Light of Glory
by A. A. Arami
Glory of Heaven
On the morning of March 20, 1811, one hundred and one cannon blasts from the “Invalides” or Soldiers’ Home in Paris brought to the population tidings of great moment. At the palace of the Tuileries a son was born to Napoleon. At the latter’s death, this son would inherit the title of “Emperor of the French.” In the meantime he would be called “The King of Rome.” Alas! Less than five years afterwards Napoleon, vanquished at Waterloo, lost his title of emperor. Five years later he died in sorrow on the island of Saint Helena. Eleven years after his father, the “King of Rome” in turn died in Austria, without having received the inheritance of the French empire.
Such is the case with earthly heritages. Either he who promises an inheritance is unable to make good his promise, or else death prevents one from receiving it or keeping it. How different it is with our celestial heritage! God Who promises it, always keeps His promise. And the happy recipient possesses it forever.
If we die in the state of grace, we shall go to Heaven. For Christ, our Head, has already ascended there. The Head does not ascend without the other members. We shall go to Heaven because, by sanctifying grace, God is Our Father, Christ Our Brother. If we are children of God, says Saint Paul, we are also heirs, heirs of God, co-heirs of Christ. (Romans 8:1)
The glory of Heaven is beyond the range of words. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love Him. (I Corinthians 2:9) Heaven, according to Saint Augustine, consists in freedom from all evil, perfect happiness and eternal bliss. Picture to yourself a man assembling all the members of your locality and addressing them thus: “I traveled around the world, navigated unchartered seas and discovered a most marvelous island. There the inhabitants do not work for a livelihood. They experience neither heat nor cold nor hunger nor thirst. They know neither anguish nor worry. Sickness, old age and even death are unknown.” What would you think of such a discovery, of such an island? You would say that this traveler has related a fable, a bit of fiction, a wonderful dream. And you would be right. This island does not exist here below. It is located above, it is Heaven. There God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more. (Apocalypse 21:4) In Heaven there is no more ignorance, doubt, anxiety, concupiscence, temptation or sin; there is complete freedom from suffering, sickness and death.
The Perfect Happiness of Heaven
Our main happiness in Heaven will consist in seeing God face to face. No longer will this be achieved indirectly through creatures, or through the obscurities of faith, but directly. We will see Him as He is. We shall see God whole and entire, although we will not be able to understand Him completely, our limited intelligence being unable to grasp the infinite.
In what capacity shall we see God? Not through the light of our intelligence, but by means of a special illumination called the “Light of Glory,” which will elevate the intellect and render it capable of seeing God. By this sight of God, love is produced, perfect love, supernatural love and eternal love. The result of this love is the possession of God, perfect and eternal possession.
Accessory happiness in Heaven consists in the society of saints, and the realization of our desires. In ancient Rome, the most desirable homes were those in the vicinity of good neighbors. The homes, even the most modest, which carried the inscription “Good Neighbors,” were sold at a much higher price than those which lacked this recommendation. In Heaven one is constantly in contact with good neighbors: the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, whose mediation brought us there; the apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins; our angel guardian, all the angels, all the just; all united to God, all perfect, all loving one another. There will be no longer any passions, nor anger, envy and injustice; charity and peace will hold full sway. In Heaven we shall find the realization of all our desires.
It happens, now and then, that you are transported to dreamland. At night you ascend to the pinnacle of high honors; you are the proud possessor of an immense fortune; you are submerged into a sea of pleasure; you are overwhelmed with happiness–as long as your sleep lasts. Suddenly the charm of your life is interrupted. You awake only to find that life regains its foothold. You realize too well the truth that earth is but a vale of tears.
Imagine all possible honors, fortune, pleasures, peace and love. In Heaven they become realities. Heaven is also liberty; we can go where we please. There sin is excluded. Heaven is honor; we shall be seated at the same table with God. Heaven is agility; we shall have the power of instantaneous movement, and without effort. Heaven is power; there are no more difficulties, no more obstacles anywhere. Heaven is harmony: one great family, all brothers, under the eye of the same Father. Heaven is health; sickness and death are banished forever. Heaven is security; no thieves, or enemies of any kind. Heaven is beauty; we shall be in constant ecstasy. Heaven is knowledge; we shall see God as He is. Heaven is longevity: perfect happiness will last forever. There is nothing agreeable or good that Heaven cannot grant, with the assurance of enjoying it for all eternity. Heaven is God, the source of all honor, of all wealth, of all happiness. It is a torrent of pleasure with which God inebriates the soul.
Shall we see in Heaven those near and dear to us who are yet upon earth? Yes, but in God, and not directly. In Him we shall again be united with our relatives and friends.
If you die in the state of grace and have expiated all your temporal faults, here is how you may picture your entrance into Paradise. Your angel guardian takes you from this earth, and leads you to the firmament, those regions which the day inundates with solar light and which the night covers with millions of stars. Is this Heaven? No, it is but the portal, not the interior of our eternal home. Heaven is much more beautiful. Your angel guardian leads you beyond the worlds and heavenly bodies to the Holy City, which rests upon foundations of precious stones, with palaces adorned with the purest gold, and echoing the sweetest harmonies. The portals are opened at your angel’s word. Is this Heaven? No. “Ascend,” says your angel. And suddenly you behold your father and mother, your brothers and sisters and your friends; all those whom you have loved here on earth. You throw yourselves into their arms, you press them to your heart. From this moment, you are together for all eternity. Is this Heaven? No. Ascend. You presently find yourselves among the saints. Your eyes rest upon the children who died in all their baptismal purity and upon souls who sinned but who recovered their innocence through penance. You witness confessors, apostles and martyrs who shed their blood for Jesus Christ and who hold in their hands the palm of immortality; doctors who illumined the world with their doctrine and who shine like stars of the firmament; virgins all pure who follow the Lamb wherever He goes and chant a hymn of untold beauty. All these saints congratulate you; they love you and become your companions. But is this Heaven? No. Ascend. As you do so, you find yourself in the midst of pure spirits, of the nine angelic choirs. They are added to your host of companions and friends. Is this Heaven? No. Ascend. You are now confronted by a spectacle of ravishing beauty. Before your bewildered eyes stands a Woman; the sun is her mantle, the moon is her pedestal and around her head is a diadem of twelve stars. This is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Heaven and earth. She presses you to her heart and calls you: “My child!” And you answer: “My Mother!” Is this Heaven? No. Ascend still further. You are at last before the throne of God. You prostrate yourself and adore Him; instantly a supernatural light illumines your intellect, the light of glory, and in this light you see God; you see Him face to face such as He is; you contemplate the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. You envisage the power, the wisdom, the kindness and the beauty, all the infinite perfections of God. At the sight of God, you love Him, and you possess Him for all eternity. Is this Heaven? Yes, this is heaven: to see God face to face. Heaven is God.
The Happiness of Heaven
There is nothing enduring here on earth. Today you are young and healthy, but what of tomorrow? Tomorrow is maturity, then old age, sickness and death. Today may be a feast day, but tomorrow life is resumed as usual; work, worry, anguish and suffering.
In Heaven your happiness will see no end. It will last for as many years as there are leaves on the trees, drops of water in the ocean, grains of dust in the air, and then renewed endlessly. Imagine one of the Blessed coming once every thousand years and shedding one tear upon the earth; when the accumulation of tears will have inundated the entire globe, what then? Eternity will have just begun. Suppose a bird coming once every one hundred thousand years would graze with the tip of its wing the earth as well as the millions of heavenly bodies; when that bird in its different flights shall have worn down and annihilated all these created bodies, then–then what? Then eternity shall not have advanced one iota. Therefore, endless happiness; such is Heaven.
In the year 160, during the persecutions of Marcus Aurelius, Valerian, spouse of Saint Cecilia, was in prison with his brother Tiburtius for professing the faith of Jesus Christ. Officer Maximus, who had orders to lead them to the torture, opened the prison door, and saw the two young men kneeling, their eyes lifted heavenward, peace and serenity illuminating their features. Youth, illustrious lineage, innocence and resignation of the captives moved the guardian to tears. “Why do you weep?” they asked him. “I am sorry to see you die; you are young and wealthy and both of you are noblemen.” “You are mistaken, Maximus, we are Christians; in leaving this world, Christians enter into a better life where death does not rule.” “Oh, if only your words were true!” “If you promise to embrace the Christian faith, at the moment of our death you will realize that we have spoken the truth.” Maximus promised. As he severed their heads, he witnessed their souls in a state of brilliancy. Shortly afterwards he himself received the palm of victory. In imitation of these three martyrs, we also should desire Heaven most ardently. This desire detaches us from the world. It verifies the cry of Saint Ignatius: “How vile the world appears to me when I gaze at Heaven!” It soothes and consoles in times of distress. We may say with Saint Francis of Assisi: “The good that I expect is so great that all pain becomes pleasure;” and with Saint Paul: The sufferings of this life are as nothing, compared to the glory which awaits us in Heaven. (2 Corinthians 4:14)
The Heaven of Grace
What is Heaven? Grace in full bloom. A tiny acorn becomes a majestic oak. So grace and glory, says Saint Thomas, are of the same order. The glory of Heaven is none other than the development of sanctifying grace here on earth.
Many Christians, even those who live in a state of grace, hardly ever give this truth a thought. Between glory and grace there exists no essential difference. He who possesses the acorn also possesses the oak; he who is in possession of sanctifying grace, is in possession of Heaven, that is, of God. No doubt there exist certain accessory differences in the manner of possession. Here below, he who holds the acorn, sooner or later will be master of the oak; as yet, the acorn is not the oak, but it will become one. Here on earth, dawn; there in Heaven, noonday. Here, the shadows; there brightness. Here, in part; there, the plentitude. Here, strife; there, victory. Here, the future uncertain; there, the future assured. Apart from these accidental differences, grace and glory are one and the same thing. The good in possession of one and of the other is the same–God. The life of grace and that of glory is identical–God. If you are in the state of grace, you possess Heaven on earth, for Heaven is God, and God resides in your soul. Be encouraged by the thought of the Heaven to come. At the same time, console yourself by the thought of the Heaven you now possess. The moment arrived when Saint Bernard and his three brothers were to carry out a promise they had made to consecrate themselves to God in the religious state. The eldest, seeing Nivard, his youngest brother, at play with other boys along the route, said to him: “Nivard, we are on our way. We leave you our land and property.” “But the division is not fair; you offer me the land, but you take Heaven.” Shortly afterwards, Nivard followed the example of his brothers. Did the good young Nivard ever imagine that, even on his earthly property, through sanctifying grace he was in reality in possession of Heaven? Do Christians in the state of grace realize this?