Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Glory of Heaven - Afterlife Lenten Meditation (Part 6)

Composition of Place – With the gaze of my imagination I will picture a city of beauty, of joy, of brilliance – the capital of the supreme King, who is seated on the throne of unspeakable majesty, attended by angels and saints.

In spirit I see many of my patron saints who beckon me to become their fellow citizen and a member of God's household. How lovely and peaceful is this city! How lovable, how blessed are its inhabitants! How fortunate I will be if I finally arrive in their company!

Prayer of Petition – My Lord and God, grant me light to see and know the great value of heavenly glory, and give me grace to be one of the just on earth throughout my life, so that hereafter I may be one of the saints in Heaven.

First Point

If somewhere in the world there were a city where squares, streets and buildings were made of precious stone, of silver and of purest gold; if all its inhabitants were very rich and noble, very kind, agreeable and courteous; if, furthermore, this city were governed by a king who was a man of peace and of virtue, fond of doing good and who truly brought happiness to all who wanted to go live in his fellowship – how quick would men not be to journey to that blessed city?

Would they not be hastening from the farthest parts of the world to enroll under his banner? Knowing he would become rich, honored, and well-blessed, would anyone hold back so as not to suffer the little trouble of travel?

My soul, with a little trouble during this life, you can become a citizen of the city of God, the city of heavenly glory. You can dwell in endless peace amid all that is good. You can live with a King Who is infinitely kind, peace loving, rich, and mighty, Who has the power, the will and the means to bring happiness to whoever chooses to live in His company.

Ah! What has God failed to provide in Heaven for those who dwell there? If on earth He has made such beautiful things, what would He not provide in the heavenly Jerusalem for His citizen-subjects?

If I were to say that this eternal city is paved with finest silver and purest gold, I would be saying nothing. If I said that this blessed Sion were constructed with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, I would say nothing. If I said that in that blessed country rivers flowed with milk and honey, that it has the most delightful flowers and gardens, that one finds tasty and rich fruits of every kind, I would say nothing.

Oh, paradise! You are the masterpiece of things produced by the magnificence of an all-powerful God. You are the price of the Blood of an infinitely kind and generous Savior. You have the best of all good things, to the exclusion of all that is bad. Oh paradise, in you is found a river of delights into which the person who has been saved is plunged.

In you is found light, glory, gleaming splendor that causes darkness to flee. Oh, my sweet homeland! My heart is wonderfully gladdened as I think of you. My soul feels inexpressible joy as I reflect on your sacred courts. O divine tabernacles! When will I come to possess you? O Heaven! When will I leave this valley of tears to enjoy your delights?

My ears, my eyes, all my senses and faculties direct themselves to thee, assured as I am that in possessing thee, I would find the fulfillment of all my desires. Might I be deceived? No. Faith and reason assure us that God made man to be perfectly happy. As he does not find this perfect happiness on earth, faith and reason as well, teach me that Heaven is the place assigned by God to fill every void of the human heart.

Affective Acts

(1) Hope – O Heave, my homeland! When will I possess you? There I have my Father, Who is God; my Mother, who is the Blessed Virgin Mary; my brethren, who are the saints. I hope to go there soon. Yes Lord, indeed snatch me soon from this world. Bring my exile to an end. Open the gates of Heaven to me.

(2) Prayer of Petition – O Mary, my Mother! Just as a little child always cries for his mother, I will always weep until I see You, until I see You in glory. Take me soon, O Mother. You well know that I cannot live without You and that "I pine away because I die not." I wish to die so that I can go to Heaven and be with You for all eternity.

Second Point

Yes, in heavenly bliss man finds the fulfillment of all his desires. Once his body is dressed anew with the four glorious properties which all who are saved will receive at the time of the General Judgment, he will have a brilliance greater than that of the sun and stars, he will enjoy an agility and power of penetration like that of an angel; he will be impassable, incorruptible, and eternally blessed.

His eyes will enjoy the sight of the beauties of paradise. His ears will be delighted at the melodious music of heavenly spirits, and he will perceive the exquisite fragrance of that blessed place. O home of infinite delights! Here, the blessed, the redeemed, will taste the sweetest savor and enjoy the happiest companionship.

Ah! If association on earth with a very prudent, wise, agreeable and affectionate person brings great consolation, what will it not be to associate in Heaven with angels and saints, all of whom have the highest degree of prudence, wisdom, virtue, lovableness and affection?

What sweetness will one not experience in talking to, in seeing, in hearing creatures that possess such great beauty, knowledge and virtue? What pleasure will there not be in hearing, speaking to, and seeing the choirs of the fairest virgins, of the charming confessors and martyrs, of gloriously brilliant apostles, prophets, and patriarchs?

What will it not be like to behold, to hear, to talk with angels, Cherubim and Seraphim, who are afire with love for God? My soul pines away as it considers the delights of glory. My heart desires to depart from my breast in order to go forth to enjoy such great happiness.

There in paradise, all are immensely rich crowned princes. There all virtues reach a heroic degree, all holiness is genuine, all charity is overflowing, all love is sincere. There peace prevails as well as concord, and all awards are perfectly just. One finds abundance, magnificence and grandeur. Not a thing there is faulty or blemished. Sin gains no entry and death holds no sway.

But where will my talking this way lead to? Is there yet more one might say? How does one tell it?

Our Blessed Mother Mary is the charm of the saints. Jesus Christ is the joy of the elect, as likewise He is the immense and sovereign God wherein the angels and saints find their rest and satisfaction. But is Blessed Mary not a portion of the inheritance of the just? Yes. Indeed, what will the joy not be of seeing Her fair face, Her gracious eyes, Her lovely person? What a delight it will be to behold the Queen of Heaven and earth, endowed with every grace, adorned with every perfection?

What a joy the just man will experience from being in his Mother's company, in partaking of Her gifts, in witnessing Her devotedness. Even if there were nothing else among the created enjoyments and glories of Heaven besides enjoying seeing the sweet and Blessed Virgin Mary, the hermits would consider their penances well worth it; the martyrs, their torments; and the confessors and virgins would remain satisfied for all the privations and toils.

And what shall I say about the happiness which the saints will experience from seeing and possessing Jesus Christ? This sweetest Savior appears in Heaven with all the splendor of His glory. One is allowed to see His Holy Humanity in all the perfection that the Hand of the Almighty gave It. One sees His Sacred Head crowned with resplendent stars. The locks of His golden hair well suit the purple of a great King. His eyes are brighter than a thousand suns. His face, more handsome than any other sons of men, will shine with the glory of God.

From His feet and hands rich rivers of grace gush forth. That loving breast is an immense sea of treasures and blessings. O most holy Humanity of Jesus! When will I see Thee at the right hand of the Father? O Infinite God! When shall I enjoy Thy presence? When will my eyes see Thee face to face? When will my soul, once it is free of the chains that shackle it on earth, become free and active in Heaven?

Affective Acts

(1) Resolution – I resolve to sin no more, not even venially, for I know that nothing defiled can enter Heaven. I will do penance for my sins, even those that have been pardoned in Confession, so that I will not be detained in Purgatory.

(2) Prayer of Petition – I will perform all my works in grace so that they will have merit for Heaven. Indeed, I will direct everything to God's greater glory. I will suffer with great patience every pain and ordeal that I must endure in this world, keeping mindful of the great glory that awaits me. I will remember that great rewards are not gained except with great labors.

I will continually do battle against the enemies of my soul – the world, the devil, and the flesh – and be ever mindful that one will not be crowned unless he has lawfully fought.

Third Point

The blessed see God with unblurred vision and love Him without any reserve or holding back. They see the Creator of the universe and cherish Him whole heartedly. They behold His Infinite Being and are engulfed in His immense love. They have a clear knowledge of the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and the rest.

They comprehend the good use which the just have made of their graces and the little account which the reprobates have made of theirs. In the Divinity as in a clear mirror, the blessed soul sees whatever has happened in the world.

It knows the power of the elements, the course of the stars, and the influence of the planets. It understands all sciences and arts. In a word, the mind sees all things in a clear and simple vision and it does not want to know more.

And the will? The will, now enjoying an immense Good, does not and cannot crave anything else for all eternity. One loves as much as one is capable. One possesses as much as one can possess. One enjoys as much as one can enjoy, for what it enjoys is God Himself. One lives in the love of God and is plunged in God.

Indeed, in God the blessed soul finds everything. It finds immense treasures and riches. It finds inexpressible sweetness and delight. For this soul God is a lovable Father, a fond and sweet Spouse, a faithful Friend whom one can never lose. And what makes the blessedness of the just soul complete is this: They live in Heaven without fear of losing it for all eternity. O Heaven! Oh, Heavenly home! O mansion of the blessed!

How is it that I am not seeking thee in all earnestness? How is it that I do not run, panting for breath, in pursuit of you? The Queen of Sheba, on hearing many wonderful things related to her about Solomon, hastened to see for herself. When she saw his magnificent palaces, his exquisite gardens, his immense treasures, and perceived his great wisdom and the good order that prevailed in his service, while deeply moved and beside herself she exclaimed: "Blessed be the Lord thy God Whom thou has pleased! Blessed are they who have the good fortune to hear thy words! And blessed are all who serve thee and stand in thy company!"

Ah, my soul! How much greater will be the good fortune of those who are in the company of the Creator, enjoying His immense delights, hearing His Infinite Wisdom, seeing His lovely palaces! What a tremendous good fortune to behold Him in the midst of pure virgins, glorious martyrs, resplendent patriarchs and crowned princes! What a glorious experience to see the Queen of them all leaning on Her beloved Son? Ah, I count the remaining days of exile and tears of my life on earth. After that, I have the hope of being joined forever with the Good that my heart adores. This hope eases all my pains, tempers all my afflictions, and sweetens all my labors.

The worldling has no further reward for his fatigue than a bit of the world. Heaven is forever, and is the reward for the upright Christian. He labors for things that are solid and everlasting; the worldling toils for things that are miserable and perishable, which of necessity he is going to lose. What a difference between the hope of one and the hope of the other – the reward of the one and the reward of the other! Ah, my soul! Let us run in pursuit of that great reward. The labor is short-lasting. The happy gain is everlasting. Have a bit of patience; for soon indeed the sinner's merriment will change into tears, and the just man's tears will change into merriment. A little patience, my soul; for presently an infinite and eternal glory will come which no one can take from you.

You will then bless your toils and tears and be forever glad of your good fortune. You will then bless the Lord and all who stand in His presence, and with more reason than the Queen of Sheba had for blessing Solomon and his attendants. Have courage, my soul, for soon you will rest in the possession of the Good which you desire and sigh for.

Affective Acts

(1) Prayer of Petition – O Jesus my Savior, save me! O Divine Jesus, lead me into the Land of Heavenly Promise. Deliver me soon from this exile on earth.

O Heavenly Father, by the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and my Brother, grant me the glory of Heaven.

O Holy Spirit, sanctify me and take me soon into glory!

O holy Virgin, pray to God for me, now and at the hour of my death.

And hasten, so that I may soon go to Heaven.

O ye angels and saints, pray to God for me, that I may soon go to Heaven and sing with you the Lord's eternal mercies.

(2) Resolution – When things are distasteful and difficult, I will say: Oh, how little for something so great! Oh, what a little bit you have to do and suffer! Oh, how great is the repayment that awaits you!

The sufferings of this time, says Saint Paul, "are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

I will hear the voice of Blessed Mary, who keeps speaking to me the very words which that mother of the Machabees spoke to her son: "I beseech thee, my son, look upon Heaven…" (2 Mach. 7:28)

I will say the words of Saint Ignatius: "Ah! How distasteful the world is when I look at Heaven!"

Pray one Our Father and one Hail Mary

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