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The Happiness Of Heaven by F. J. Boudreaux


In the Beatific Vision our will is also to be glorified, and then we shall be happy in loving and being loved.

We have seen in the foregoing chapter that our intellectual faculties are glorified, and that our natural thirst for knowledge is forever quenched. But we have another faculty, called the will, or the loving power of the soul. This faculty is also to be glorified in the Beatific Vision. Then our continual desire for happiness, which we vainly sought in creatures, will be completely gratified. We shall now see that, in the Beatific Vision, our will or moral nature is elevated, ennobled, and made like God by a participation of His sanctity, beatitude, and love. But let us first cast a glance at ourselves, as we now are in our fallen state.

When our first parents revolted against God, they abandoned the eternal rule of rectitude, which is God's Will. Their passions, which heretofore had been under the control of reason, revolted against them, and their will was turned away from God. We, their children, have inherited all the consequences of their fall. We seek ourselves inordinately -- follow our own capricious will, which leads us into excesses, at which we blush, in our sober moments. We stubbornly persist in seeking our happiness in creatures, though reason itself loudly proclaims that in them it cannot be found. Evidently, then, our will has been sadly perverted in the fall of our first parents.

One of the objects of the Christian religion was to bring back our will to a conformity with the Divine Will, and to cause it to love God above all things. Yet, in spite of its manifold teachings, in spite too of the sacraments, and the many graces we daily receive, in spite of prayer, meditation, and other spiritual exercises, this grand object is but partially attained in this world. For we find our perverse will again and again rising in rebellion against God. When a command is imposed upon us which does not chime in with our wishes, private interests, views, or natural inclination, we not unfrequently must drag ourselves by main force to perform what is commanded. And if we do obey, it is often only after doing all in our power, by excuse or pretext, to escape the obligation of obeying. Indeed, we all can say with the apostle: |I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me under the law of sin that is in my members.|*

* Rom. vii.22.

What a tyranny this law of sin exercises over the will, even of holy persons! How often do they discover, on close examination, that their will has departed from the eternal rule, which is the will of God! How often do they find that they had been seeking their own, instead of God's glory! After doing really great things, which they fancied were done purely for God, they find, to their grief, that, to a great extent, they had been secretly and artfully seeking themselves, and their own glory. And they have reason to fear that they have already received their reward in that human applause which they sought, or in which they took such complacency when it came unsought.

It is said that persons who have been bitten by a viper, and who have nevertheless recovered by the application of timely remedies, are never again the same in health as they were before. At times they are swollen, or feel acute pains, or have a morbid and depraved appetite for what they should not eat. At other times they feel a general languor, which takes away all their energy, so that whatever they do requires a most painful effort. Evidently, some of the poison is still lurking in their system, and so long as it remains there these infirmities will never be entirely healed.

So it is with us, in a moral point of view. Our human nature was bitten and poisoned by the infernal serpent, in the earthly paradise, and although a powerful antidote was given us in the Redemption, some of the venom remained in us; and as long as we live here below, we shall feel its effects. We shall always feel the sting of concupiscence, and retain an inclination to evil, to seek ourselves inordinately, and to follow our own will. We shall always experience a certain languor in the practice of virtue, which involves a continual effort and struggle.

What an exquisite consolation it is to us to be assured that none of this poison will follow us into heaven! Yes, the day will come -- blessed and glorious day! -- when all that perversity of will, all that inclination to evil, and all the passions of our depraved nature will be no more! All these will die in our temporal death, and be buried -- never to rise again in our glorified bodies. The Beatific Vision will glorify our will, and change us, as it were, into new creatures.

Then shall we find ourselves joyfully willing to do what God wills, as He wills it, and because he so wills it -- without the hast repugnance on our part. We shall no longer have peculiar views, private interests, or natural inclinations to clash with the will and interests of God. His divine will and ours shall become so totally one, that we shall seem to have no will of our own, so completely, and, at the same time, so sweetly, shall it be identified with the will and good pleasure of God. In a word, as our intellect is elevated by the Light of glory, and filled with the purest knowledge in the Beatific Vision, so also our will is purified, sanctified, and made like God's will, in rectitude and perfect sanctity.

But not only shall our will become holy and conformed to God's will: we shall also love God above all things, purely, unselfishly, ardently, and for His own blessed sake; and in that love shall we, at last, find the perfect happiness we vainly sought in the love of creatures.

Human love is a source of partial happiness in this world, and it is in this human love, as in a mirror, that we see faint reflections of the unspeakable happiness which will inebriate our souls in the Beatific Vision. But they are emphatically faint reflections; for whether it be conjugal, parental, or fraternal love, or whether it be the love of pure friendship -- whether it be even elevated by grace to the supernatural virtue of charity, it never did, and never will bestow perfect happiness in this world. It depends for its existence and perfection on conditions which can never be completely fulfilled in our present state of imperfection; and, therefore, the short-lived happiness to which it gives birth is always mingled with a certain amount of bitterness.

It is in heaven, and only in heaven, that all the conditions of love can be fulfilled; and, hence, it is there only that love will produce pure and perfect happiness, unmingled with the disappointments, cruel misunderstandings, and insufficiency of human love. First of all, the love of heaven is essentially mutual. The vision of God not only reveals to the soul His divine beauty, goodness, wisdom, and numberless other perfections, which captivate her, and set her on fire with a seraphic love; but it also reveals the intense and mysterious love of God for her. The sight of that divine love produces in her the happiness which the heart of man cannot conceive.

If a great king should speak kindly to a poor peasant, smile upon him, and even show him a real affection, a happiness which he never experienced before would take possession of his heart. A thrill of joy would run through every fibre of his frame. He would be a new man, and live a new life, simply because a great one of this world had smiled upon him and condescended to love him.

This is a faint reflection of that undying thrill of joy, of that unspeakable happiness which the loving smile of God will produce upon the soul. For, in the Beatific Vision, she sees clearly that, in spite of her littleness and insignificance, which she never saw as she now does -- in spite, too, of the sins and imperfections which had stained her beauty while in the flesh, the great and thrice-holy God loves her infinitely more tenderly and sincerely than either father or mother, or any other creature ever did. Not only does she see the intense love of God beaming upon her now, but she sees, moreover, that He loved her from eternity, when she existed as yet only in the divine mind. Yes, she sees herself lying in the bosom of the Eternal, with His mysterious love brooding over her, and giving her existence in the fulness of time. This is truly and emphatically, for her, a Beatific Vision. It is vain for us to endeavor to fathom the exquisite happiness which this vision of God's love produces in the soul. For, if the mere smile of a king has the power of infusing joy into the heart of a poor and insignificant person, what shall we say of the smile of God, who is the King of kings? What shall we say of this affectionate, paternal embrace? What shall we say of the joy, the happiness that flow into the soul, when He presses her to his bosom, gives her the kiss of peace, and calls her his own beloved child? What shall we say of her exceeding happiness, when He makes her a partaker of his divine nature, and unites her to himself more intimately than two creatures ever could be united in this world?

These are all secrets of heaven. They are simply unspeakable, because they are beyond our present powers of comprehension. Eye hath not seen them, ear hath not heard them, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive them. We shall, therefore, make no further attempt to express what no human tongue can utter. But we may say that, as a pure and mutual love produces the greatest happiness we know of in this world, so also the mutual love which exists between the soul and God in the Beatific Vision, is the source of the most perfect happiness possible.

But there is another feature of that unspeakable happiness, which we must now consider. Love must not only be mutual to produce happiness; there must, besides, be neither fear nor suspicion that either of the parties will prove false. Every one knows that when a suspicion of that nature fastens upon the mind of one who loves, his happiness is at an end; and there is no telling to what extravagant excesses his jealousy may lead him.

This imperfection, which blasts so much happiness in this world, will never find its way into our heavenly home. For the soul not only sees that He who loved her from eternity will continue to do so everlastingly; she not only sees the utter impossibility of God's ever despising her; but she, at the same time, sees the impossibility of her ever proving false to Him. She not only sees God as He is, but she also sees everything else as it is. However beautiful, therefore, creatures may be in heaven, she always sees in God a beauty and perfection so vastly, so infinitely superior, that it is impossible for her to be captivated by creatures, as she was in this world. She loves all the companions of her bliss, it is true; but she loves them all in God, and for God. She loves them because they are His, and because he loves them. She loves them too, because they are so holy, so beautiful, and so much like God, and, therefore, deserving of her love. But her chiefest, her absorbing love is centred in God, and remains centred there forever. Never can there come a day when she will see a growing coldness in God for her. Never shall there dawn a day when she will discover in herself a growing coldness for God; and, consequently, there never shall be a day when her exceeding happiness will fade away or be lessened. Rather, she sees the dawn of a glorious day when her happiness will be increased, perfected, and completed in the resurrection of the body -- a day when other joys and pleasures will be added to those she now enjoys in the Beatific Vision.

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