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is Love (Deus Charitas est), is far more eager to reward the good than to punish the wicked. If, then, as we are assured, the punishments of sin are immeasurably above and beyond anything of which we have any experience or conception in this world, still more must the rewards of virtue in the next world exceed all our experience and conception in this.
The second consideration is that all happiness must be greater or less according to the nature and character of the source from which it springs. Now, all earthly happiness arises from some finite and created object, such as wealth, beauty of form, health, bodily vigour, mental endowments, troops of friends, the admiration and esteem of men and so forth, whereas the essential happiness of Heaven springs, not from anything created or finite, however admirable and magnificent, but from the secure possession and enjoyment of the Infinite and Uncreated God. Therefore, etc.
The third consideration is based upon what theologians teach us as regards the Pain of Loss. After describing, in the strongest terms, the unparalleled fierceness of the ravening flames, the stench, the darkness, the narrow confinement, the abominable company, the ghastly sights, the remorse and despair, and a multitude of other horrors suffered by the damned, they conclude by remarking that all this, multiplied a hundred times over, is as nothing compared to the torment that arises from the loss of God. Compared with this infinite loss, hell itself is but a trifle. Nay, cries out the eloquent St. Chrysostom, compared with this loss, a thousand hells would be as nothing' (Si mille, quis ponat gehennas, nihil tale dicturus est, quale est a beatae illius gloriae honore repelli ').
Then we may well ask ourselves, if the mere absence, the mere privation of God can cause a greater agony than all hell's other torments united, what must be the delirium of joy arising from the full possession and fruition of Him, securely ensured for ever and for ever? No man in this life has seen God at any time. No man can see God and live. Even the most favoured of the Saints must be content to wait until they reach Heaven to contemplate the divine essence, in all its unveiled splendour and beauty. For now, they could not endure so immense a joy. Some of the more favoured amongst the Saints, however, have been given at times some dim and faint reflection of His divine presence
1'Si desideras scire quis est Deus, desideras ut sis Deus, quod non decet. Solus Deus seipsum scit vel scire potest '-(Incendium Amoris, pp. 161-2, by R. Rolle).
in their soul, even while on earth; but even this, they tell us, has filled them with a wholly indescribable happiness far beyond what the world can give, yet infinitely short, of course, of that which awaits them hereafter. Thus St. Teresa, after describing certain wonderful favours which she received from our Divine Lord, and which threw her into a sort of ecstasy, goes on to say :
Hither let worldings come with their riches and Lords with their pleasures, honours and trinkets; for even though they could enjoy all these without the troubles that inevitably follow them (which is impossible), yet they could not in a thousand years enjoy the pleasure which, in one moment, a soul possesses which Our Lord has brought to this state.1
If such a mere passing whiff of the heavenly banquet enjoyed by the Blessed in the Home of the Father be so satisfying and so exhilarating, what must be the joy of sitting down at that banquet where they shall be inebriated with the plenty of God's house, and shall drink of the torrent of His pleasure'? (Psalm xxxv. 9). God is a veritable ocean of delights, fathomless and inexhaustible. If, then, one single tiny drop from that boundless ocean can so charm and entrance the heart, that it almost breaks from the excess of its joy, what must it be to plunge entirely and, as it were, to lose oneself in its infinite depths!
There can be no doubt but that God, Who has created the human soul for Himself, and Who knows exactly the marvellous capacities with which He has endowed it, has fashioned a Ĥome for His beloved so absolutely perfect, so exquisitely suitable, and so inconceivably beautiful and glorious, that the mere thought of ever entering into it almost takes away one's breath.
Just call to mind all the sources of mere human happiness. Draw the most glowing picture possible of every form of earthly delight. Exhaust your powers of intellect and give your imagination unlimited room to roam over the length and the breadth of the earth, in search of fresh springs of pleasure, and then meditate on the verdict of the Saints, who have known God as we can never know Him in this life. For instance, attend to and carefully weigh the solemn declaration of the great St. John of the Cross. In Volume II, page 57, of his complete works, we read: If the soul had but one single glimpse of the grandeur and beauty of God, it would not only desire to die once in order to behold Him,
1 The Way of Perfection, p. 255.
but would endure joyfully a thousand most bitter deaths to behold Him even for a moment, and, having seen Him, would suffer as many deaths over again in order to see Him for another moment.'
If the promise of such happiness cannot check man's tendency to commit sin; if the fear of forfeiting, and for ever, such an eternity of bliss be insufficient to restrain his evil desires, then what manner of man must he be! Either he must have no faith, or else no realization of the most fundamental truths of his religion.
Even in this world the greatest human happiness is to be found in friendship and mutual love. As the poet says: 'There is nothing half so sweet in life as love's young dream.' Love makes all things easy, and sweetens even the bitterest toil. Thus we read in the Bible that Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed but a few days because of the greatness of his love' (Genesis xxix. 20).
When a young man, of noble character, pure, generous and in perfect bodily and mental health and vigour, becomes engaged to one in all respects equal to him, and gifted with every attribute which should adorn a bride, he has probably reached the highwater mark of purely human happiness. And this is because the sexes are made for one another and because God has so disposed things that the male is drawn towards the female, and the female towards the male, and each finds his complement in the other.
But after all this natural union, so redolent of happiness, is but the faintest and most inadequate reflection or shadow of an infinitely higher, holier, more sublime, and wholly spiritual union, resulting likewise in an infinitely more intense love and happiness, namely, the union between the purified soul of man and its God. It may seem a very bold comparison, but it is the very comparison selected by the Holy Spirit, so there is not the slightest reason for not employing it.
In that wonderful Canticle of Solomon, inspired throughout by the Holy Ghost, God is represented as the Spouse of the faithful soul. So soon as ever she has shuffled off this mortal coil, and is fitted and made ready for her sublime reward, God invites her to the nuptials: 'Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. winter [the winter of this cold life] is now past, the rain [the rain of trial and temptation] is over and gone. The flowers [flowers of heavenly joys and delights] have appeared
in our land' (Canticle of Canticles ii. 10-12). All commentators admit that the Bridegroom here referred to is no other than God Himself. So again, in the New Testament (Matthew xxv. 1), the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to ten virgins, who go forth to meet the Bridegroom. At midnight there was a cry: Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet Him. And they that were ready, went in with Him to the marriage and the door was shut.'
Here then, again, God comes before us as the divine Bridegroom. It is, of course, true that our conceptions of the next world are strongly coloured by our experiences of this, and they often set us entirely wrong. Thus, we are apt to picture God to ourselves, as we might picture an earthly sovereign, who is hardly approachable, who stands aloof from his subjects, and who is never seen but at a respectful distance. His courtiers may, indeed, gather around him, but it is in awe and trembling, while they never expect to be treated familiarly or with close personal affection and intimacy. The truth is, that no earthly king can so multiply his presence as to devote much of his time and attention to each and every one of his subjects.
He can and
But God's position is wholly different. does give Himself unreservedly to each of the Blessed, just as though no other creature existed. So that even the very last and least in the Kingdom of Heaven may exclaim with absolute confidence and truth: My Beloved to me, and I to Him' (Canticle of Canticles ii. 16). Nor will this surprise us so very much when we consider how His Divine Majesty treats us, even in this, the land of our exile. We have but to consider what takes place in Holy Communion, and how He associates Himself and unites Himself with the soul of every devout communicant. Père Grou, S.J., first quotes the verse: He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.' He then goes on to say: This indwelling is the closest and most intimate that can be conceived; it is a union of Jesus Christ with us and of us with Him, which is such that nothing in nature can approach it. His body is united to our body. His Soul to our soul; His faculties and all His operations to our faculties, in such a supernatural and transcendent manner that Jesus Christ lives in us and we in Him; our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions become identified with His thoughts, His feelings, and His actions."
1 Manual for Interior Souls, p. 359.
Now, it stands to reason that if Our Lord does so much for us, even here, there can be no doubt whatsoever but that He will do, not only as much, but immeasurably more for us, when we have proved our worth, and won our spurs, and have received the Crown of eternal glory in Heaven. Although even here, in the Blessed Sacrament, the union between the soul and God in Holy Communion is extraordinarily close, in fact, as Père Grou says, the closest and most intimate that can be conceived,' yet it is absolutely hidden, and known to faith alone; whereas in the next world we shall actually see and feel, and know and fully realize, with the utmost vividness, the (at present unimagined) delights of that mysterious union. And that fact will just make all the difference. The more fully we are able to realize the infinite majesty of God, the grander and therefore the truer will be our conception of the ineffable happiness of Heaven. And as our knowledge grows so will grow our love, pari passu. For God being the infinitely perfect and the infinitely beautiful, it follows that to know Him is to love Him, and to know Him more perfectly is to love Him yet more intensely, and so on and on and on ad indefinitem.
Furthermore, as this love of God increases the fear of Him diminishes, and finally disappears altogether, as the shadows of night flit away before the rising sun. For 'perfect charity casteth out fear,' as St. John reminds us (1 John iv. 18). Then even death will be shorn of its terrors, and will assume an attractive mien. It will always, no doubt, seem a dark passage, but it will be longed for as a passage that leads into a Paradise of perfect joy, where the heavenly Bridegroom is awaiting His chosen bride.
Thus, then, there is no bitterness in death to the soul that loves [writes St. John of the Cross], when it brings with it all the sweetness and delights of love. There is no sadness in the remembrance of it, when it opens the door to all joy. The thought of it is not painful and oppressive, when it is the end of all unhappiness and sorrow and the beginning of all good. Yea, the soul looks upon it as a friend and as its bride, and exults in the recollection of it as the day of espousals. It yearns for the day and the hour of death, more than the kings of the earth for principalities and kingdoms. ... . . . It is not without cause that the soul is bold to say: 'Let the vision of Thy beauty kill me'; for it knows well that in the instant of that vision it will be itself absorbed and transformed into that beauty, and be made beautiful like it, enriched, and abounding in beauty as that beauty itself. 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints' (Ps. cxv. 15). But that could not be so, if they did not become