Tenth Session of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism Project

Well, here we are at the final episode of Fr. Robert Barron's wonderful Catholicism series. It has been a fantastic journey that has really opened up the beauty and majesty of the faith for us. I know from speaking with many of you how much you have gained from the series and how much you have enjoyed it. If you are interested in continuing your study, please do let Fr. Kevin or myself know and we will be very happy to put on something else in the near future.

Tonight, rather appropriately, we are considering the Last Things: Death, Judgement, Hell, and Heaven, something we may not have heard much of lately, but things which are vital for all of our understanding of the faith.

I have some more on my blog about this if you are interested, just click here.



Here is an overview of the topic:

World Without End~Eschatology: The Last Things

"God is the 'last thing of the creature. Gained, he is paradise; lost, he is hell; examining, he is judgement  purifying, he is purgatory." ~Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology: I: The Word Made Flesh (Ignatius Press, 1989), p. 260.
"The world is only peopled to people heaven." — St. Francis de Sales, Letters to Persons in the World (2.32)
"The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot—to use the classical expression— 'merit' Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something 'merited,' but always a gift." — Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, par. 35. 
"The four last things to be ever remembered," states the Penny Catechism, "are Death, Judgement, Hell, and Heaven" (par. 332). The study of these things is called eschatology, which comes from the Greek word, eschata, which means "the final things." Traditionally, eschatology is divided into two parts: individual eschatology and general eschatology. The latter is what might be called the cosmic perspective—the big picture about history, the end of time, and the manifestation of the new heavens and new earth. Individual eschatology, as its name indicates, focuses on what awaits each man after his death.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The Church's teachings about hell, purgatory, and heaven are both fascinating and objectionable to many people. While purgatory is often misunderstood as a second chance or as a part of Hell (it is neither), it is Hell that garners the most criticism and objections. "If there is any subject which is offensive to modern sentimentalists," wrote Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote in the 1930s, "it is the subject of hell. Our generation clamours for what the poet has called 'a soft dean, who never mentions hell to ears polite,' and our unsoiled age wants a Christianity watered so as to make the Gospel of Christ nothing more than a gentle doctrine of good will, a social program of economic betterment, and a mild scheme of progressive idealism" {The Hymn of the Conquered [Our Sunday Visitor, 1933], p. 93). 

And so many people ask, "How can an all-good and all-loving God possibly send anyone to eternal torture and torment?" It is also common for sceptics and "enlightened" moderns to dismiss, or even scoff at, the belief in heaven. How can any educated, sensible person believe that there exists, somewhere "up there," a place of perfect happiness and joy? Isn't that simply a childish way of avoiding reality and creating a fantasy that hinders real progress and authentic personal fulfilment? In addition, even many Christians roll their eyes at the doctrine of purgatory, finding it bizarre and arbitrary, lacking (so they say) any real biblical foundation.


Yet, strangely enough, our culture seems obsessed with the topics of heaven, hell, and the afterlife. Countless novels, films, and television dramas fixate on the question of what happens after death. Ghost stories are consistently popular, for they seem to provide a glimpse into the next world. Angels are equally popular for similar reasons, the subject of television shows and stories about miraculous or unexplained events. Several years ago, Time magazine featured a story and an opinion poll on angels. The poll revealed that 69% of respondents believed in the existence of angels. However, only 49% believed in the existence of fallen "angels or devils." Not surprisingly, people are often far more accepting of heaven or some vague realm of eternal comfort than of a corresponding destination of suffering and spiritual anguish. 

What, then, does the Catholic Church teach about the "last things," especially about heaven, purgatory, and hell? 

Beginning with Dante

I think it is fair to say that Robert Barron loves Dante, so it's no surprise that he makes great reference to his magnificent work in this last episode of Catholicism:

T. S. Eliot remarked that Western literature is divided between two great thinkers and authors, Shakespeare and Dante, with all the rest being secondary. How fascinating that the most important work—The Divine Comedy—of the greatest poet in the Western literary tradition is about heaven, hell, and purgatory. "The poem," explains literary critic Lucy Beckett in her study, In the Light of Christ
"is like no other written before or since. It is set in the year 1300, when Dante, on the edge of the exile that colours the whole poem, was thirty-five, mid-way through the biblical lifespan of a man: 'Halfway along the path that is our life,' as the first line says" (Ignatius Press, 2006; p. 181).
Dante's poem is obviously a work of creative imagination, filled with numerous and complex allusions, so it needn't be taken literalistically in order to recognise that it is also filled with sound theology. The Divine Comedy 
"is an allegory of that multiplicity of perfections to which our understanding is debtor and our charity creditor. In Hell we see perfection in the breach. In Purgatory we see it painfully being reconstructed. In Paradise we see it once more attained" ~ The Literary Traditions of Christian Humanism [The Newman Press, 1960], by Barry Ulanov, p. 118).
The poet's first stop is Inferno, or Hell. Dante is led through Hell by the Roman poet Virgil. They move downward through the topography of Hell, winding their way to the bottom, on an ever narrower path, until they come to the very bottom. There they see Satan, or Lucifer. There is a tendency in much literature to romanticise Satan, or portray him in terms of power and cleverness, but Dante is intent on a far more theologically precise portrayal: With fear I set these words in verse! It was where the shades are all covered up in ice, and clearly seen, like wisps of straw in glass. Some souls lie prone and some stand straight; of those some have their heads up, other have their soles, and some bend over, face to feet, like bows. When we'd walked far enough to reach the place where my instructor thought it well to show me the creature who once had the lovely face, He stopped me, stepped away from where I stood, saying,
"Behold there, Dis [Satan]!' Behold the place where you must arm yourself with fortitude. ..." ~ (Canto 34, lines 10-21; translation by Anthony Esolen [The Modern Library, 2005], p. 351). 
The Devil, we read, is not standing in flames, but is stuck in ice, completely frozen in place. St. Augustine defined sin as being incurvatus in se (caved in on oneself). We are meant to break out of the narrow confines of the self and to mix with the world; we are hungry for the fullness of being. To sin is, voluntarily, to turn away from this and to reign as the sovereign of your little kingdom, which is precisely as big as your own ego. Dante portrayed Satan has having great wings, like a bat. Why? Because we are meant to fly! Sin is a heaviness that weighs us down, that keeps us from being what we really are—and are called to be, by God's grace. Dante writes, "I saw three faces in his head, how great a marvel it appeared to me!" These three faces are a perverted mimicry of the Three Divine Persons, the Trinity. Satan dared to grasp at godliness, to ascend the throne of heaven, but of course failed. All of us, being sinners, think we are God in some form or fashion, convinced that the world revolves around us, our needs, and our desires. Hell, as C. S. Lewis describes it in The Great Divorce, is a state of complete self-absorption and intense loneliness, narcissism taken to its furthest and logical end: 
"Every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind—is, in the end, Hell." ~ The Great Divorce [Macmillan, 1946], p. 69).
From Satan's six eyes, Dante wrote, come tears: "With his six eyes he wept, and down three chins/ dribbled his tears and slaver slick with blood." There is a profound and immense sadness in sinfulness, being self-absorbed and stuck in the narrow confines of the ego. There is nothing glamorous about sin and evil, for evil is depressing, soul-shrinking, and finally powerless. When Virgil and Dante approach Satan, the fallen angel does nothing to stop them. Like someone caught in a deep depression, he doesn't even notice them—such is the total self-absorption of Hell. When we, in this life, experience the coldness of isolation and the dark terrors of loneliness, we have a small taste of Hell.
Why is Satan in Hell? After all, he was created perfect, a most glorious creature, serving God in heaven. The answer is both simple and mysterious: he chose Hell. He refused to serve God, seeking false freedom, and ended up ruling the tiny kingdom of the ego. God did not send Lucifer to Hell; he sent himself, and God respected his freedom to so choose. This helps to clarify how the existence of Hell can be reconciled with the divine goodness and love of the Creator. "God our Saviour," wrote the Apostle Paul, "... desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2: 3-4).

God wants all men to share in his divine life. But God's life is love, and love is not really love unless it is freely given and freely received. Love cannot be forced or coerced. So Hell is the state that follows from having refused divine love. Hell is not the condemnation of man by God; rather it is man's condemnation of himself. It is the state of those persons who reject a right relationship with God and insist upon their own autonomy from God, turning their back on his supernatural life. This rejection of supernatural life and love is the embrace of supernatural anguish and death. 

Taking up the more traditional metaphor of flames, C. S. Lewis said that the love of God lights up the fires of Hell. He meant that the refusal to accept the divine light burns us, the way that the bright light of day would burn the eyes of those who had been sunk for days in a cave. While the fire of God's divine love animates those who receive it, it torments those who reject it. Or, as the Catechism states, "Hell's principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs" (par. 1057).

Purgatory 

If Hell is the most criticized doctrine in Catholic eschatology, purgatory isn't far behind. It is routinely dismissed as "medieval" and "superstitious," an unnecessary holdover from the Middle Ages that supposedly lacks biblical support and serves no useful purpose. But purgatory—or, rather, the agitated response to it—is an excellent example of what Fulton Sheen meant when he wrote, 
"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing" (Preface to Radio Replies [TAN, 1979; vol. 1], by Rumble and Cary, p. ix).
It is undoubtedly the case that the vast majority of those who denounce the doctrine of purgatory are unable to correctly describe or explain what the Catholic Church really teaches about it. Here is what the Catechism says of purgatory: 
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. (pars. 1030-31
One key to comprehending the Church's teaching about purgatory is to recognise a distinction made in 1 John: If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal. (Jn. 5:16-17) There are mortal sins and non-mortal, or venial, sins. The former are those sins that definitively rupture one's relationship with God, and so destroy the divine life in us. There are other sins, less grave but still sins, which compromise and harm our relation to God, but do not destroy it outright. These venial sins (from the Latin, venia, meaning "pardonable") still affect the soul negatively, producing, as it were, a scar. The self-absorption of these sins leaves a mark on us, warping and twisting us, even if slowly. This warping and twisting needs to be corrected. This correction can and should, of course, begin here and now, through acts of penance, self denial, fasting, and prayer, which "untwist" us and shape us back in the right direction.

But if someone dies with God's divine life in her—that is, in friendship with God—yet is still in need of spiritual cleansing, purgatory is her destination. Yet it is not a permanent destination, for it is actually a
continuation and fulfilment of God's preparation of our souls for eternal communion, or beatitude, with him. This is not the same as saying someone can be "saved" after they have died, as if they have a second chance after death. On the contrary, it is a recognition that those who are saved—those who possess and partake in God's divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4; CCC, par. 2009)—might not yet be completely perfect and holy. And since nothing unclean or unholy can enter into heaven (cf. Rev. 21:27), Christ continues his work of sanctification beyond the grave. As C. S. Lewis described it, purgatory is the anteroom, or washroom, of heaven, in which those who are saved are washed, cleansed, and completely purified. This is not, over against common stereotypes, a "place" of gloom or despondency, but of joy. Yes, being purified is painful, as we know even here on earth, but it is a joyful pain. As Fr. Alvin Kimel explains,
"The sufferings of Purgatory are more desirable than the most ecstatic pleasures on earth. ... Sin is not paid for in Purgatory but surgically removed. The doctrine of Purgatory neither challenges nor diminishes the finished work of Christ on the cross." ~("Purgatory as Self-Knowledge", February 4, 2008; http://pontifications.wordpress.com).
Put another way, purgatory is training for heaven.
"By no means will any of us enter heaven, or even want to enter there," notes Fr. Anthony Zimmerman, "unless our characters are in perfect shape, and our deficits are paid up in full. Purgatory is the service shop where repair work is done, and where books are balanced" ~ "Purgatory: Service Shop for Heaven" [Homiletic & Pastoral Review, June 1999; accessed here). 
Consider this analogy: Think of someone who is very self-absorbed, superficial, and spiritually undeveloped. Now imagine that person brought to Calcutta to live and work with Mother Teresa's sisters. He would be, in a sense, in heaven, but he would be so unready for this life that it would awaken deep anxiety and resistance in him. If he was open to it, he would pass through a period of adjustment, preparation, and conversion. At the end of this process, he would be able to give himself to the life of the sisters. What of the biblical foundations for purgatory? While the word "purgatory" is not found in the Bible, the idea certainly is. For example, the idea of praying for the dead is evident in 2 Maccabees, when Judas Maccabeus, after a battle, examines the corpses of the fallen Jews. On the persons of some of the dead, he finds idolatrous amulets and guesses that this is the reason for their deaths. But then he urges that prayers and sacrifices be offered on their behalf (2 Macc. 12:42-46). How would this make sense unless those souls were in something like a purgatorial state?

Jesus stated, "And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt. 12:32). The "age to come" is likely the afterlife, suggesting that some sins can be forgiven and cleansed after death. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians there is a discussion of good works and the foundations upon which they are built. 
"Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw," says Paul, "each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done" (1 Cor. 3:12-13).
The fire will, in some cases, burn up a man's work and "he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:15). This is what the mystics often call the "fire of love"—the divine fire that torments those who have chosen to be separated from it and animates those who have chosen God. Or, as Eliot put it in The Four Quartets, "The only hope, or else despair/Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—/To be redeemed from fire by fire" ("Little Gidding," IV). 

Dante, not surprisingly, is a helpful guide when it comes to purgatory. Once Dante and Virgil had descended all the way through Hell, they came out the other side of the earth and saw the mountain of purgatory. Dante imagines it as a seven-storey mountain, with each level corresponding to one of the deadly sins: pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust. On each level of Mt. Purgatory the souls are exercised, punished, and cajoled out of the corresponding sin. For example, the prideful (on the first level) must carry heavy stones. Why? Because they had exalted themselves in life, so now they are pressed down to the ground. The envious are punished on the second level by having their eyelids sewn shut, for throughout their earthly lives they had always looked anxiously at the achievements of others, harbouring envy. The slothful are made to run and the gluttonous are starved. "We can infer," wrote St. John of the Cross, "the manner in which souls suffer in purgatory. The fire, when applied, would be powerless over them if they did not have imperfections from which to suffer. These imperfections are the fuel that catches on fire, and once they are gone there is nothing left to burn" (The Dark Night of the Soul, ch. 10.5). 

When is a person released from purgatory? As St. John's remark indicates, when the imperfections are gone and the souls are ready for the banquet of heaven. In The Divine Comedy, each individual soul realises this moment, for only the person in purgatory knows when he is ready for full participation in God's boundless love and perfect life. 

Angels and Devils

'They are intellectual natures, at the peak of creation.' ~ St. Thomas Aquinas 
The great Nicene Creed of the Church professes that we believe in things visible and invisible. In other words, there is a reality that extends beyond what is immediately apparent to the physical senses. Perhaps the most popularly known examples of these invisible realities are the mysterious creatures that are identified as the angels (CCC 328).

While the creatures that we call "angels" are known as such, the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers an interesting distinction. The word "angel" is really what these creatures do- "angel" designates their mission, which is to act in the corporeal world as emissaries of the Lord God. This mission is readily apparent from the manner in which the angels are identified in the Scriptures. The Catechism provides this insight:
"Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar and near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the people of God, just to cite a few examples. Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of John the Baptist and that of Jesus himself" (CCC 332).
Saint Thomas Aquinas considered the mission of these spiritual creatures to be to inform humanity of divine realities and so lead people to God. If angel denotes the mission of these creatures, what precisely are they? These creatures are spirits, which means that they are incorporeal beings of intellect and will, immortal by nature, and possessing abilities that exceed that of corporeal creatures. These spirits are not, as some propose, the souls of deceased humans, but are a distinct species of created beings. The Catechism clarifies:
"The profession of faith of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) affirms that God "from the beginning of time made at once out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly... " (CCC 327). 
The interactions of these spirits with humanity are enveloped in mystery. While the Catechism records the positive interventions of angels as they act to announce the great events of salvation history, the Scriptures record other angelic actions which are much more upsetting and off-putting. Angels announce the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah (Exodus 19). Angels act to bring terrifying chastisement upon both Israel and their enemies (2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21,2 Kings 19). Thus we can understand the response of both the shepherds (Luke 2:9) and the Mother of God (Luke 1:30) to the appearances of angels as being one of fear. These spirits are not the charming entities that have been popularised by some of the imagery of the culture, but are fierce creatures of incredible presence and power. 

Not all of these spirits are servants of the Lord. The Church is clear that some of these creatures have refused to serve God and are the enemies of the Lord and his creation. Their wills express themselves in malevolent actions, and their intellects have been perverted by their opposition to God: 
"Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called "Satan" or the "devil". The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: "The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing" (CCC 391). 

Humanity should not be dismissive concerning the influence and power of the devil and other fallen spirits. The rebellious angels did not lose the power of their incorporeal nature and because of this they remain capable of inflicting great harm, singling out for their particular attention all that is loved by God. Since they cannot hurt the Lord, they have turned in anger against his creation, especially against humanity. And yet, the Church assures us: 
"The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from that fact he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries- of a spiritual nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with the strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history... " (CCC 395).

Heaven

"This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity—this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed—is called 'heaven'," states the Catechism. "Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfilment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness" (par. 1024). 

In coming to the topic of heaven, we come to the end, the goal of this series. Heaven is the goal of the Faith. Everything we have talked about—God, Jesus, the Church, the sacraments, revelation, the saints, the liturgy—points to and culminates in heaven.

God's desire for his creatures and his creation is to share in his Trinitarian life, the life of perfect love. Heaven is love, love in the fullest sense—love completed. In a well-known and oft-quotes passages, the Apostle Paul wrote, "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13). In heaven, there will be no need for faith, for we will be face to face with the object of faith; there will be no need for hope, for all hope will be fulfilled. But love will stay, for the life of heaven is love. There are many different descriptions and images of heaven, in both the Bible and within the tradition. Each is inadequate, but each gives us a small taste, of what heaven is. One of those descriptions is "beatific vision," that is, the vision that makes us finally and fully happy. Thomas Aquinas says the spirit of man is structured in such a way that it moves outward toward the true, the good, and the beautiful. It longs for these realities; it seeks them in every situation. When the mind finds something true, it rejoices; when the will finds something good, it rejoices; when the soul finds something beautiful, it rejoices. And yet the mind, the will, and the soul are not satisfied in this life; they long and thirst for more. 
"The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion" (CCC 1045).
Heaven is beautiful, beyond anything that can be imagined or described. Thomas Aquinas said that three things are required for the beautiful: integritas, consonantia et claritas, wholeness, harmony, and radiance. Heaven's beauty, St. Bernard of Clairvaux said, cannot be taken in all at once. Rather, the more we see, the more we desire to see; the more we understand, the more we want to understand; the more we explore, the more we wish to explore. It's no accident that, in The Divine Comedy, St. Bernard is the guide who ushers Dante in to a vision of God. Dante sees what appears to be a white rose, made up of all of the saints and angels clustered around God: 
So now, appearing to me in the form of a white rose was Heavens sacred host, those whom with His own blood Christ made His bride, while the other host—that soaring see and sing the glory of the One who stirs their love, the goodness which made them great as they are, ... This unimperiled kingdom of all joy Abounding with those saints, both old and new Had look and love fixed all upon one goal.
O Triune Light which sparkles in one star Upon their sight, Fulfiller of full joy! Look down upon us in our tempest here! ~ Paradiso, Canto XXXI, 1-6, 25-30; translated by Mark Musa [Penguin Classics, 1986].
This vision of the community of the saints and angels provides another important clue: heaven is never experienced alone. To love God is to love all those things and people loved by God. The Church is the "household of God," (1 Tim. 3:15) and in heaven the Church triumphant is like a glorious and bustling household, where everyone has a distinctive task and where everyone works together in harmony. "Heaven is a stranger to isolation," wrote Joseph Ratzinger, "It is the open society of the communion of saints, and in this way the fulfilment of all human communion" (Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life [CUA Press, 1988], p. 235). 

Another great, biblical image for heaven is that of the city, the heavenly Jerusalem. Again, there is nothing passive or individualistic about this, for cities are filled with life and communal activities and festivity. Similarly, you can think of heaven as a game, with many participants gathered together around a common purpose, their energies and powers engaged. But the best image for heaven is given in the fourth and fifth chapters of the Book of Revelation: "After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, 'Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after this'" (Rev. 4:1). John the Revelator is taken up in the Spirit and stands in heaven, gazing upon the throne, and the one "who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald." Surrounding the central throne, the seat of God, are twenty-four thrones on which sit twenty-four "elders." The term John uses is presbyteroi, or priests. They are clothed in white robes and wear crowns on their heads. John then saw a seven branched candlestick, much like the Menorah in the temple, and four "living creatures"—like a man, an eagle, a lion, and a calf—and they were singing unceasingly: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty." And then, at the climax of this heavenly liturgy, a sacred text—a scroll sealed with seven seals—is brought forth. Who will open it? John despairs that anyone can be found. But his fears are unfounded: And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth; and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne" (Rev. 5: 6-7)

This is Jesus, the Lamb of God who was crucified and now stands risen from the dead. When he appears, the elders take up bowls of incense and sing a hymn, 
"Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth" (Rev. 5:9-10).
What does this resemble? What does it bring to mind? A figure seated upon a central chair, with priests in white robes and wearing crowns gathered around him? Candles, incense, singing, and the introduction of a sacred text? And the appearance, at the culmination of the ceremony, of the Lamb of God? Yes, what is being described here is the Mass. The Mass is not simply a gathering of the earthly community, nor is it merely a fellowship meal. The Mass is an opening into heaven, the door through which we gaze into the eternal worship of the angels and the saints in heaven. As we sing, "Holy, holy, holy," we join our voices to those of the angels: "May our voices be one with theirs." At the "Lamb of God," we participate even now in the heavenly worship of the Lamb of God, which never ends. When we hear the word of God here below, we listen to the eternal proclamation of the word in heaven: 
In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, par. 8)
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris: 

"I don't know any place on earth that better symbolizes the beatific vision than the north rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I first saw this window on a June day in 1989, just after I had arrived, jet-lagged and confused, to begin my doctoral studies. I was so mesmerized by this sight that I returned here every day until I went home for Christmas vacation. What drew me to this place? Well, this is much more than a compellingly beautiful arrangement; it is meant to evoke the vision of heaven. It is, of course, a circle, that mysterious shape that has no beginning and no end and is hence evocative of eternity. Also, the predominance of the numerical theme of eight, also evocative of that which stands outside of time." - Father Robert Barron, Episode 10 of CATHOLICISM, "World Without End: The Last Things"

TERMS AND NAMES: 

de Chardin, Teilhard (1881-1955 A.D.). A French Jesuit priest and philosopher trained as a palaeontologist and geologist who integrated theology and certain aspects of evolution.

Eliot, T.S. (1888-1965 A.D.). An American-born British playwright, literary critic and poet. He is one of the most important poets of the 20th century. He identified himself as Anglo-Catholic. His poem The Wasteland (1922) is a modernist masterpiece. 

Freud, Sigmund (1856-1939 A.D.). An Austrian neurologist who founded psychoanalysis. His work drew attention to the vastness of the unconscious mind and its tremendous influence on consciousness. Freud believed religion was a form of wish fulfilment.

Marx, Karl (1818-1883 A.D.). A German philosopher, sociologist, economic historian, journalist and socialist whose ideas are behind Communism and other forms of Marxism. He believed that religion is the "opium of the people." It is the drug of the "oppressed creature" and once people find liberation they will cast off religion since they have no need of it any more.

Sheen, Archbishop Fulton (1895-1979). Popular American priest and preacher, author, and philosopher. He is considered by many to be the most influential Catholic in the U.S. in the twentieth century. Millions watched his popular television series, "Life is Worth Living," every week and listened to his radio program, "The Catholic Hour." He wrote dozens of books on numerous topics, including Jesus, Mary, spirituality, politics, philosophy, and marriage. 

Virgil (70 B.C.-A.D. 19). Full name, Publius Vergilius Maro. One of the greatest of the ancient Roman poets. His three major works were the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the Aeneid, an epic poem about Rome. He also wrote several minor poems.
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