Our Eternal Reward
by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
With how much Diligence, Perseverance and Sacrifice, Many will Work to Attain an Earthly Goal or
Prize. It might be an Athlete Training for a Gold Medal or Trophy . . . Dancers or Singers Training for a Career . . . or Students
Studying for Graduation, etc. This is because the Goal to them is something Very Desirable, the Fruit of which is something they Enjoy
in this World.
Yet, how Insignificant are these Goals and Prizes compared-with the
Infinite (∞) and Eternal Prize Offered to
each Human Being in the Next Life; and how Few there are who Work for it with the same Diligence, Perseverance and
Sacrifice as those mentioned above. It is, perhaps, because that
Goal is known only by the Obscure Light of Faith,
and because the Mind and Heart of so Many have become so Preoccupied
with Tangible Goals of the Present Life, that the Eternal Prize is kept-in the Background.
And yet, the Whole of our Life-Span on Earth is but a Time to-Prepare for that Moment-of-Entrance into
Eternal Life. One can Squander these Precious Years, being Preoccupied Mainly with Passing
Pleasures and purely Temporal Projects. Or one can Use them Well, Keeping his Mind and
Heart Fixed on that Eternal Goal. When our Life on this Earth
Ends, we will no-longer be able to Add-to or Subtract-from that Preparation. The State of our
Soul will be 'Fixed', for all Eternity (∞). For
those who Die in the State of Grace, the 'Capacity' of the
Soul to Enjoy the Beatitude of Heaven Eternally
(∞) will be Determined-by the Extent that the Grace
Received at Baptism has Grown when they
Leave this World.
The Happiness of Heaven
In this Life we cannot begin to Imagine the Fullness of Beatitude that every
Soul in Heaven will Enjoy,
with every Desire of their Heart Fulfilled:
"Eye has not Seen nor Ear Heard, nor has it Entered into the Heart of Man what God has Prepared for
those who Love Him" (Corinthians 2:9).
Every Soul in Heaven will be
Perfectly Happy, with Mind and
Heart (the Will) in Direct Union with the
Divine Persons Who are Infinite
(∞) TRUTH and Infinite
(∞) LOVE. While the
Soul will have every Desire and Aspiration completely Fulfilled, all will not have the same Capacity of
Sharing in Godís Life and Truth and
Love, and therefore, in His Infinite
(∞) Beatitude. A Large-Cup and a Small-Cup may be
equally Full of Water, not Capable of another Drop, yet the Capacity of each may Differ Considerably. So too, the
Cup of Happiness of each Soul will be Full-to-the-Brim, but
the Capacity of each Soul will differ According-to the Growth of
Our Blessed Lord referred to this when He said
"In My Fatherís House there are Many Mansions" (John 14:2), i.e. many Degrees of Sharing in the
Glory that the Father has given to the
Son. Saint Paul speaks of the same in a Different Language:
"The Sun has a Splendor of its own, so has the Moon, and the Stars have theirs. Even among the Stars,
one differs from another in Brightness. So it is with the Resurrection of the Dead" (1Corinthians 15:41).
Our Manner of Knowing God
How the Finite Mind can Behold the Infinite
(∞) God is a Mystery;
yet it is a Wonderful Reality, for it Constitutes the Essential Beatitude of the
Blessed in Heaven. To Help Understand how Theologians explain the
Vision of God in Heaven, it will Help to Review how the
Mind Operates in this Life in the Process of Knowing.
Some Relevant Definitions regarding the Soul
||The Immediate, Face-to-face Knowledge of God which the
Angelic Spirits and the Souls of the
Just enjoy in Heaven. It is
called 'Vision' to distinguish it from the 'Mediate Knowledge' of God which the Human
Mind may Attain in the Present Life. And since in Beholding
God Face-to-face, the Created Intelligence finds Perfect Happiness, the 'Vision' is termed 'Beatific'.
||The Intellect is not an
Organic Faculty. Intellect is Inorganic
or Spiritual (Non-material). By the Power of the Soul's
Intellect we Know and Understand Truth,
Reason to New Truths, and make Judgments as to what is
Right and Wrong. The
Intellect is solely Tied-to Evidence.
||Reason is the Faculty enabling us to Apply Being, to
Render Perceptions Intellective, to Separate Ideas from these Perceptions, and to
Integrate and Unite the Ideas in Judgments and Reasonings. The Power to
Apply Being as Moral Law can be called Moral Reason.
||The Source of Life; the Spiritual,
Rational, and Immortal part in Man; that part of Man which Enables
him to Think, and which Renders him a Subject of Moral Government; -- sometimes, in
Distinction-from the Higher Nature, or Spirit, of Man, the so-called Animal Soul, that is,
the Seat of Life, the Sensitive Affections and Phantasy, Exclusive-of the Voluntary and
Rational Powers; -- sometimes, in Distinction-from the Mind, the Moral and
Emotional part of Man's Nature, the Seat of Feeling, in
Distinction-from Intellect; -- sometimes, the
Intellect only; the Understanding; the Seat of Knowledge,
as Distinguished-from Feeling. In a more General-Sense, "An
Animating, Separable, Surviving Entity, the Vehicle of Individual Personal Existence".
||The Soul's Will
is the Power by which we Deliberately and Freely Choose to "Act" or "
not to Act"; the Appetitive Power of the Intellect. The
Will is an Intellectual Appetite and must follow
Intellect. The Will is Subordinated-to the
Intellect, its Acts must be about what the Intellect Presents-to it. By its
Nature, it always Tends-to the Good.
Synonymous with a Man's Heart.
If, for example, I see before me an Orange, I Know that it is an Orange. But in order to have this
Knowledge, there must be some kind of a Union between that External-Object and my
Mind. How can this be, for the Orange is a Physical-Object, and my
Mind is a Spiritual-Faculty.
First of all, my Senses receive
Sense Impressions of the Orange:
The Product of all these Various Sense Impressions is Synthesized-into a
Sense Image, from which the Intelligence has the Power of
Abstracting from all Concrete and Individual Notes, and of Arriving-at the Concept of an Orange, an Idea Brought-forth in the
Mind. Thus the Outside-Object (the Orange) is United with my
Mind by means of an Idea. During our Life on Earth, while the Mind
is a Purely Spiritual Faculty, it must depend on the Body and the
Sense Images it Provides, in the Process-of Knowing
Our manner of Knowing God in Heaven, however, will
be Radically Different. There will be no Sense Image in our Vision of
God, because God is Pure Spirit. In addition, there will
be no Intellectual Image of God, for no Human Concept,
no Idea Formed-by the Human Mind could ever Adequately Express the
Infinite (∞) Essence of God. (We are speaking here
of the Vision of the Divine Trinity, not of the Humanity of
Christ.) How then, do the Blessed See
Union between the Mind of Man and the
Divine Essence of God is made possible by
a Gift from God called the 'Light of Glory'.
Intellect (Mind) of
of the Soul
By a Special Gift of God which Theologians call
the "Light of Glory", the Blessed in
Heaven see God without any Intermediary (i.e. without Sense
Image or Intellectual Concept) between the Mind Knowing
and Object-Known (the Divine Trinity). The
Beatific Vision, the "Face-to-face" Vision of God,
is Brought-about by the Immediate and Direct Union between the Human
Intellect and the Divine Essence. Man cannot Fully Comprehend all that he sees in
God. In that Eternal Beatitude, therefore, the
Blessed Behold and Know God not as we do now - by means of
Ideas Formed by the Mind, but "as He is in Himself"
(1John 3:2); and Loves and Experiences Him on the Level of
this New Vision. As Pope Benedict XII declared in his Constitution 'Benedictus Deus', the
Blessed in Heaven "see Godís Essence
Directly, and Face-to-face, and thus the Souls of the Departed Enjoy the Divine Nature, and are thereby Rendered Truly Happy in the
Possession of Eternal Life and Peace".
We read in the Book of Exodus (33:20) that no Man can see God and Live. That
refers to seeing God in this Life "as He is in Himself", i.e.
in the Divine Essence. It does not Refer-to Visions which the Saints have Received of the
Sacred Humanity of Christ, nor to the
Intellectual Vision the Great Mystics have Experienced in the Highest Forms of
Mystical Prayer, which "is Effected by Means of Created Images" as
Father Antonio Royo, O.P. points-out (Theology of Christian Perfection, p. 559).
In Heaven, however, the Soul of Man is Perfected
and Strengthened by the "Light of Glory", Transforming the Human Powers of
Knowing and Loving, so that they may enter into an Intuitive
Union with the Uncreated Light which is God.
"Only when Man Possesses the Light of Glory", says Theologian Michael Schmaus, "can
he be in the Divine Presence without being Destroyed by the Intensity of Godís Light and Love" (Dogma 6, p. 266).
Papal Definitions of the 'Light of Glory'
|CCC-1028: "Because of His Transcendence, God cannot be seen as He is, unless He Himself
Opens-up His Mystery to Man's Immediate Contemplation and gives him the Capacity for it. The Church calls this Contemplation
of God in His Heavenly Glory the 'Beatific Vision': How Great will your Glory and Happiness be, to be Allowed to see God, to
be Honored with Sharing the Joy of Salvation and Eternal Light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to Delight in the Joy of
Immortality in the Kingdom of Heaven with the Righteous and God's Friends".
"It will be Granted to the Eyes of the Human Mind, Strengthened by the Light
of Glory, to Contemplate the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in an Utterly Ineffable Manner, to Assist throughout
Eternity at the Processions of the Divine Persons, and to Rejoice with a Happiness like to that with which the Holy and
Undivided Trinity is Happy" (Mystical Body of Christ #80
The Union of the Blessed with God
From what has been said, it should be clear that in the Beatific Vision we will
not see God in the Sense of Looking-at Him, as we Look-at
something in this Life. That would be Looking at Something Outside of us; and as Long-as it is Outside of us we, would Know it only
by an Idea Formed-by the Mind. In Heaven the
Beatitude of the Blessed will not consist in a Mental Picture of
God, but in a Most Intimate Union between the
Divine Persons and the Faculties of the Soul, whereby the
Blessed Experience and Understand and Enjoy the Love,
Truth, Beauty and Goodness
of God in a Way-and-Measure not Dreamed-of in the Present Life. In this
Union, Man is not Transformed into God, but does Share more Fully in
His Life, and is Raised to a Higher Level in his Nature as Man. All the Faculties of the
Soul will be Brought-to their Ultimate Perfection, the Mind being
Enlightened to its Ultimate-Capacity by the Union with
Infinite (∞) Truth, and the
Will being so Transformed-by the Union with
Infinite (∞) Love and
Goodness that the Blessed could not possibly Choose or Wish other than what
Describing this Union of the Blessed in
Heaven with God, Father Francis Cunningham, O.P. comments:
"The Soul does not Lose its Individuality; it is not Absorbed into God. Yet it partakes of Godís Own Life,
Knowing and Loving in a way Comparable to that in which God Knows and Loves Himself. Between God and the Blessed there is a Union as
Intimate as that between the Mind and the Idea it Conceives. The Soul is Penetrated by God . . . held by Divine Love and filled with
Divine Joy. Just as Iron, Plunged into Fire, Absorbs the very Nature of the Fire, so does the Soul become like God. Heaven is to Know,
See and Live in an Ecstasy of Divine Illumination and Love" (Christ and His Sacraments, p. 591).
The Secondary Joys of Heaven
While the Immediate Vision of God Constitutes the Essential and
Primary Beatitude of the Blessed in
Heaven, there are Secondary Joys that Spring-from
their Communication with our Divine Savior in His Sacred Humanity,
His Blessed Mother, the Angels
and Saints, etc.
Since all Created Reality is Mirrored in the Mind of God, the Blessed
will see in the Beatific Vision All, that in any way concerns them, and whatever they Rightfully
Desire to Know. They will see, as never seen in this Life, the Unfathomable Depths of Love of the
Heart of Jesus for Mankind, and the Intensity of His
Suffering of Body and Soul in
Redeeming us. They will Understand as never before the
Sword of Sorrow that Pierced the Heart of our
Blessed Mother. They will Penetrate the Mysteries of Faith
that in this Life they Knew only Obscurely by the Light of Faith. The Three
(3) Years of Companionship of the Apostles with Christ will be as nothing Compared-to the
Companionship of the Blessed with Christ in
Heaven. Though Christ is King-of-kings, and
Lord-of-All, He will also be the Intimate Personal Friend of
each of the Blessed. How can this be, one might ask, with the
Countless Multitude of Souls in Heaven? Theologian
J.P. Arendzen answers that Question as follows:
"On Earth, in Holy Communion, each Recipient receives Him Whole and Entire, though Thousands receive Him at
the Same Time. If this Multiplication of Christís Real Presence is a fact during the State of our Probation here below, we may Infer
that in Heaven, Christ will find some Means, now unknown to us, to be in Close Intimacy and Individual Companionship with Each Person
in that Multitude that no Man can Number. In Holy Communion we only Perceive His Presence through the Act of Faith; hereafter, when
Faith has Ceased, the Real Presence of His Manhood in Immediate Proximity to each of the Saints must be Immediately Perceptible, and
after the General Resurrection, no doubt in some way Sensible to Human Eyes" (The Teaching of the Catholic Church, p. 1262).
In the Beatific Vision the Blessed will Know whatever they will
Want to Know concerning their Family, their Friends, the Projects they left-behind. They will Know many of the
Secrets of the Universe about which Scientists in this World can only Speculate. They will Know when
Prayers are Offered on their Behalf, or when their Help is being Sought before the Throne of God.
While the Life of the Blessed in Heaven is one of
Eternal Thanksgiving and Praise
and Adoration of the Divine Trinity, that must not be
Imagined as something similar to an Eternal Church Service, or an
Everlasting Participation in a Heavenly Choir. In this Life, due to Human Weakness, it can be
Difficult to keep oneís Attention Focused on God even in Church.
In the Beatific Vision, however, nothing will ever be able to Interrupt the Awareness of
God on the Part of the Blessed, nor their
Praise and Thanks and Adoration of the
Divine Persons. At the same time, they will Enjoy Interpersonal Relationships among themselves, and the Ties of Blood and
Friendship begun here on Earth will in some way Continue in Heaven. The Natural
Love we have for Parents and Friends will not be Lost in that Overwhelming Experience of
Union with the Divine Persons, but on the Contrary, will be
Spiritualized and Purified of anything that could
Mar its Blessedness. Remember that Our
Blessed Lord Enjoyed the Beatific Vision during the Whole of His
Life on Earth, and that, in no-way Interfered with His Converse with
His Friends and His Earthly Activities. So it is with the
Blessed in Heaven. They see
God in every Creature, seeing His Love, His Beauty,
His Wisdom, His Power Reflected in Various Ways, in every Human
Soul and Angel in that Heavenly Kingdom.
Of the Three (3) Theological Virtues of
Faith, Hope and Charity by
which we Know and Love God
in this World, and by which, says Saint Thomas Aquinas, we have "the Beginning of Eternal Life ",
only Charity will remain in Heaven.
Faith will Cease with oneís Entrance into Heaven, for the
Obscure Vision of this Life Gives-way to the Direct Vision of God.
Hope too, will Cease to Exist, for that which one Hoped for, he will then Possess. Charity
alone Remains, for it Constitutes our Friendship with God. It will also be that Common Link that
makes us Friends of every Soul in Heaven. We will have that
Common Bond with a Vast Multitude beyond counting in that Heavenly Paradise; and the Greater our
Charity when we Leave this World, the Closer will be that Friendship.
Since every Soul in Heaven will have Attained
Perfect Love of God and Neighbor, the Inequality of
Glory of Individual Souls will not Give Rise to
Envy, but Each will Rejoice in the
Glory of Others as much as his own, for all will Love Others as they
Love Themselves. As Saint Anselm commented, referring to the Blessed in
Heaven, "If anyone else whom you Love as much as yourself Possessed the same Blessedness, your Joy
would be Doubled, because you would Rejoice as much for him, as for yourself".
Even the Knowledge that Souls Close-to them on
Earth have been Condemned to Eternal
(∞) Punishment, will not be a Source of
Pain or Sorrow. They can only
Rejoice in the Fulfillment of Godís Will and Justice.
Lost Souls have Deliberately Chosen their own Lot, having
Terminated their Life on Earth Rejecting
Godís Will in Favor-of their Own; and now - like the Fallen Angels - they are Confirmed-in
Hatred of God.
The Blessed in Heaven will be able to Communicate-with
the Angels, yet we cannot now Know the Manner of that Communication. Since like us, they have
Spiritual Faculties of Knowing and
Loving, in some way there will be a Communication of Knowledge and a Sharing of
Love. We will have the Eternal
(∞)Friendship and Companionship of our Guardian Angel who, more than we realize, Helps
us in Many-ways during our Life on Earth.
The Goal of our Life
of the Holy Spirit
Fear of the Lord
The Divine Life of Grace and Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit reside
within the Essence of Man's Natural Soul, giving its Facilities/Powers of Intellect and Will the Capacity for
There are Few Doctrines of our Faith that have a
more Practical Impact on our Life in the World, than the Knowledge and Awareness of the Beatitude
that awaits us in the Next Life - if we but Heed the Teaching and Example of Christ. Our Goal should
not be the Minimum to attain that Eternal Prize, but to Strive with all our Being to
Foster the Growth of the Divine Life of Grace received at Baptism.
For the Greater the Progress of Love of God in this Life, the
Greater the Glory and Beatitude
Eternally (∞) in the Life to Come. "He who Sows Sparingly
will also Reap Sparingly, and he who Sows Bountifully will also Reap Bountifully" (2Corinthians 9:6).
While we can describe briefly what little Theology can tell us about Heaven, there is still so
very much we do not know. As Saint John says in his First Epistle, "We
are already Children of God, but what we are to-be in the Future has not yet been Revealed; all we know is that when it is Revealed, we
shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He really is" (1John 3:2). We recall again the Words of Saint Paul:
"Eye has not Seen, nor Ear Heard, nor has it Entered into the Heart of Man, what things God has Prepared
for those who Love Him" (1Corinthians 2:9).