was bright with the whiteness of Heaven, such as there is not to be found on earth. “My father,” she answered, “I cannot find anything in this world that can give you the smallest idea of what I have seen. Oh! if you could but see the beauty of a soul in the state of grace, you would sacrifice your life a hundred times for its salvation! No, nothing in this world can bear any resemblance to it.  I asked the angel who was with me,” she continued, “what had made that soul so beautiful, and he answered me: It is the image and likeness of God in that soul, and the Divine Grace which made it so beautiful. -The Catechism in Examples, http://www.catecheticsonline.com/Catechism_Example.php

Just reading the lives of the saints opens up a window into Heaven–they’re there, in all their humility and peace, self-sacrifice and winsomeness.  The saints loved everyone here on earth, and they love even more perfectly now in Heaven.  Like the saints, everyone in Heaven will love each other, will be thrilled with each others’ company, will communicate exactly what they mean, openly, warmly.  There will be nothing to hide (and no way to hide), no wondering, “what does he really think?” We will all be in harmony, a healthy holy family, everyone looking out for the best good of everyone else.

There will be lots of laughter.  I think of the Poor Clare nuns I visited when I was discerning my vocation.  They were so happy!  So free.  They laughed so often, so merrily.  Heaven will be like that, but without the need for cloister walls.

There will be music, ravishingly beautiful (Revelation 5:9, 14:3, 15:3).  The story is told of St. Francis that he begged God to let him hear the music of Heaven.  God refused, warning him that he wouldn’t be able to bear it.  “Just one note,” begged Francis–and woke from a coma three days later!

There will be a common community energy such as I’ve felt at large Catholic conferences (I suppose most people experience a secular version of it at sporting events).  The praise of God will be a mighty roar (Revelation 14:2, Isaiah 42:11, etc.) and we will be caught up in it, borne up by it.

Freedom.  Peace.  Home.  Welcome.  Rest without boredom.  Filled, satisfied, but always more.  Clean.  Beautiful.  No sin!  Loved, cherished, delighted and a source of delight.  Understood, perfectly, completely.  Celebration (the wedding banquet of the Lamb, see  Revelation 19:7-9).  The only fear will be fear of the Lord, which isn’t a “scary” thing, but rather an awesome, soul-expanding reverence.  Heaven will be familiar, both in the sense of being family and in the sense of reminding us of everything we’ve ever known and loved.  We will feel like we belong there–we do!  It will be precious, valuable, lavish, generous, pulsing with life (I’m reminded of the world in C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian where the jewels were alive).

We’ll get to share all of the wonderful stories of how God’s worked in our lives–constant inspiration (as if the Presence of God Face to face wasn’t inspiration enough!)

And this isn’t even touching the wonder of our experience of God Himself. I’m reminded of Dante’s Paradisio, where even the heights of Purgatory were dazzling.  When he reached Heaven, he couldn’t fathom anything more glorious than the least of the saints.  His ability to take in glory was “maxed out” and he was blinded by the splendor, emerging on the other side with strengthened, heightened senses that could take in more as he rose higher and higher in Heaven.

This is the joy and fullness that overflows from the saints in Heaven now, spilling over onto us when we pierce the clouds with shafts of prayer.  Goodness rains down.  We expect so little when they have so much and are so eager to share!

My heart expanded to take in more of this divine generosity…and spread it around down here…

The Broad Road

January 9, 2004

Something stands out from The Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture. They point out that the road to Heaven is a narrow way–it has limits. It’s defined. It’s disciplined. The road to hell is broad, loose, lax, like a river with no banks.

That ties into the whole idea that limits are freeing, that discipline orders things to their proper end & keeps them from being destructive.

Perhaps another way of saying it would be to call the way to hell a trackless waste in which you can wander forever without actually getting anywhere. It’s the result of letting the fire out of the fireplace, of leaving the road. It’s called being lost.


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