Friday, October 1, 2010

Mysteries of Eternal Life

Abbott Joseph gives an excerpt from a book I have just ordered on the recommendation of a friend... it is called The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, a book that made a great impression on our beloved St. Therese of Lisieux...

The Abbott writes, "I’m always ready to hear something about Heaven, and I suppose you are, too. I recently read a book by a 19th-century French priest, Fr Charles Arminjon, entitled, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life. Evidently it is a book that St Therese of Lisiuex had read with great spiritual profit. I’m going to present some excerpts from his chapter on Heaven, which is quite welcome after his chapters on Hell and judgment. Some people are motivated to do good by fear of Hell and some by hope of Heaven, and some by both. I think it’s best to run the race with our eyes on the Lord and all that He has prepared. Lift Up The Cross for those who love Him.

"Our destiny is an enigma, which reason alone cannot explain; but faith elevates our thoughts, strengthens our courage, and inflames our hope. It tells us: have no fear; you are not wandering along some lost and uncertain path. Beyond our mortal years there is a new life, of which the present one is only a representation and an image. On this earth, we are travelers; but beyond the stars and all space, our heritage and native land is found...

"We err in our judgments on the conduct of God toward men; we see nothing more than a pointless harshness in the mystery of suffering; we bear the burden of life without courage or dignity, because we do not know how to raise our eyes and our hopes above the limited sights and perspectives of the present life, and because we do not reflect upon their destiny and end. Our destiny is the possession of God and eternal life: to live in that abode from which all evil is absent and where we enjoy a multitude and abundance of every good, a place that is commonly called heaven.

"Heaven: this is the torch before which the vivid appeal of earthly things fades, the light that, by transforming our judgments, makes us cherish poverty, sickness, and the insignificance of our state of life as a good, and makes us regard riches, the glamour of honors, the favor and praise of the world as an evil. The thought and expectation of heaven impelled Paul to face the most arduous labors and the most formidable perils, giving him a superabundance of joy amidst his sufferings and afflictions…

"Heaven is something that we have not seen. We travelers, wandering in this valley of darkness and tears, are reduced, like captive Israel on the banks of the Euphrates, to hanging our harps and zithers upon the weeping willows of this wretched, human life. No human voice, no lyre can ever succeed in producing songs and tunes in unison with the melodies and sweet harmonies with which that indescribable city resounds…

"Even the inspired word itself cannot rise to realities that extend beyond the bounds of reason and surpass all the strength and capacity of our nature. Let us listen to the great apostle Paul, immersed in the most exalted raptures, conveyed in spirit as far as the third heaven, and into splendors more profound and ineffable than those experienced by the Eagle of Patmos, as he exclaims: Heaven is not as you tell us; it is a thousand leagues above the analogies and descriptions you are offering us. ‘Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him…’ [emphasis in the original]

"Heaven is God’s ideal, the repose of His intellect. Let us add: it is the repose of His heart. The heart goes further than the mind. It has aspirations and impulses, unknown to genius, which go beyond all the bounds of inspiration and thought… The transports that the divine vision will arouse in the elect will make their hearts superabound in the most unutterable joys; it will be a flood of delights and raptures, life in its inexhaustible richness and the very source of all good and all life. It will be, as St Augustine goes on to say, like a gift from God of His own Heart, so that we may love and rejoice with all the energy of the love and joys of God Himself… The contemplation of God will not mean immobility but, above all, activity, an ever-ascending progression, where movement and repose will be bound together in ineffable harmony… They will go from glory to glory, from joy to joy…

"How sweet it will be to contemplate at a single glance all the marvels of the Most High God in the realm of nature as well as in the order of grace and glory… In heaven we shall see and recognize one another; and in heaven we shall love one another… All the objects and causes that captivate our hearts and arouse love in this world will act with an intensity a thousand times greater, and without encountering any obstacle, on the hearts of the elect…

"In heaven… their awareness of happiness is not distinct from their awareness of God… the effect of this multifarious delight is not to induce them, by reflection, to withdraw into excessive preoccupation with themselves and the perfection of their nature, but rather to inspire them to soar upward with inexhaustible energy and lose themselves in the ever-closer embrace of God, who imbues them with His fullness through all their senses and penetrates every pore of their being. On their lips the cry of joy blends with the cry of adoration and gratitude… they exclaim, ‘Holy, holy, holy is God Almighty…’

"In heaven, happiness is stable, since the elect, confirmed in glory, are beyond all fear. The ages will succeed one another without diminishing their happiness, without a single line creasing their brows. The certainty of eternally possessing the benefits they hold dear multiplies their sweetness a hundredfold. What a source of jubilation when, after thousands of centuries have elapsed, they reflect upon the day in the distant past when they made their triumphant ascent, and say, ‘Nothing is finished yet; I reign today, today I am in possession of my happiness, and I shall possess it as long as God remains God—forever and ever!’"

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