Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

13 April 2013

The Majestic And The Mundane

I don't get caught up in the strange symbols and events found in the book of Revelation and other apocalyptic literature in the Bible.  Given the panoramic view of the Scriptures (Hebrew and Christian, considered discretely and taken together) as the story of God's love affair with the human race, we may understand the apocalyptic literature as the sort of talk in which passionate lovers are known to engage. Yes, some Biblical love-talk resembles the Song of Songs with its playfulness and intensity; or it may display the purity of commitment that Ruth has for her mother-in-law Naomi.  Then there is the splendor of the heavenly synaxis, where the angels, saints, and all creatures unite:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.
To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.  Amen.
The life of heaven traditionally has been known as the "Beatific Vision."  At first hearing one wonders whether everyone and everything will be gathered in a huge Imax theater where the Trinity is repeatedly playing.  To an overstimulated, media-saturated people that sounds rather boring!  Even to those who are more accustomed to quiet contemplation and reasoned discourse, this is an inadequate understanding of the Life of All Living.

There's nothing wrong with the term "Beatific Vision" as such, but it merits deeper consideration of "vision."  Here it's not an activity of sedate spectators, but rather the interior electricity of persons connected to the Source and to each other.  It defies description, as Saint Paul has noted: "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9).  The greatness of the Mystery of Faith cannot be sufficiently impressed upon us.

I don't personally think much about the itinerary of heaven, about who or what will be there.  I hope that doesn't betray a lack of concern about the blessings of this life.  If anything I try to be more conscious of the present moment as a "lower-case r" revelation of God's life.  Existence within the Trinitarian Embrace begins now, even as we trudge along with daily activities: apostolic fishing, dining, dressing, conversing, teaching and learning, witnessing: the actions mentioned in the First Reading and the Gospel account.

Heaven will resemble earthly life in that God is always the Center.  The Church is the Body gathered in mutual divine adoration, the end of all worthy conversation.  Like Peter, we need to hear ourselves engaging in praise, expressing the love that God's grace, and our repentance, purifies (in prayer, I often use Peter's simple words: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you").  We also need to hear Jesus' reminder that the manner of our life ought to glorify God, especially when it comes to the acceptance of earthly trials.  The business of tending the flock happens in the midst of those trials; by no means is it a tidy process.

And yet this life is all suffused with heaven.  We are treated to the sneak previews of the hymns around the throne not as a tease, but as a pattern for our present praise.

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