"The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is that the Sacred deposit of Christian Doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously" and that "the Church must never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers
THE BEATIFIC VISION
“And if sons, heirs also”. (Rom. viii, 17).
The Church has always taught this, “As the souls of the just, before Christ, were received into Abraham's bosom and dwelt there in the serenity of peace, joyfully looking forward to the coming of Our Lord and their own transference to heaven; so also, in much the same manner, the fervent Catholic should live consciously with the Son of God and the Holy Ghost and all the children of God, known and unknown, visible and invisible, (Communion of Saints) in the bosom of the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto Him (1 Cor. viii, 6). Therefore, by the demands of VAT2, we must believe as the opening quote ended.
The Fervent Catholic dwells there contentedly, lovingly and consciously, though still in the darkness of his present condition, awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom, and the lifting up of the veil, and the grand revelation of the Father. "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us," said St. Philip, the Apostle,
Now we know as we are taught the whole Catholic Christian life is ordained to one end, and it is the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision by predestined man. This is the thought of salvation which existed in the Paternal mind when he thought of us at the moment of out creation. That is His will for us. Everything that exists in the economy of Providence is for the furthering of that sublime design, that creative thought of God for us. The whole supernatural order of grace is for the purpose of making man both worthy and capable of the Beatific Vision. It will therefore enable us the better to understand those means of grace we find in Prayer, the Sacraments and all the details of a fervent Catholic, mystical life, as well as the great works of God, His Creation and the Missions of the Son and the Holy Ghost, Redemption by the Cross, the mystery of Holy Church. Let us here and now take a proper view of that end in itself, what the Church calls the Beatific Vision.
What is the Beatific Vision? What is it exactly? In what does it precisely consist? What does it mean, and what does it imply? Let us proceed and examine this difficult subject, meditating and contemplating in our sinful worldly way, this most beautiful picture
The Beatific Vision is the vision of God. But what sort of vision? It is the vision of God, even as He is; the vision of God, even as God Himself enjoys it; the vision of God, as He granted it to His blessed Angels immediately after their trial. The vision, the vivid perception, the real absorption of the Absolute Good, that is to say, of all beauty, sanctity, loveliness and other infinite perfections and attributes as they are in God. “I will show thee all good”, says He to Moses (Exodus; xxxiii, 19).
It is called Beatific, because God being the Absolute Good, the effect of such a vision is to make absolutely happy, as well as unfailingly good, whosoever enjoys it. Beatific Vision is the name the Church gives it. Now, as we contemplate through this article, we should know that it is a direct, immediate vision of God, without any go-between, without anything intervening, whether as an obstacle or as a help. Nothing can help one to see God as He is in Himself. The Beatific Vision is not in the soul by way of representation or image as are the things of this world in our senses and imagination and in our intellect; there can be no image of the Infinite. It is a direct intuition of God on our parts that has perhaps only seen it at our creation and filed away in our soul’s memory as the shadow of the fall obliterated in our memory. It is perhaps the grace we retain that drives us all in search, need and longing for the spiritual and sublime.
Philosophically it might be better to call it by a name describing its very nature rather than its manner or its effect: this would be "Essential Vision." Not because it is essential to our salvation but because this expression really describes what it means the perception of God of His very essence; or, in other words, in the union of the very essence of God with him who perceives it. I would believe it is not essential for our eternity, but it is our eternity. Thus we see that the Beatific Vision will be a most intimate communion with God, sharing with Him and formed by Him as a supernatural act and we are formed in Him May I write the Beatific Vision is caused through nothing else but an immediate union of the Divine Essence with the beholder of it. The Beatific Vision, then, will not be a dead thing, merely spectacular and outside us, as the Universe and the World is and under the prince of this world. It will be I think an intellectual act of the Divine Intellect absorbing us into as it were His Essence. There will be no unsympathetic coldness of our nature; it will be an existence that throbs in us taking hold of our whole being, inside and out, uniting with bonds unseverable with every fiber of our soul and making us one with God. He lives in us and we in Him eternally
It is obvious that God alone has a natural right and aptitude to the Beatific Vision. It is identical with Himself. It is all His own, His property, His personal good, His naturally unalienable and unapproachable privilege, His fenced around and sealed Kingdom of bliss and glory. Would you agree that it is the original of the canticles of canticles sung to us by Our God in His happiness? Neither man, nor highest angel, nor yet any other more exalted being that God might create, could lay claim to the Beatific Vision or be naturally capable of it. The Beatific Vision, as it is in God, as it is experienced by God, is one and the same thing with God Himself, one and the same thing with His very life, with His Divine operations ad intra, and the Trinity of His Persons. To speak in a human way, it is consequent upon, or rather concurrently with, the vision or perception of His infinite goodness that God utters His Word, a true, living, perfect, infinite expression of His very self; establishing between Him Who utters His Word and the Word which is' uttered, the relations of Father and Son. And as both the Father and the Son have mutually the intuition of their infinite loveliness, they love each other with such a perfect, infinite, essential and substantial love, that it constitutes a Third Person in God, namely, the Holy Ghost1, thus completing the cycle of the Divine life, and the fullness of the Beatific Vision as it is in God.
Now, what a stupendous condescension on the part of God to have called His intelligent creatures, the angel first and then man, to share with Him the delights of the Beatific Vision! But, (again speaking in a human way), what a tremendous effort of His will it must have required to raise the creature to a level with God Himself, especially in the case of man after the original fall! But I say what an equally tremendous effort of His will it will be to dismiss us from His presence if he would deign to allow us this vision. Consider the Love involved when so mighty a power condescends to give us this view of His love for all eternity. None can see God but God Himself; then man must be somehow made God, the term is Theosis. That is to say, the creature’s soul must be raised to a Divine state. He must be constituted into a Divine manner of being. The Divine essence must be infused into him, and so penetrate his whole personality as to make of him in a way a wholly Divine being. He must have the very life of God in him; then he will be capable of the Beatific Vision and have a right to it in the next world, although the scripture does mention those who have seen the awesome throne of God. A man in the state of sanctifying grace, a new born infant just baptized, is very nearly capable of the Beatific Vision; in the words of St. John: He hath eternal life abiding in him (I John iii,15); that is to say, the very life of God. Thus it will be seen that "supernatural" does not only mean something above the level of created or creatable beings, but
“SOMETHING ON A LEVEL WITH GOD”.
This effort (the work of deification) has been made on the part of God in the connected works of Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, the institution of the Church and the application of the merits of Jesus Christ to all men of good will, through the seven Sacraments. Now, this mighty effort on the part of God calls for a corresponding strenuous effort on the part of man to co-operate with God; and that is made when a man lives the Christian life in its utmost fullness, (free from sin and possessing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) that is the fervent Catholic mystic life as we are trying to describe it here. Christian life, then, is a sort of deification of man, is the making of man into God; and fervent Catholic mystic life is, on the part of man, his really acting his God-like part, being His image and likeness.
Fervent Catholic mystical life, by the attention rendered to God present everywhere; present in one's very self, by the intense, if dim, perception of one's active relations with each of the Three Divine Persons through the efficacy of the Sacraments, present by the laying of oneself more and more open to all the divine influences, by a contemplation assiduous, keen and pure, of the Divine perfections, present in the tasting, under the veil of faith, of the Divine sweetness, then we can say fervent Catholic mystical life is an apprenticeship to the Beatific Vision; nothing short of that. Fervent Catholic mystical life is a most fitting preparation of man for the Beatific Vision; a training and a raising up of all the faculties to the coming glory, a fusing of all his being into the Being of God; a foreshadowing of the Beatific Vision and a prelude to it.
With the Beatific Vision in prospect, deeply fervent Catholics of all ages and professions have found nothing too arduous, no apostolate too exacting, no martyrdom too cruel, no self-restraint too protracted, no desert or solitude too horrible, no humiliation too great, no service too low or repulsive. In all hardships and tribulations they go about repeating with the Apostle: “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us” (Rom; viii, 18).
The fervent Catholic bears in mind that the degrees of his Beatific Vision will be according to the degree of charity he has achieved whilst on earth, that is the merits he has earned; he considers that time is given him for no other purpose than to work up to his own rank in the grand hierarchy of perfect charity and Divine happiness; and therefore he is very careful not to lose a single moment of time, not to let pass a single opportunity of enlarging his capacity of seeing and loving and enjoying God for evermore. Indeed, the measure of our state of grace when we die will be the measure of our “Light of Glory” throughout the blessed Eternity.
Other words of St. Paul in the same Epistle to the Romans are to the point here. He says: "For the expectation of the creature waits for the revelation of the sons of God” (Rom; viii, 19). It seems as if the whole creation had been taken into the confidence of God and informed of what He had planned for man and was actually in a fever of expectation to see it accomplished. And why, if not because the whole material universe finds its perfection in man, and is raised in him to a share of the glory of supernatural life. Hence, the whole creation will, in away, be thrilled with joy when a creature shall be admitted to the Beatific Vision, even as it is said that “the stars with cheerfulness have shone forth to Him that made them” (Baruch iii, 35) It is clear that all of this material universe which is without rational knowledge or free-will has been made distinctly with a view to the bringing about of the Beatific Vision in man. It helps him in his ascent to the Beatific Vision. The material universe, itself is destined, through him, in some way, to be assumed ultimately into the glory of the Beatific Vision on the day of the General Resurrection and Last Judgment, when sea and land will give up their dead, and then will take place the grand, public, solemn "revelation of the sons of God”, and a new heaven and a new earth will be inaugurated, Then, indeed, we shall understand the full meaning of the words: And if sons, heirs also.
And a deep personal thanks to my teachers who spent and made such efforts to introduce me to Catholic Writers
1.St John Eudes’ book, “The Admirable Heart of Mary”,
describes the union of the Hearts of the Father and the Son as the Holy Ghost, the Third Person, with the love “the Holy Spirit” proceeding from it (the Third Person)
Labels: Beatific Vision, deification, Theosis