What is the Beatific Vision? The Beatific Vision is the direct knowledge of God enjoyed by the blessed in heaven. I believe that not everyone could “enjoy” the Beatific Vision. That is why Jesus Christ, the man, is who all will see, at least at judgment and at that time will be appraised of whether through their choices in life they indicated a choice to see the Beatific Vision through all eternity or not. Like a dirty piece of a glass lens with a laser shined through it it would shatter! Only a pure soul could withstand and understand the purity and perfection of the Beatific Vision. The fact that they are denied the Beatific Vision for all eternity and the curiosity of what it would have been like is part of why hell is so hellish. To have known and felt the pure justice of the human incarnation of the creator personally during judgment and then to lose chance of experiencing the complete Beatific Vision for all eternity, being confused and unhappy because of the loss will possibly drive the souls in hell insane.
The eternal loss of the Beatific Vision and the remorse of the evil that they did in life could conceivable be most of what causes the “burning” in hell before a human soul rejoins its body at the end of time. Having hurt somebody mentally, emotionally or physically is so horrific to some people that they end up killing themselves. If guilt and remorse have this effect in this life of limited time, imagine what an eternity of thinking of these things could do to a person perfected emotionally, physically and mentally in all except the repair of the wound of original sin. It would be hard to imagine that that person’s emotions and sanity would not be quickly eroded. Once again, this is if we assume that after death, for eternity the person, is made perfect in every physical, emotional and mental way, excepting original sin. In that case he or she would have a perfect conscience. Someone with perfectly formed conscience thinking for all eternity of the evil he or she did I would think would be quite punishing.
It is not hard to imaging that on each person’s judgment day, Jesus Christ the judge, will have him or her before His throne to present their sins one by one and ask them to speak in their own defense. For the mother who divorced for no good reason, maybe to “find herself,” or to the wife/child abusing father he will show how their decision affected their children and how each of their problems could have been avoided had the parents stayed together and worked together. For those like Hitler who said they committed the heinous crimes they did for various reasons such as love of country love of the German people, he will show how peaceful negotiation could have changed things, with a look into all the historical successful peaceful negotiations and possibly some of the future to show how much better things could have been for Germany. He will then step through every German soldier, show the moment of his death and the out come if Hitler had not started the war. Hitler, as with all who are judged, will be allowed to ask as many questions with regard to what they did as they like without repetition and when all the questions are answered, He that they know from his knowledge and justice in their judging, is all knowing, all powerful and all loving will say you made your choice that a world without the necessity to follow my precepts is a better world so you are allowed to live in that world for all eternity. After that they will understand that they will never gain the ability to sense the Beatific Vision for all eternity. Gods throne where He judged them from will be empty and the comfort, warmth, love and aura of all knowingness that emanated from just his human incarnation and that lifetime longing that they thought they were fighting to satisfy will be gone to them for all eternity. They will know definitively that their failure to follow Gods law is why they will never be satisfied.
Those who have chosen to follow Gods precepts of love with their whole being, like, St Stephen, St. Perpetua, St. Padre Pio and mother Theresa of Calcutta, will feel His eternal and infinite love for all eternity. All the questions they might have about the whys of the universe will probably be answered at their judgment. And to them who have done His will they will have the privilege at judgment to see how following His precepts all through their lives affected those around them and countless generations afterwards. At the end of their judgment God will say, you have chosen love, so remain in my presence for all eternity and continue to feel the full extent of My everlasting love and happiness which you worked your whole life to bring to others who did not necessarily share your faith in Love. You gave them the opportunity to see the love you felt from Me and to be able to share it more fully that they might choose Me.
One could ask how could one sit around for all eternity and be satisfied and totally happy and experiencing the most intense pleasure in existence? The simple answer of course is because God created us that way, if you believe in the Christian world view. But is their any thing similar in this world that could help us understand how something as simple as working hard all day then sitting in some one’s presence could be so enjoyable? Any married couple who works together all day on a mutual project of great interest to them both and are physically intimate with each other later that day, know that the extreme pleasure created between them is both a result of them working in concert all day and with simple physical contact give incredible pleasure. As the marital act, which can possibly create life, I can imagine this is similar to what God felt when he created the world and wanted humans to be able to share in the thrill of creation.
As God never broke faith with us, his creation, redeeming us from Adam and Eve’s fall, we are expected to never break faith without spouse and/or children if we choose marriage as our vocation. Because of this if we truly love our spouse we have a special feeling for them and our children and have to work hard to break that bond. The devil may try to convince us that our mate does not love us even if the overwhelming evidence is to the contrary. If we fall victim to his lies, we may work for a long time to convince ourselves of this which leads to anger and depression, with some contemplating or possibly going as far as committing suicide. In this, as in other matters, following Gods precepts may be hard but inevitably lead to happiness.
You can see in the eyes of people that have been married for a long time, resisted the temptations of the devil as well as our divorced ridden hedonistic (i.e. subscribing to the doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life) society, and truly love each other, a deep happiness. This is why I think I first came to believe in the power and truth of the Beatific Vision. After I married my wife and we used to be together, I use to love gazing at her for long periods of time and many times while she was sleep. I though “God, how blessed I am to have such a beautiful, smart and interesting young lady think so much of me to devote her life to caring for me, my family and having and raising our children.” Even today having a child is not a risk-free proposition. Even with all the medical knowledge and help available, women still die in child birth. I think any man (I cannot speak for a woman since I am not one) who has truly loved a woman has experienced this feeling.
Any man who truly loves his children has probably had a similar experience. I know I could gaze into the face of my infant boy when he came along, and think “God, how wonderful and blessed I am to have such a handsome and healthy son to be able to teach and play with.” Just like his mother I could gaze upon him for long periods of time, with a great feeling of happiness coming over me just as when I gazed at his mother. I think that this strong love that I hold for her is what has kept us happy, married and together.
There are those that would argue that you can receive the same amount of pleasure alone. If this is indeed the case why are so many lives wasted in pursuit of this interaction between human beings if that is true? People sometime commit suicide if they feel they have been used, after having abortions, after their girlfriends commit suicide or have abortions. Women have abortions so that they can continue to have this sort of interaction, “freely”. There are few pleasures greater than being able to contribute directly to the happiness of another human being. If this were not the case people would simply seek this pleasure alone without the complication of another person. This concept is taken to the Nth degree in our relationship with God. We are pleasing to him and he gives us the ultimately pleasurable experience -the Beatific Vision, for all eternity. This is the perfect relationship that marriage is one of the best mirrors of in this world. It strives to emulate the way our relationship should be with God. God’s feelings of what his relationship with Israel was as well as the relationship between Christ and his church, as I understand, is reflected allegorically in Bible book the Song of Songs (also called the Song of Solomon or the Canticle of Canticles) as interpreted by many catholic theologians.
I think that good people in the world, hopefully a lot of them Christian, are like windows/filters which we can see God’s grace through. Through some the filter shows us his kindness, through others we see his generosity and through still others we see his pure unadulterated love. Only by seeing the good of God through many different people can we come to see the full power and majesty of God and receive some tiny hint of the Beatific Vision, hopefully enough to devote our lives to striving towards it. Once you look for it (especially in those that we love like our parents, siblings, spouses and children), I feel sure it is enough to convince many that Gods love is great and much more desirable that anything we might find in this world through exploiting our fellow man or gaining material goods. To make myself clear, there is good in leading others in corporations, military and government etc. to the mutual good of both the leader and the worker in support of the organization. Exploitation occurs when the worker is used without regard to his health, mental/emotional well being or the well being of his family purely to realize a profit motive for the leader. Also gaining enough material goods to support one’s family and ensure that the next generation of humans can grow healthy, wise and strong is also good and extension of Gods love.
To be clear, I think the Beatific Vision begins here on earth with us, working as Christ’s hands to make the world better not only for those around us but for the whole world. The vision of the small part we can contribute and the result of this contribution should whet our desire for heaven and drive our charity toward our fellow man!