Saturday, June 2, 2012

Love Wins, Part 03: Questions About Heaven

…and my personal answers; your mileage may vary

What will we do all day?


We will be continuously overwhelmed with joy, with love, with gratitude. We will rejoice in deep communion with one another and with God in Christ. We will do all the things God does all day. (There won’t literally be time, of course.) We shall be included in the divine perichoresis, which is the circulation, or circumincession, of the Divine Love among the Persons of the Holy Trinity. We shall be co-creators with God. We shall look upon creation with perfect satisfaction and say, with God, “It is very good.” We shall exult in our own being, the sheer joy of it, and the being of everyone and everything else, in all our glory, or rather, all radiant with God’s own glory.

Will we recognize people we used to know?

Yes.

What will it be like?

Jesus taught it would be like a feast. Not just any feast, but a wedding feast. And not just any wedding feast, but that of a king, a royal wedding feast. The biggest, most lavish, best party ever.

Will there be dogs there?

How could you even ask? OF COURSE there will be dogs there, and cats! And fleas, and ticks. But all transfigured, all perfect, and living in perfect harmony and harmlessness. This is what I believe, anyway. God did not create His handiwork, any of it, for destruction or to be consigned to oblivion.

But I say this with one caveat: the things of this earth may bear the same relationship to the things of heaven as the Law of Moses did to Perfect Love; that is, the things of earth may be types or icons of what is infinitely better to come. If perchance there are no literal dogs in the age to come, there will certainly be all that each dog ever meant, except unimaginably better and more beloved.

In fact, perhaps it is correct to say Jesus Himself will be the summation and fulfillment of all things, Alpha and Omega.

How could I ever rejoice in heaven if my dog or cat or spouse or other dear one were not there?

First we must note that when speaking of heaven and hell, we use spatial metaphors to designate conditions. Heaven is being one with God in Christ, in a sense more intimate than a vine is one with its branches or a head is one with its body; hell is not being one with God at all. Heaven and hell are conditions of people already here and now, becoming fully manifest and consummate in the next life. So it’s not a question of “where” anybody will be so much as in what state, whether in love or in hatred, whether in love or in egotism, whether in love or in bitterness, etc. Those in love, in bliss, will neither wish nor be able to share the miserable state of those mired in hatred, egotism, bitterness; that is the great chasm that cannot be bridged.

Next, we notice that the question presupposes a very earthly, fleshly sort of love, such as any pagan bears to his family and friends. But whoever makes it to heaven will ipso facto have acquired True Love. True Love contains no element of “me, me, me”. That’s why when we have True Love, we forgive those who offend us and love our enemies. In other words, True Love is concerned with the other person only for his or her own sake, and not for the sake of any pleasure (or displeasure) the other person might bring to me. Another way of saying the same thing is, True Love, although it does not exclude emotions, is not based upon them. It is primarily a spiritual function rather than an emotional one. We shall have the joy of loving the other forever as God does, without feeling injured by his not wanting it or reciprocating it.

Orthodox spirituality teaches us that those in hell can find some ease of their sufferings, some respite, when we are praying for them or otherwise showing compassion toward them.

And who knows? We do not even know for sure whether there is anybody, or will be anybody, in hell. Or if there are, who is to say human beings stay there forever? Even if hell exists forever because it is for the devil and his angels, that’s not to say there have to be any people in it forever. It wasn’t meant for them, after all. Maybe, just maybe, we shall have the unimaginable joy of sharing in God’s work, and His success, in bringing home every single lost sheep.

2 comments:

Fr. Benedict Crawford said...

I like your answers. Sounds like an interesting book!

s-p said...

So far, so good! :)