"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has it entered into the hearts of men, what things God has prepared for those who love Him" - 1 Cor 2:9
1. Heaven is the place where the Angels and Saints enjoy eternal beatitude.
Hence they are called Blessed. No one enters heaven who is not in a state of
grace, free from all sin, mortal and venial, and who has not satisfied entirely
the justice of God for the temporal punishment due to sin.
Heaven is the recompense of fidelity to the law of God, which commands us to believe in Him, to hope in Him, and to love Him. This reward is God Himself, aas He said to His servant, Abraham, I am thy reward exceeding great .
THE VISION OF GOD IN HEAVEN:
2. There are three ways in which we can know God. (a) Naturally, by
abstraction, and from the effects of God's power which we behold. (b)
Supernaturally, by faith. (c) Supernaturally, by the Beatific Vision, or by the
Vision of God, which the blessed possess in heaven.
We have here to consider this last mode of knowing God, namely, the Beatific Vision. In this we must reflect:-
(a) That the Vision of God is of such a nature that I cannot be received by the corporeal eye. Our eyes, even when glorified, will not be able to see the eseence of God: Whom no man sees or can see (1 Tim.) As regards corporeal vision, man sees by the act of a bodily organ; but God is entirely simple, therefore, by such a corporeal act, His essence cannot be seen, as no act can go beyond the nature of the power from which it proceeds. The object of the Beatific Vision is outside and beyond all the objects of corporeal vision; in such a way that it would involve a contradiction to suppose that the essence of God could be seen by a bodily act. Such an act should be of necessity spiritual, and the power from which it proceeds must therefore be a spiritual one.
(b) A created of its own natural force cannot see God as He is in Himself.
3. This proposition was defined by faith in the Council of Vienne, under Clement V., in the year 1311, against the Beguards and the Beguins. These heretics taught (a) that a man in this life could attain to such a degree of perfection that he could no longer sin, or acquire any more grace. (b) That having once abtained this state he need not pray, nor would he be bound to keep the commandments of the Church. (c) That man, even in this life, could attain final beatitude in the same degree as in the next life, and that every intellectual nature that has attained its beatitude, is blessed in such a manner that, in order to receive the Vision of God and to enjoy Him, it has no need of the light of glory.
It is in the sense of the proposition stated against these errors, that we
understand the text of Scripture: No one knoweth the Son but the Father,
neither doth any one know the Father but the Son, and he to whom it shall please
the Son to reveal Him. (St. Matt 11,27). Now this is eternal life: That thou may
know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.(St. John
The reason why a created intellect cannot of itself see God, is because the vision of God, as He is in Himself, is Eternal Glory and Supernatural Beatitude; and it is by faith that man cannot by his own power merit eternal glory, and that he cannot of himself, and of his on natural power, attain beatitude. Moreover, if a man cannot elicit an act of faith, hope, or charity, or do any supernatural act without the aid of God's grace, it follows that he cannot elicit that supernatural act which is the greatest of all, namely, the Beatific Vision, without any aid from God.
St. Thomas says that, in order that anything may be known, there ought to be some proportion between the object that is known, and the subject knowing it, because no power can naturally go beyond its proportionate object. But between God, as clearly seen, and the created intellect, there is no proportion. The cognoscitive power corresponds to the perfection of the being, and no created being can attain to the perfection of God, or naturally see Him as He is in Himself.
4. The created intellect, aided supernaturally, can see God as He is in
Himself, that is intuitively or clearly as to His essence and nature. This is of
faith defined in the Council of Florence (1439), where it is defined that
departed souls, entirely purified, are immediately received into heaven, and
there see God Three in One as He is.
We have also numerous texts of Holy Scripture in proof of this doctrine: Blessed are the clean in heart, for they shall see God (St. Matt. 5). We see now as in a dark mirror, then we shall see God face to face, even as He is (1 Cor. 12. 12) It is possible for men, by the supernatural aid of God, to obtain their beatitude; but the intuitive vision of God constitutes the essence of beatitude, or is at least necessarily required for it; according to the words of St. John: This is eternal life that they know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.
We know that there is in us a natural desire to see God, who is the first cause of all things; and this desire cannot be empty and fruitless, therefore it is right that it should be satisfied. Nature does not give a desire towards that which is impossible, and we should not wish naturally for beatitude if that were not possible for us.
THE LIGHT OF GLORY
5. As the created intellect cannot see God intuitively, of its own power, and as it is of faith that men and Angels see God intuitively in heaven, it is necessary that something be given to the intellect to enable it to attain, or to receive, this vision. The medium by which the created intellect is raised up to dee God intuitively is called the Light of glory. It is of faith that the Light of glory is required for the Beatific Vision of God, as defined in the Council of Vienne, in the condemnation of the errors of the Beguards and Beguins.
In thy light, says the Psalmist, we shall see light (Psalm 35:10). The reason why the light of glory is required, is that a created intellect is insufficient, and in itself unproportioned to the Vision of God. Therefore, it is necessary that it be elevated by some power, or quality, to enable it to receive that vision: and this is no other than the Light of glory. From the doctrine here laid down, it follows that no one in this life can naturally see God. Christ only, during His life on earth, always had the Vision of God; because He was always in the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision. He was at the same time a comprehensor and a viator.
As to the vision of God, which was conceded to Moses and to St. Paul, Catholic doctors are not agreed as to the nature of this great privilege. Moses was the first doctor of the Jews, and St. Paul the first doctor of the Gentiles, and it is clear from Scripture that to them was conceded some special vision of God, different from all other prophets. It was not a permanent vision, but some extraordinary vision of the glory of God's Kingdom.
It follows also that in regard to the Vision of God there are two things to be considered, namely, on the part of the power or faculty that receives the vision, and on the part of the object, which is God. On the part of the faculty, namely, the created intellect, it is too weak of itself to receive the Vision of God, and therefore requires the elevation and the strength given it by the Light of Glory; as far as God is concerned He is most luminous and visible, but the weak minds of His creatures require the Light of Glory to receive that vision, or to behold Him as He is in Himself. This vision is not natural, but proceeds from a supernatural principle, as faith does in this life; and it is entirely supernatural as to its object, namely, the glory of God.
From the explanation here given we understand the Light of glory to be a certain supernatural quality, or habit, or principle, which strengthens and perfects the intellect in such a manner as to enable it to receive the vision of God. It has three functions to perform. (a) It strengthens the intellect to elicit the act of the Beatific Vision. (b) It disposes it to receive the essence of God under an intelligible form. (c) It enables the intellect to receive the full Beatific Vision of God. All three are included in the one notion or idea of that Light of Glory, namely, that it strengthens and elevates the intellect to see God intuitively, face to face, even as He is.
I may remark that in the Vision of God in heaven no created species comes
between the soul and God. Such a species would be superfluous, because such a
species is required only when the object is not present to the intellect, or is
not sufficiently intelligible in itself because of its materiality. But in
heaven the essence of God is immediately present to the soul, and God is
entirely spiritual, and therefore intelligible in the highest degree, because
altogether immaterial. Besides, no species, either created or creatable, could
represent God as He is in Himself.
God will by Himself unite Himself to the intellect in the Beatific Vision, and, therefore no species of any kind will be required in this vision, as there will then be no medium whatever between the soul and God.
THE INEQUALITY OF THE BEATIFIC VISION
6. It is of faith that the Blessed in heaven, by reason of their unequal
merits, behold God, and receive His Beatitude in different and unequal degrees.
This is defined in the Council of Florence, in Decretio Unionis, where it
is defined that the souls of the Saints are immediately received into heaven,
and there see God, intuitively One and Three, according to the diversity of
their merits, one more perfect than another. And the Council of Trent pronounces
an Anathema against anyone who should deny that a just man merits an
increase of glory by his good works. This inequality of Beatitude in heaven was
taught us by Our Divine Lord Himself in the words: In my Father's house there
are many mansions (St. John 14:2); and St. Paul tells us: there are
bodies celestial, and bodies terrestrial; but one is the glory of the celestial,
and another of the terrestrial. One is the glory of the sun, another the glory
of the moon, and another the glory of the stars. For star differeth from star in
glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:40 sqq.).
It is, therefore, of faith that the Blessed behold God unequally, or in different degrees, some more perfect than others. This is against Jovinian, who taught that man's merits and sins were all equal, and therefore his rewards and punishments were equal also. And it is against the Lutheran doctrine, which asserts that as we are justified by Christ alone, irrespective of any merits of our own, and as the justice of Christ is equal for all, so the beatitude of the just will be equal in heaven. The vision of God is the wages or reward of the good, which we do here through God's grace, and is bestowed according to the merits of each just soul.
7. The moral cause of the inequality of glory and beatitude, is the
inequality of good works and merits.
Its physical cause is the inequality of the Light of Glory. The power of seeing Him more or less perfectly depends on this light. All the beatific visions both in men and angels are of the same species or kind. They have the same formal object, namely, without any medium or species; and the same proximate principle from which the vision proceeds, namely, the Light of glory.
It does not follow from the doctrine of the inequality of glory, that those who see God less clearly are not completely happy and their appetite completely satisfied, because they well know that this glory corresponds to their merits, and they desire no more; all are inflamed by charity, and, therefore, in perfect conformity with the divine will in all things.
8. In connection with the Vision of God, the question is asked whether the blessed comprehend God. Comprehend, in its Theological sense, has two meanings. (a) It signifies the acquiring or the attaining to an object that is sought or desired, and in this sense it is of faith that God is comprehended by the blessed. It is in this sense that St. Paul speaks, when he says: Know you not that they that run in the race, all run, indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain. (1 Cor. 11:24) (b) Comprehension means to know and see a thing adequately, that is to know it as much as it is knowable. It is the adequate knowledge of an object, and applied to God, it means to know His essence and all that it virtually or eminently contains. It would mean to know God as He knows Himself, in a perfect and infinite manner. In this sense God is incomprehensible to His creatures. Hence the prophet calls Him great in counsel, and incomprehensible in thought ( Jer. 32:19) And the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans writes: O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God; how incomprehensible are His judgments, how unsearchable His ways. The Council of Lateran (cap. firmiter) says: "We believe that God is incomprehensible. The reason of this is because He is infinite and immense. To comprehend Him would mean to know Him inasmuch as He is knowable, but no created mind could attain to such a perfect way of knowing God, inasmuch as it would mean to know Him in an infinite manner, which is not possible to a creature."
THE OBJECT OF THE BEATIFIC VISION
9. The object of the Beatific Vision is two-fold, formal or primary, ans material or secondary. The formal or primary object of Beatitude is that which is seen on its own account, and which constitutes the essential glory of heaven, and this is God Himself. The secondary object is that which is seen on account of the primary, and under it is included all the creatures which the blessed see. The accidental glory of heaven arises from the vision of the secondary objects, as the essential glory of heaven proceeds from the immediate vision of God Himself.
THE ACCIDENTAL BEATITUDE OR GLORY OF HEAVEN
10. This arises, as I have said, from the vision or knowledge which the
Blessed have of secondary objects, namely, creatures. They see and know
creatures in the Divine Word, that is, in the Divine Intelligence. God
created all things by the Word, and He understands Himself by the Word. The
knowledge which the blessed have is like the knowledge which God has of Himself
and all other things. All creatures are contained in the Divine Word, as by that
Word all things were made. Therefore, the blessed seeing the Word, see in it all
things, or at least all things which relate to them in any special way.
The blessed do not see all the things which He has done or can do. His power is infinite, and , therefore, what He can do extends to infinitude; and if the blessed could see all that God can do, they would be able to comprehend God. Besides there are special things which God has reserved to Himself, and which the blessed can never know, unless God chooses to reveal them to them.
These are: (a) Future contingent things, that is, those things which depend upon the free will of men. (b) The secrets of the heart, that is, the interior thoughts of the soul. (c) The day of the General Judgment. Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven.
The Blessed see and know concerning creatures, whatever specially relates to
them, because in heaven every just and honest desire will be satisfied. That we
may classify what specially may be said to belong to the knowledge of the
blessed, we have to consider them (a) in the order of grace (b) as parts of the
whole universe, (c) as such a person, either private or public, as the case may
Under the first consideration the blessed will see and understand the mysteries of faith, which were revealed, and which they believed in this life, according to the words: As we have heard so we have seen, in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God. Thus they will understand the mysteries of the Incarnation, of Redemption, of Predestination, and all other mysteries connected with the truths of faith.
Under the second consideration the blessed will see and know all the different generic and species of things, and the principal parts of the universe- heaven and earth, the elements, the heavenly bodies, &c.
Under the third consideration the blessed will know all that belongs to that state or position which they occupied when on earth. Thus, those who were Popes will know all that belongs to the welfare of the whole Church; bishops, what concerns the dioceses over which they presided; Founders of Religious Orders, all that concerns those Orders; parents have a knowledge of their families here on earth; relations and friends know all that they desire concerning those they have left on earth, and so forth.
The Blessed, besides this special knowledge which bbelongs to them under the
three-fold consideration, also know many other things. Thus it is said that
there is joy in heaven upon one sinner doing penance; and St. Paul says:
We are made a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. The blessed,
therefor, know all the prayers that are addressed to them; and God reveals to
them many other things which may increase their accidental glory.
The qualoities of glorified bodies. To this accidental glory belong the qualities or gifts of the bodies; to wit, Impassibility, Brightness, Subtility, and Agility as explained in the Eleventh Article.
THE AUREOLAE OF GLORY
11. Some souls will also have their accidental glory augmented by the
addition of special heavenly and supernatural gifts or qualities, called the
Aureolae, or small crowns of glory.
The souls in heaven retain their perfection and all their good natural qualities and acquired sciences; they retain also their spiritual characters or marks of Baptism and Confirmation, and in the case of eccliastics, that of Holy Orders. And to these are added, in the case of some souls, special crowns of glory, given in reward for certain victories gained through special labours and sufferings here on earth. These are called the Aureolae of glory.
They are three in number, namely, that of Martyrdom, that of Virginity, and that of Doctorship. The crown is given to Martyrs, because they obtain a victory principally over the world. To Virgins, because they obtain a victory principally over the flesh. To Doctors and preachers, because these obtain a victory specially over the devil. The rewards are referred toin Sacred Scripture. Of Martyrs, it is said, Greater love than this no man hath than that he lay down his life for his friends (St.John 15). Of Doctors, he who will confes sme before men, I will confess him before my Father who is in heaven (St.Mark 8). Of Virgins, it is said, they follow the lamb whithersoever he goeth (Apoc. 12). By these are signified special rewards to be granted hereafter for each of these victories. Besides these special gifts granted to Martyrs, Virgins and Doctors, there are other heavenly gifts which belong to all beatified souls.
12. These are the vision, love and fruition of the souls in
heaven, which corresponds to the three Theological virtues.
The Vision of God is that which we have considered above. It corresponds to faith, and implicitly includes the other two, namely, love and fruition.
Love, which corresponds to and is of the same species as charity; and it is the convenience or suitableness of the vision whcih makes it valued and cherished.
Fruition. This is sometimes taken in the sense of love, but it means more than that here. It means the possession and retention of the thing loved. These supernatural gifts, as I have said, will belong to all the blessed.
13. Under the secondary object of beatitude we have to include the inhabitants of heaven. All concur in that beatitude. To be numbered with the blessed will add to our accidental glory in heaven. Our friends and companions there will be the inhabitants of heaven, and amongst them we may consider:-
THE ESSENTIAL BEATITUDE OR GLORY OF HEAVEN
14. This arises from the Vision of God.
The blessed in heaven see God, One in essence, and Three in Persons, as He is in Himself. This is of faith, as we learn from the Council of Florence, in the Decree of Union. They therefore see in God, His essence, the Divine Persons, and also His attributes both relative and absolute. The attributes of God and the Persons are not really distinct from the essence of God, and therefore they are seen by one and the same act as the essence is seen.
It is of this vision of God that St. John speaks when he says: Dearly
beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall
be. We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like to him; because we shall
see him as he is.
The Beatific Vision corresponds to faith in this life, as it is its reward; therefore the blessed will see in heaven everything which they believe here, and unless they were to see the attributes of God as well as His essence, their desire would not be fully satisfied; and they would not be perfectly happy. These attributes they know by revelation here, and therefore it belongs to their happiness to behold them in heaven by the Beatific Vision.
According to St. Thomas the vision in heaven is intuitive, quiddative, or
essential, and beatific, therefore it includes the essence and the
attributes; and morover, as God is a pure act, when His essence is seen, His
attributes and the Divine Persons must also be seen and be the object of that
vision. When, in the words of St. John, the blessed see God as He is, they see
all, for all that is in God is one.
The everlasting life of the blessed is spent in the light of God's presence. They shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them. His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face. This everlasting life is begun on earth according to the words of St.John: Amen, Amen, I say unto you, that he that hears my word and believeth in Him that sent me, hath everlasting life.
It is continued and perfected in heaven. And after the Resurrection and the Last Judgment, the whole man, body and soul, will enjoy this everlasting life. Then shall the King say to then on His right Hand: Come ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
This happiness arises (a) from the perfection of the body, equal to the
Angels, made like unto Christ, (b) from the perfection of the soul. Then we
shall know as also we are known; and become conformed to the image of His Son.
(c) From the perfection of the state of beatitude, for the blessed shall never
hunger or thirst any more; and there will be no need of the sun or the moon to
give them light and heat; for the Lamb is the lamp thereof. God Himself,
the God of love, is the fount and source of the happiness of the blessed, and of
His fulness we have all received.
After the last sentence, the elect will rise triumphant towards heaven, singing their eternal hymn of gratitude and love; and the reprobate will sink into the depth of hell with the wicked. An Angel shall close the depths of the horrible abyss, and place thereon the seal of God, which shall never, never be broken. Henceforth, Eternity shall everywhere reign. While we are upon earth, standing as it were upon a narrow bridge, with heaven on one side and hell on the other, it is in our power to choose between the two. By freely consenting to sin, we are choosing a living death in hell; but by persevering in a good and virtuous life, we are choosing life everlasting in heaven.
Life everlasting means, that if we serve God faithfully in this life,
we shall be happy with Him for ever in Heaven.
It is called Life everlasting, to teach us that after this life there is another, which will last forever, and that the just shall enjoy eternal happiness in it.
The happiness of heaven is to see, love, and enjoy God in the Kingdom of His glory for ever and ever.
We cannot form a just conception of the happiness of heaven, for: Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him. (1 Cor. 2:9).
Amen means so be it. We say Amen after the Apostles'
Creed to express our firm belief in all that the Creed contains.
Life everlasting is not promised to faith alone, however firm it may be, but to faith that worketh by charity. It is necessary, therefore, that our lives be in conformity with our faith, inorder to attain the noble end for which God made us: TO KNOW; LOVE AND SERVE HIM HERE ON EARTH, AND TO SEE AND ENJOY HIM FOR EVER IN ETERNITY:
THE ETERNITY OF HEAVEN, AND THE LIFE OF THE BLESSED
15. Its duration is as necessary as the life itself; because, in order that all the above-mentioned rewards amount to a true felicity, there must be an absolute security of the enjoyment without any fear of losing it. That this life is eternal we are assured by Him Who has purchased it for us and promised it to us. He often calls it eternal life; and it is described to us in Scripture as a continuing city, everlasting habitations, house eternal in the heavens; and it is expressed by eternal glory, eternal salvation, an eternal inheritance, the everlasting Kingdom of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And this eternity is explained in terms liable to no mistake: If any man keep my word he shall not see death for ever (St. John 8:51). And every one that liveth and believeth in Me shall not die for ever (St. John 11:26). There: God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. (Apoc. 21:4) .
This life eternal was purchased for us by the suffering and death of Christ:
who hath destroyed death, and hath brought to light life and incorruption by
the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:10).
Let the thoughts of this eternity renew in us an earnest desire of heaven and of heavenly things, and of the enjoyment of that vision of God which alone can satisfy us; let them withdraw our inclinations from earth and earthly things, and all the pleasures of this life, for we have not here a lasting dwelling-place, but we seek another; let them encourage us to take up the Cross of Christ, and carry it with fidelity and perseverance, reckoning that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). For that which is at present momentary, and light, of our tribulation worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
From chapter 12 of "The Creed Explained" by the Rev. Arthur Devine (London: R. Washbourne; Dublin: M.H.Gill & Son. 1892).