"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more."

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"Spiritual persons ought to be equally ready to experience sweetness and consolation in the things of God, or to suffer and keep their ground in drynesses of spirit and devotion, and for as long as God pleases, without their making any complaint about it."

St Philip Neri

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Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  (1877 - 1964)  taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, and served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations.

 
  LIFE EVERLASTING
   

By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP

 

 PART 5 : HEAVEN (cont)

 

30. BEATIFIC JOY

 
The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face, love Him above all things, because they see with the most perfect evidence that God is better than all creatures combined. This love will never pass away. Faith will give place to vision; hope will be replaced by possession: but "charity never falleth away. [575]

By charity, already on earth we love God, not only as a good supremely desirable, the object of hope, but because of His infinite goodness in itself, a goodness far higher than any of His gifts. Charity wills He should be known, loved, and glorified; that His imprescriptible rights be recognized, His name be sanctified, His will be done. This is the love of friendship, whereby we will unto God all that belongs to Him, wishing His happiness as He wills our happiness. Thus, even here on earth, we share in God's intimate life, have our life in common with Him, have spiritual communion between Him and ourselves. [576]

This charity will last forever. It would be an error, even a heresy, to think that our love of God in heaven is merely the consummation of our hope, which makes us desire God as our supreme Good. Even here on earth, the act of hope, which can exist in a soul in the state of mortal sin, is notably inferior to the act of charity, and love of God in heaven is nothing but the perfect act of charity, whereby the soul transcends itself, whereby without cessation it loves God more than itself, whereby it passes out beyond itself, and enters into a state of uninterrupted ecstasy. [577]

This love implies admiration, reverence, recognition. It implies, above all, friendship, with all its simplicity and intimacy. It is love with all its tenderness and all its power, the love of a child that throws itself into the tenderness of its Father, and wills unto that Father all that belongs to Him, just as the Father takes the soul into His own beatitude. God says to us: "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." [578] Christ says: "Come, ye blessed of My Father." [579] We shall not indeed love God as He loves us, but the Holy Spirit will inspire a love worthy of Him.

This transforming union, now in a state of consummation, fuses our life with the intimate life of the Most High. We rejoice that God is God, infinitely holy, just, and merciful. We adore all the decrees of His providence, all manifestations of His glorious goodness. We subordinate ourselves completely to Him, saying to Him: "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory." [580] This supreme act of the highest of the theological virtues is the only one that is meant to last eternally. God alone, it is true, can love Himself infinitely, love Himself as far as He is lovable, but each blessed soul will love Him with all its power, with a love that no longer knows obstacles. [581]

The Satiety of the Blessed

This state of satiety is always new and never passes away. St. Augustine writes: "All our life will be one Amen, one Alleluia. Sadden not yourselves by considering this truth in a carnal manner, as if in heaven, just as on earth, we could become weary by repeating the words: Amen, Alleluia. This heavenly Amen, this Alleluia, will not be expressed by sound which passes away, but by the emotions of love, the emotions of the soul embraced by love. "Amen" means "It is true." "Alleluia" means "praise God." God is the immovable truth, who knows neither defect nor progress, neither decline nor growth. He is truth, eternal and stable: truth forever incorruptible.

"We shall sing our Amen forever but with a satiety that is insatiable. With satiety, because we live in perfect abundance, but with an insatiable satiety, because this good, while it satisfies completely, produces also a pleasure ever new. Insatiably satiated by this truth, we shall repeat forever: Amen. Rest and gaze: that is our eternal Sabbath." [582]

Greek philosophers discussed the question whether pleasure in movement is superior to pleasure in repose. Aristotle [583] shows clearly that the highest joy is that which completes achievement, is the terminus of perfect, normal activity, which is no longer in motion toward the end, but possesses the end and rests therein. This truth is realized in the highest way in celestial beatitude.

Heavenly joy has a newness which cannot pass away. The first instant of the beatific vision lasts forever, like eternal morning, eternal spring, eternal youth. It resembles the eternal beatitude of God. God's life is one unique instant of immutable eternity. He cannot grow old. He is not past or future, but eternally present. He contains eminently all successive events, as the summit of a pyramid contains all points at its base, as the view of a man placed on a mountain embraces the entire valley. Simultaneous totality: that is the definition of eternity.

As illustration, we may point to Mozart, who heard instantaneously and completely the melody he set out to compose. Similarly, great minds embrace their entire science with one sole glance.

The beatific vision of the saints is measured by the unique instant of immovable eternity. The joy of that instant will never pass away. Its newness, its freshness, will be eternally present. As the vision will be always new, so likewise the joy which flows from the vision.

We can get some ideas of this truth by the joy we experience when we begin to relish the word of God. This joy, far from passing away, grows ceaselessly. The contrary is seen in sense goods. Avidly desired at first, they give us an ever decreasing joy.

Continuance of friendship, ten years, twenty years, and more, is a sign that this friendship has a divine origin. Divine friendship, relish for God's word, is a lasting joy, which lifts us above embarrassed affairs, domestic needs, and useless pastimes. That which nourishes the soul is divine truth and the supreme goodness revealed therein. Bossuet says: "If this divine truth pleases us when it is expressed by sounds that pass away, how will it ravish us when it speaks in its own proper voice which never passes away! God does not use many words: He speaks one eternal word, His Word, His Verbum, and thereby says everything. In this Word we, too, see everything."

"Taste and see that the Lord is sweet." This sweetness is the prelude of heaven's joy: repose in an action which never ceases, in an unmediated vision which floods the soul with a joy forever new.

St. Thomas, [584] following St. Augustine, speaks thus: "We grow weary of sense goods when we possess them. Not so of spiritual goods. They do not diminish, they cannot be harmed, they give us a joy that is ever new." This joy we sometimes have in prayer. "My Lord and my God, take from me all that impedes me on the road to Thee, give to me all that leads to Thee. Take me from myself and give me to Thee, that I may belong entirely to Thee." God penetrates the depths of our will. God seizes and wounds the soul, that it may possess Him fully.

This doctrine finds admirable expression in The Imitation of Christ: "Repose in God, O my soul. He is the eternal repose of the saints. Beloved Jesus, let me find repose in Thee, not in creatures: not in health, in beauty, in honors, in glory. Not in power and dignity. Not in riches, honors, and knowledge. Not in merit and aspiration. Not even in Thy own gifts and rewards. Not even in the transports of spiritual gladness; not in the angels and archangels and the whole host of heaven: not in anything visible or invisible, not in anything which is not Thyself, O my God. All Thou canst give me outside of Thyself, all that Thou dost discover of Thyself to me, is too little. It does not suffice me if I do not see Thee, if I do not possess Thee fully, if I do not rest in Thee alone." Such is the joy of heaven, always new. We speak of heaven as the future life. A better term is "everlasting." [585]

Love beyond Liberty

In heaven charity takes on new modalities. It becomes a love higher than liberty itself, a love we can never lose.

Here on earth our love of God is free because we do not see God face to face. God is seen by us as good under one aspect and severe under another aspect. His commandments can displease that which is still to be found in us of egoism and pride. Hence our love for Him remains free and therefore meritorious.

In the fatherland, on the contrary, we shall see infinite Goodness as He is in Himself. We cannot find in Him the least aspect which can displease, nothing to drive us away, not the least pretext for preferring to Him anything whatsoever. Our eternal act of love will never suffer the least shadow of weariness. Infinite Goodness, seen without medium, fills so perfectly our capacity of love that it attracts us irresistibly more than any ecstasy that can be had on earth, where love is still free and meritorious. In heaven there will be a happy necessity of love. [586]

Here especially we see the measureless depth of the soul, in particular of our will, of our capacity for spiritual love, which God alone, seen face to face, can satisfy. [587]

But this love, though it is not free, is still not forced and compelled. Nor is this something lower than liberty and merit, as are the involuntary acts of our sense nature here below. Rather, it is something higher than liberty and merit, like that spontaneous love which God has for Himself, that love which is common to all three divine persons. As God necessarily loves His own infinite goodness, so our love, arising from the beatific vision, can never be interrupted or lose aught of its fervor.

In a manuscript written by one who lacked human culture but who was far advanced in the ways of prayer, I recently read these words: "In heaven the soul receives God into itself. Received thus by Him and in Him, it loses in Him its liberty. Entirely drawn to God, it surrenders to joy in God. It possesses God, and is possessed by Him. It knows and feels that this joy is its eternal state." Heaven's joy is an everlasting morning.

Impeccability

The blessed in heaven cannot sin. Their state is a state of sinlessness, not only because God preserves them from sin, as here below He preserves from sin saints who are confirmed in grace, but because one who has the beatific vision cannot turn away from it by sin, cannot feel the least pretext to love Him less for a single moment. [588]

Here on earth no one ceases to will happiness, although he may often search for happiness there where it is not, even perhaps in suicide. The saints in heaven, too, cannot cease to love God, seen face to face, but they cannot be tempted to turn elsewhere. They are indeed free to love this or that finite good, this or that soul, to prefer one soul to another, to pray for it, to follow the commands of God to assist us. But this liberty never deviates toward evil. It resembles the liberty of God Himself, which is at the same time free and impeccable. Again it resembles the human liberty of Christ, who enjoyed the beatific vision from the first instant of His conception. But in Jesus these free acts were still meritorious, because He was still a viator, a traveler, whereas the free acts of the blessed are no longer meritorious, because they have arrived at the terminus of their meritorious voyage. The soul confirmed in grace has no longer need to merit.
 
 
 

   
 
575. I Cor. 13:8.
576. IIa IIae, q.3, a.1. Charity is identified with friendship.
577. Ia IIae, q.28, a.3. "Extasis" is an effect of love: "In the love of friendship affection, simply speaking, goes outside itself, because it wills and does good for a friend."
578. Matt. 25:21.
579. Ibid., 25:34.
580. Ps. 113:11.
581. IIa IIae, q. 184, a. 2.
582. Sermon 362, no. 29. Cf. also Bossuet, Sermon 4, on All Saints.
583. Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. X, chaps. 4, 5, 8. "Pleasure follows acts as maturity follows youth." Further above he had said that the highest joy is the joy that results from the most elevated act of the most elevated faculty, that is, the intellectual knowledge of God united to the love of the supreme Good.
584. Ia IIae, q. 2, a. 1 ad 3; IIa IIae, q. 20, a.4.
585. Imitation of Christ, Bk. III chap. 21.
586. There will no longer be indifference. This indifference exist in regard to any object which seems good under one aspect, but not good or insufficiently good under another aspect. Cf. Ia IIae, q. 10, a. 2.
587. Ia, q. 105, a.4. "The will can be moved by any good object, but cannot be sufficiently and efficaciously moved except by God. God alone is universal good. Hence He alone can fill the will and sufficiently move it as object." Cf. Ia IIae, q.4, a.4. "Ultimate beatitude consists in the vision of the divine essence, and thus the will of him who sees God loves of necessity whatever he does love in relation to God, just as the will of him who does not see can love necessarily only under the common viewpoint of the good which it knows." Thomists thus comment on this passage: "Upon the beatific vision there follows the happy necessity of loving its object, a necessity also as regards exercise. The will of the blessed is completely filled, is adequated, conquered by the supreme Good now clearly seen."
 
588. Ia IIae, q.4, a.4. Commentaries of Cajetan, John of
St. Thomas, Gonet, Billuart.