John Paul II: Heaven is Communion of Life and Love with the Trinity (2) Monday, Nov 25 2013 

jp2Continued from here…

The fatherhood of God, who is rich in mercy, is experienced by creatures through the love of God’s crucified and risen Son, who sits in heaven on the right hand of the Father as Lord.

After the course of our earthly life, participation in complete intimacy with the Father thus comes through our insertion into Christ’s paschal mystery.

St Paul emphasizes our meeting with Christ in heaven at the end of time with a vivid spatial image: “Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes 4:17-18).

In the context of Revelation, we know that the “heaven” or “happiness” in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity.

It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is always necessary to maintain a certain restraint in describing these “ultimate realities” since their depiction is always unsatisfactory.

Today, personalist language is better suited to describing the state of happiness and peace we will enjoy in our definitive communion with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the Church’s teaching on this truth:

“By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has ‘opened’ heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ” (n. 1026).

This final state, however, can be anticipated in some way today in sacramental life, whose centre is the Eucharist, and in the gift of self through fraternal charity. If we are able to enjoy properly the good things that the Lord showers upon us every day, we will already have begun to experience that joy and peace which one day will be completely ours.

We know that on this earth everything is subject to limits, but the thought of the “ultimate” realities helps us to live better the “penultimate” realities.

We know that as we pass through this world we are called to seek “the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1), in order to be with him in the eschatological fulfilment, when the Spirit will fully reconcile with the Father “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Wednesday General Audience, 21st July 1999.


John Paul II: Heaven is Communion of Life and Love with the Trinity (1) Monday, Nov 25 2013 

jp2When the form of this world has passed away, those who have welcomed God into their lives and have sincerely opened themselves to his love, at least at the moment of death, will enjoy that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human life.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “this perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity — this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed — is called ‘heaven’”.

[…] In biblical language “heaven”, when it is joined to the “earth”, indicates part of the universe. Scripture says about creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gn 1:1).

Metaphorically speaking, heaven is understood as the dwelling-place of God, who is thus distinguished from human beings (cf. Ps 104:2f.; 115:16; Is 66:1). He sees and judges from the heights of heaven (cf. Ps 113:4-9) and comes down when he is called upon (cf. Ps 18:9, 10; 144:5).

However the biblical metaphor makes it clear that God does not identify himself with heaven, nor can he be contained in it (cf. 1 Kgs 8:27); and this is true, even though in some passages of the First Book of the Maccabees “Heaven” is simply one of God’s names (1 Mc 3:18, 19, 50, 60; 4:24, 55).

The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend, as we see in the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (cf. Gn 5:24) and Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11).

Thus heaven becomes an image of life in God. In this sense Jesus speaks of a “reward in heaven” (Mt 5:12) and urges people to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (ibid., 6:20; cf. 19:21). The New Testament amplifies the idea of heaven in relation to the mystery of Christ.

To show that the Redeemer’s sacrifice acquires perfect and definitive value, the Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “passed through the heavens” (Heb 4:14), and “entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself” (ibid., 9:24). Since believers are loved in a special way by the Father, they are raised with Christ and made citizens of heaven.

[…] “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-7).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Wednesday General Audience, 21st July 1999.

Augustine of Hippo: “Be Ye Enlarged” Friday, Nov 15 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaGod’s gifts are very great, but we are small and straitened in our capacity of receiving.

Wherefore it is said to us: “Be ye enlarged, not bearing the yoke along with unbelievers.”

For, in proportion to the simplicity of our faith, the firmness of our hope, and the ardour of our desire, will we more largely receive of that which is immensely great;

which “eye hath not seen,” for it is not colour; which “the ear hath not heard,” for it is not sound; and which hath not ascended into the heart of man, for the heart of man must ascend to it.

When we cherish uninterrupted desire along with the exercise of faith and hope and charity, we “pray always.”

But at certain stated hours and seasons we also use words in prayer to God:

that by these signs of things we may admonish ourselves,

and may acquaint ourselves with the measure of progress which we have made in this desire,

and may more warmly excite ourselves to obtain an increase of its strength.

For the effect following upon prayer will be excellent in proportion to the fervour of the desire which precedes its utterance.

And therefore, what else is intended by the words of the apostle: “pray without ceasing” than “desire without intermission, from Him who alone can give it, a happy life, which no life can be but that which is eternal”?

This, therefore, let us desire continually from the Lord our God; and thus let us pray continually.

But at certain hours we recall our minds from other cares and business, in which desire itself somehow is cooled down, to the business of prayer.

We admonish ourselves by the words of our prayer to fix attention upon that which we desire, lest what had begun to lose heat become altogether cold, and be finally extinguished, if the flame be not more frequently fanned.

When the same apostle says “let your requests be made known unto God,” this is not to be understood as if thereby they become known to God, who certainly knew them before they were uttered.

Rather, it should be understood in this sense: that they are to be made known to ourselves in the presence of God by patient waiting upon Him, not in the presence of men by ostentatious worship.

Or perhaps our requests may be made known also to the angels that are in the presence of God, that these beings may in some way present them to God, and consult Him concerning them.

Perhaps they bring to us, either manifestly or secretly, that which, hearkening to His commandment, they may have learned to be His will, and which must be fulfilled by them.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, VIII,17 – IX, 18 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Innocent of Alaska: Jesus Christ Came to Return to Us Our Lost Capacity to Spend Eternity in the Blissful Presence of God Tuesday, Oct 8 2013 

innocentalaskaWe were created…with the high purpose to live with God—not for a hundred years or so—but for eternity!

Every individual instinctively strives for happiness. This desire has been implanted in our nature by the Creator Himself, and therefore it is not sinful.

But it is important to understand that in this temporary life it is impossible to find full happiness, because that comes from God and cannot be attained without Him.

Only He, who is the ultimate Good and the source of all good, can quench our thirst for happiness. Material things can never wholly satisfy us.

Indeed, we know from experience that every item we have desired has pleased us only for a short while.

[…] The most striking example of unquenchable thirst for happiness was Solomon, the famous King of Israel, who lived around 1000 B.C.

[…]  He could easily satisfy any of his wishes, and it seemed that there was no pleasure that he did not possess or could not obtain. But with all of this, Solomon could not find total happiness to the end of his life.

He described his many years of searching for happiness and his continual disappointments in the book of Ecclesiastes, which he began with the following phrase: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Ecc. 1:2).

[…] It seems that in the depth of our subconscious something reminds us that we are just wanderers on this earth and that our true happiness is not here but there, in that other and better world known as Paradise or the Heavenly Kingdom.

Let man own the whole world and everything that is in it, yet all this will interest him for no more than a short period, while the immortal soul, thirsting for personal communication with God, will remain unsatisfied.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this earth in order to return to us our lost capacity to spend eternity in the blissful presence of God.

He revealed to people that all their evil lies in sin and that no one through their own efforts can overcome the evil within themselves and attain communion with God.

Sin, ingrained in our nature since the fall, stands between us and God like a high wall. If the Son of God had not descended to us through His mercy for us, had not taken on our human nature, and had not by His death conquered sin, all mankind would have perished for ever!

Now, thanks to Him, those who wish to cleanse themselves from evil can do so and return to God and obtain eternal bliss in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Innocent of Alaska (1797-1879; Russian Orthodox): The Way into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rupert of Deutz: That Love which is the Holy Spirit is the Life of the Holy Angels and of All Saintly Souls Tuesday, May 7 2013 

Rupert_von_Deutz_-_Federzeichnung_Codec_lat._11355The angel showed me a river of life-giving water, clear as crystal, issuing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and flowing down the centre of the city street.

On both banks of the river grew the tree of life, bearing its fruit twelve times a year, one crop for each month. The leaves of that tree are destined for the healing of the nations.

The river here depicted is none other than the torrent of gladness and joy described in one of the psalms as the fast­-flowing river that gladdens the City of God, the river of which another psalm proclaims:

They shall be filled with the abundance of your house, O Lord, and you will give them water from the flowing stream of your delights.

The same figurative language was used by Isaiah to console the people of Jerusalem.

Thus says the Lord, he announced, I will make peace flow over her like a river; the wealth of the nations shall pour into her like a torrent in full spate.

The river of John’s vision, therefore, represents the Lord. More specifically, we can see in it an image of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit who is the river of peace, the torrent of wealth, the river of gladness, the flowing stream of delight, and the abundance of God’s house.

For he is himself the love that unites bride and Bridegroom in the city of glory and constitutes the entire happiness of all who live there.

That love which is the Holy Spirit is the life of the holy angels and of all saintly souls. Consequently the river shown to John by the angel is called a river of life-giving water.

Because its water imparts light and strength it is said to be clear as crystal. This is a beautiful comparison. Crystal is a substance which is translucent yet very durable, qualities which we ourselves shall possess in the life of glory.

Our minds will be wholly irradiated with the divine light, and our bodies will gain a crystalline strength through the gift of blessed immortality in that state of eternal happiness where there will be no more dying.

Now we know that in the Gospel of Saint John our Lord speaks of the procession of the Holy Spirit. When the Advocate comes whom I shall send you, he says, the Spirit of Truth who issues from the Father.

Nor does John neglect that teaching in the Apocalypse. In fact, he affirms it precisely in this very passage, where he tells us that the river issues from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Rupert of Deutz (c.1075–1129): In Apoc. 22 (PL 169:1206); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Friday of the 5th Week in Eastertide, Year 1.

John Maximovitch: Have You Ever Observed the Life of the Heart? Thursday, Mar 14 2013 

Saint John Maximovich Tobolsk editedFocus on the Eternal.

Just as a basic concern is to be careful of anything that might be harmful to our physical health, so our spiritual concern should watch out for anything that might harm our spiritual life and the work of faith and salvation.

Therefore, carefully and attentively assess your inner impulses: are they from God or from the spirit of evil?

Beware of temptations from this world and from worldly people; beware of hidden inner temptations that come from the spirit of indifference and carelessness in prayer, from the waning of Christian love.

If we turn our attention to our mind, we notice a torrent of successive thoughts and ideas.

This torrent is uninterrupted; it is racing everywhere and at all times: at home, in church, at work, when we read, when we converse.

“It is usually called thinking,” writes Bishop Theophan the Recluse, “But in fact it is a disturbance of the mind, a scattering, a lack of concentration and attention.”

The same happens with the heart. Have you ever observed the life of the heart? Try it even for a short time and see what you find.

Something unpleasant happens, and you get irritated; some misfortune occurs, and you pity yourself;

you see someone whom you dislike, and animosity wells up within you;

you meet one of your equals who has now outdistanced you on the social scale, and you begin to envy him;

you think of your talents and capabilities, and you begin to grow proud.

And all of this can pass through the heart in a matter of minutes.

For this reason one ascetic, who was extremely attentive to himself, was quite right in saying that “man’s heart is filled with poisonous serpents. Only the hearts of saints are free from these serpents, the passions.”

But such freedom is attained only through a long and difficult process of self-knowledge, working on oneself and being vigilant towards one’s inner life, i.e., the soul.

Be careful. Watch out for your soul! Turn your thoughts away from what will soon pass away and turn them toward what is eternal.

Here you will find the happiness that your soul seeks, that your heart thirsts for.

John Maximovitch (Orthodox Church; 1896-1966): Translated from Pravoslavnaya Rus and taken from Orthodox America, Vol. XIV, No. 2-3. Sept – Oct. 1993 @ Kandylaki.

A Monk of the Abbey of Bèze: There the Saints Feast and Leap with Joy in the Presence of God Thursday, Nov 1 2012 

Continued from here….

When shall we see the first-born of the dead, the joy of the Resurrection, the man of the right hand of God, He whom the Father has established?

He is the Son of God, chosen from among thousands.

Let us hear Him, run to Him, thirst for Him; may our eyes stream with tears of desire, until we be taken away from this valley of tears and rest in the bosom of Abraham.

But what is Abraham’s bosom?

What do they possess, what do they do, those who rest in Abraham’s bosom?

Who will understand by his intelligence, who will explain in words, who will experience through love what strength and beauty, glory, honor, delight and peace there are in Abraham’s bosom?

Abraham’s bosom is the Father’s repose.

There are revealed openly the power of the Father, the splendor of the Son, the sweetness of the Spirit.

There the Saints feast and leap with joy in the presence of God, there are luminous dwellings, there the souls of the Saints rest and take their fill of the abundance of Divine praise.

In them is found joy and gladness, thanksgiving and words of praise.

There is magnificent solemnity, opulent repose, inaccessible light, interminable peace.

There are the great and the humble, and the slave set free from his master.

There dwells Lazarus, who once sat covered by ulcers by the door of the rich man, now forever happy in the glory of the Father.

There is enjoyment for the choirs of angels and saints.

O how broad and pleasing is Abraham’s bosom! O how calm and secret! How free and clear!

O Israel, how good is Abraham’s bosom, not for those who glory in themselves but for those whose hearts are good, principally for those it embraces and makes anew.

Without your help, O God, eye has not seen what has been prepared in the bosom of Abraham for those who await you.

Man does not know this secret, which does not appear upon earth to those who live in pleasure.

This secret is one which the eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man.

It is what is promised to the faithful fighting for Christ, and what is given to the victorious who reign with Christ in glory.

Anonymous Monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Bèze (early 12th century?): Elevations on the Glories of Jerusalem (quoted in Jean Leclercq OSB, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God; A Study of Monastic Culture, ch 45).

Gregory Nazianzen: “His Heart is Set on the Journey Upward” Saturday, Oct 13 2012 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe fortunes of this world are uncertain and transient; they are tossed from hand to hand, as in a game with pebbles, and are always changing.

Not one of this world’s blessings belongs to its owner securely enough to prevent time destroying it, or envy transferring it elsewhere.

But the rewards of heaven are fixed and abiding; they neither disappear nor change, and can never deceive the hopes of those who trust in them.

Now in my opinion there is a very good reason why people can find nothing reliable or lasting in the good things of this world.

The Word, who is the architect of our destiny in this as in all things, and the Wisdom that transcends all mortal thought, have together well contrived it that we should be misled by everything we see in the constantly shifting world around us, where in the midst of this whirling to and fro we are always in pursuit of something that is forever flying from our grasp.

Once we have observed the restless­ness and disorder of this mortal life, we shall hasten to change our course toward the life to come.

Indeed what should we have done if our prosperity here had been secure, when even in all its uncer­tainty we are so bound to this world, and its pleasures and allure­ments have so enslaved us, that we cannot imagine anything better or higher that our present life?

And this, despite the fact that we are told and believe that we are created in the image of God, that image which is above and draws us to itself.

Who is wise enough to understand these things? Who will aban­don the things that pass away, and devote himself to those that last? Who will think of the present as something that is always moving away?

Happy indeed is he who has such powers of discernment, and who uses the keen edge of the Word to separate the better from the worse.

His heart is set on the journey upward,as holy David was inspired to say in one of the psalms; and so he flies with all speed from this valley of weeping, and seeks the realms above.

Crucified to the world with Christ, he takes his stand beside Christ and ascends in the company of Christ, an heir to a life that henceforth is neither changing nor deceptive, and where he will no longer find a serpent waiting on the road to bite his heel, while he watches out for its head.

Therefore without delay let us follow the Word, seek our rest in the world beyond, and throw away the riches of this world.

Let us profit by them in the only good way we can, that is, let us gain possession of our souls by giving alms, and share our earthly goods with the poor so as to enrich ourselves with the wealth of heaven.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 14, 20-22, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Bernard of Clairvaux: God’s Wisdom Frees Us from the Turmoil of Desires and the Discord of Thoughts Monday, Oct 8 2012 

How precious is the wisdom by which we know God and despise the world!

The one who has found it is indeed blessed, if he holds fast to it.

What will he give to possess it? Give obedience as its price, and you will receive wisdom in return.

Scripture tells us: Do you desire wisdom? Keep the commandments and God will give it to you.

If you want to be wise, be obedient. Obedience has no will of its own: it is at the service of another’s will, subject to another’s command.

Embrace it, then, with all the yearning of your heart, with all the effort of your body. Embrace, I repeat, the blessing of obedience, drawing near by obedience to the light of wisdom.

Scripture says: Draw near to him and be enlightened. Draw near, that is, by means of obedience, for there is no approach more direct or secure, and be enlightened by wisdom.

The man who does not know God does not know where he is going, but walks in darkness and dashes his foot against a stone.

Wisdom is light, the true light that shines on every person coming into this world, not the one who is wise with the wisdom of this world, but the one who is not of the world though in the world.

This is the new self of one who has turned away from the sinful and slothful ways of his former self, and strives to walk in newness of life, knowing that damnation is not for those who walk in the way of the Spirit, but in the way of sinful nature.

As long as you follow your own will, you cannot escape turmoil within you, even though at times you seem to escape turmoil outside you.

This turmoil of self-will cannot end until the desires of your sinful nature are changed, and God becomes for you a source of delight.

Sinners enlightened by wisdom are said to be freed from turmoil because, once they taste the goodness of the Lord, they are freed from their sin.

From that time they worship the Creator, not the creature, and when they leave self-will behind they are freed from their feverish turmoil.

While at last they get rid of the turmoil of desires and the discord of thoughts, they experience peace in their inmost heart, and God takes up his dwelling within them: his dwelling-place is in peace.

Where God is, there is joy; where God is, there is calm; where God is, there is happiness.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Epiphany Sermons, 7, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus: It is Happiness to Bear Our Crosses, and to Feel Our Weakness in Doing So Monday, Oct 1 2012 

St.-ThereseMy dear little Céline – Jesus offers you the cross, a very heavy cross, and you are afraid of not being able to carry it without giving way.

Why? Our Beloved Himself fell three times on the way to Calvary, and why should we not imitate our Spouse?

What a favour from Jesus, and how He must love us to send us so great a sorrow!

Eternity itself will not be long enough to bless Him for it.

He heaps his favours upon us upon the greatest Saints.

What, then, are His loving designs for our souls?

That is a secret which will only be revealed to us in our Heavenly Home, on the day when “the Lord shall wipe away all our tears” (Matt.5:48).

Now we have nothing more to hope for on earth – “the cool evenings are passed” – for us suffering alone remains!

Ours is an enviable lot, and the Seraphim in Heaven are jealous of our happiness.

The other day I came across this striking passage: “To be resigned and to be united to the Will of God are not the same; there is the same difference between them as that which exists between union and unity; in union there are still two, in unity there is but one.”

Yes, let us be one with God even in this life; and for this we should be more than resigned, we should embrace the Cross with joy.

[…] Jesus is “a Spouse of blood” (Exodus 4:25). He wishes for Himself all the blood of our hearts.

You are right – it costs us dear to give Him what He asks. But what a joy that it does cost!

It is happiness to bear our crosses, and to feel our weakness in doing so.

Céline, far from complaining to Our Lord of this cross which He sends us, I cannot fathom the Infinite Love which has led Him to treat us in this way.

Our dear Father must indeed be loved by God to have so much suffering given to him.

It is a delight for us to be humbled with him. I know that by humiliation alone can Saints be made, and I also know that our trial is a mine of gold for us to turn to account.

I, who am but a little grain of sand, wish to set to work, though I have neither courage nor strength.

Now this very want of power will make my task easier, for I wish to work for love. Our martyrdom is beginning …

Let us go forth to suffer together, dear sister, and let us offer our sufferings to Jesus for the salvation of souls.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1873-1897): Letters of Saint Thérèse to Her Sister Celine, 3 & 4.

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