“ENTER THOU INTO THE JOY OF THY LORD.”
As soon as the soul shall have entered into the bliss of God, there will be nothing to afflict her more: God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, shall be any more: for the former things are passed away. And he who sat on the throne said: Behold I make all things new (Apoc. xxi. 4, 5). In Heaven there is no more sickness, nor poverty, nor trouble: there are no more successions of day and night, nor of cold or heat. There is a perpetual day, always calm; a continual spring, ever teeming with delights. There are no more persecutions or jealousies: in that kingdom of love all love each other tenderly, and each rejoices in the happiness of the other as if it were his own. There are no more fears, because the soul confirmed in grace can no more sin and lose her God: Behold, I make all things new. Everything is new, and every thing consoles and satisfies: There is every thing that can please. The sight shall be satisfied in gazing at that city of perfect beauty (Lam. ii. 15). What delight would it be to behold a city, the streets of which were paved with crystal; the palaces of silver, with ceilings of gold, and all adorned with festoons of flowers! Oh, how much more beautiful will be the city of Paradise! What will it be to behold those citizens of Heaven all clad in royal robes! There, as St. Augustine says, all are kings: “As many citizens, so many kings.” What to see Mary, who will appear more beautiful than the whole of Paradise! What to see the Divine Lamb, Jesus the Spouse! St. Teresa had once but a passing glimpse of the hand of Jesus Christ; and so great was its beauty that she remained, as it were, entranced. The sense of smelling shall be gratified by the odours of Paradise; the hearing with heavenly harmonies. St. Francis once heard from an Angel a single stroke of his viola, and he thought to die of pleasure. What will it be to hear all the Saints and Angels singing in choir the glories of God! They shall praise thee for ever and ever (Ps. lxxxiii. 5). What to hear Mary praising God! The voice of Mary in Heaven, says St. Francis de Sale’s, shall be like that of a nightingale in the grove, which surpasses the song of every other bird. In a word, there will be found every delight that can possibly be desired.
But these delights which we have as yet considered are but amongst the least of Paradise. The Good which constitutes Heaven is the Sovereign Good, God Himself: “All that we look for is contained in one word, God,” says St. Augustine. The reward which the Lord promises us is not only the beauties, the harmonies, and the other joys of that blessed city; the principal reward is God Himself, that is to see and love God face to face: I am thy reward exceeding great (Gen. xv. 1). St. Augustine says that if God were to show His face to the damned, “hell would straightway be changed into a lovely Paradise.” And he adds that if a soul which had departed this life were allowed to choose between seeing God and enduring the pains of hell or of not seeing Him and to be delivered from hell, “it would choose rather to see the Lord and to suffer the pains of hell.”
In this life we cannot comprehend the joy of seeing and loving God face to face; but we may form some idea of it from knowing, in the first place, that Divine love is so sweet that even in this life it has lifted from earth, not only the souls, but even the bodies of the Saints. St. Philip Neri was once lifted up into the air, together with the bench which he had grasped. St. Peter of Alcantara was also raised from the earth clinging to a tree, which was torn up by the roots. Moreover, we know that the holy Martyrs, through the sweetness of Divine love, rejoiced in the midst of their very torments. St. Vincent, while he was tortured, spoke in such a way, says St. Augustine, “that it seemed as if one Vincent suffered and another spoke.” St. Lawrence, whilst on the gridiron, mocked at the tyrant and said: “Turn me, and eat.” Yes, says St. Augustine, because Lawrence, inflamed with this fire of Divine love, did not feel the burning. Besides, what sweetness does a sinner experience, even in this world, in weeping over his sins! Whence St. Bernard says: “If it be so sweet to weep for Thee, what will it be to rejoice because of Thee!” What sweetness, too, does a soul feel to whom the goodness of God and the mercies bestowed on her by Jesus Christ, and the love He has borne and still bears her, are disclosed by a ray of light in the time of prayer! The soul then feels as if she were dissolved, and fainting away through love. And yet on this earth we do not see God as He really is, we see Him but obscurely: We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face (1 Cor. xiii. 12). At present we have, as it were, a bandage before the eyes: God is hidden under the veil of Faith, and does not disclose Himself to us. What will it be when the veil is taken away from our eyes and we behold God face to face! Then we shall see how beautiful is God, how great, how just, how perfect, how amiable, how loving!