What will heaven be like?
It is not an unusual question. Sometimes it is asked with all the freshness of a child, other times with the anxiety of the old. It is not a question that admits of easy answers, nor a question for which language is sufficient. The cynic says, “Nobody knows.” That attitude falls short of the fullness of human experience. There are stories. There are also things that point and make suggestions. There is, also, a pattern of reasoning and seeing that stands beside the various witnesses that have come down to us. A pattern of particular note is the statement that “the Old Testament is shadow, and the New Testament is the icon of the age to come.” This idea is stated plainly in both St. Maximus the Confessor (East) and St. Ambrose of Milan (West). It represents part of the primitive consensus of the Church, a foundational way of seeing the world and the nature of our spiritual life.
The notion is simple: the age to come (heaven) is the true Reality, towards which everything else can only point. This does not deny that what we now know is “real.” Instead, it says that it lacks something in its reality. It’s real, but not completely so. Putting this into words is nearly impossible. However, it gets put into stories, and the stories have enough commonality to suggest that they share a common experience.
Consider these passages:
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken… Hebrews 12:26-28
The earth (the created universe as we know it) is such that it can be “shaken.”
“…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2Cor. 4:18)
The reality that we see is “transient,” it “passes away.” There is, however, a Reality (the unseen) that is eternal. It is this that cannot be shaken. There is a relationship between the two. When we think of the Incarnation of Christ, we see not the change of the material world (Christ’s flesh is human flesh). We see that which cannot change (the Divine) united to that which changes (the human). It is that which changes that is, in the end, transformed.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1Cor. 15:42-49
This pattern, a movement from the less-real to the truly-real, from the transient to the eternal, from the shakable to the unshakable, is the same pattern that we see referenced in St. Maximus and St. Ambrose. It is the pattern that is common to typology and patristic allegory.
Of interest to me is how this understanding preserves the integrity of the “lesser” things. The shadow is not abolished by the icon, nor the icon by the Reality itself. In Christ’s word, they are “fulfilled.” It is a pattern that can guide our thinking about things that are beyond us.
An example worth considering can be seen in the topic of male and female. Few things are stated as clearly in the tradition as this particular pattern. Genesis states that God made humankind “male and female.” Jesus Himself focuses our attention on that specific statement when teaching about the nature of marriage. We may presume that the pattern exists (or may be seen) first as shadow.
That shadow is described in the opening chapters of Genesis. We are given interesting information. The two (male and female) have the reality of being “one flesh” (rather than as two utterly distinct realities: one does not exist without the other.) All of the commandments in Genesis (be fruitful; multiply, govern, increase, etc.) are all given to “you plural” (male and female). Also, we are told about the first sin and the role of male and female within that action. The consequences fall upon both of them together.
The shadow of male and female continues throughout the Old Testament – in the Law (particularly in the laws governing marriage and family) – as well as in the prophets (where the image of Israel as a spouse is introduced). Perhaps most striking of all, the first hint of redemption (and Messiah) are seen within the context of male and female in the promise of a “seed” (offspring) who will crush the serpent’s head. (Gen. 3:15)
The shadow passes to icon in the pages of the New Testament. Matthew’s gospel opens with a genealogy, moving then to the birth of Christ. St. Luke opens with the Annunciation and the birth of Christ, followed by a genealogy. A birth (in which is gathered up the promise of Genesis) is the New Testament’s introduction of the Icon. The story of Israel’s deliverance is rooted and fulfilled in the “yes” of a woman, only, this time, the role of “husband” (in some sense) is fulfilled by God Himself.
The New Testament pulls the curtain from the icon throughout its text. The image of the marriage feast, prominent in the parables of Jesus, are revealed in St. Paul to be pointing towards the relationship between Christ and His Church. Just as there is no Adam without Eve, no male without the female, so Christ is not without His bride, the Church. It might strain the ears of some to hear that Christ is “without” anything (such is the blindness wrought by Protestant interpretations of Scripture). But St. Paul, working from the given that the woman is the “body” of the man (“bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh”) teaches that the Bride of Christ, the Church, is the Body of Christ. And not just that the Church is the Body of Christ, but that Christ is the “head” of the Church (as he will say elsewhere that man is the “head” of the woman). Even so, shockingly, he says:
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1Cor 12:21)
The “whole Adam” is the human race. Christ is the Second Adam, and the “whole” Second Adam includes Christ and His bride, male and female (neither of which disappears into the other). Modern individualism has largely destroyed the Biblical understanding of Church, replacing it with an institutional interpretation in which it becomes a mere fellowship. However, the reality abides. The New Adam and His bride exist among us as icon of the age to come in which the fullness of that union will be made manifest.
As we look towards the age to come, those who mistakenly take St. Paul’s statement that there is “neither male nor female in Christ Jesus” to intimate a disappearance of gender, take up the notion of the abolition of the past, contradicting everything that we know. Instead, we must understand that what passes away is that which is less, that is, a lesser reality of male and female. What remains and is unshaken is a fullness and greatness of male and female compared to which what has gone before pales.
Mary is “more woman” than Eve, an iconic fulfillment of which Eve was but shadow. The Bride of Christ (and the brilliance that she shall be) gathers in the Mother of God and is more like her than like Eve. The greatness of Mary that so scandalizes some is simply an expression of what is being revealed in her. It is in this direction (lesser to greater) that we should turn our hearts when we consider these things.
By the same token, it is of note that Christ’s primary revelation within the Church comes in the Divine Liturgy, the marriage feast of the Lamb. There, the Bridegroom, together with His Bride, enter the marriage chamber in a communion of Divine Life. That we frequently lose sight of Christ as Bridegroom and the Church as Bride says much about our own distractions and distortions. The prayers of the Church constantly invoke the language of our common life, remembering the Theotokos and all the saints, reminding us that our communion is in the totality of Christ, in behalf of all and for all.
What is heaven like? It is something like what we already know, but not in the way we know it. Adam and Eve of the Garden are like the Bridegroom and the Bride, but you do not see the former until you see the latter. Those who begin to see and understand the Eucharist, and the risen Christ revealed in that feast, begin to see everything else in a different light, and under the dawning rays of the age to come, the outline of what they shall be.
“Mary is “more woman” than Eve, an iconic fulfillment of which Eve was but shadow. The Bride of Christ (and the brilliance that she shall be) gathers in the Mother of God and is more like her than like Eve. The greatness of Mary that so scandalizes some is simply an expression of what is being revealed in her. It is in this direction (lesser to greater) that we should turn our hearts when we consider these things.” This is a beautiful explanation and reflection on the shadows and icons . . . lesser to greater. I have never heard these thoughts expressed in this way, and I read it twice, trying to digest your wonderful words here. Thank you.
I fear I might have tried to say too much in too few words (the article was getting quite long already). But, no one does as good a job with this as CS Lewis. He has an instinct in his fiction in which the Greater is a movement forward towards Reality, towards the age to come, etc. So, his heaven is “more solid” than hell (The Great Divorce). The presence of the Eldila (That Hideous Strength) alter the sense of what is up and down, etc. I think he got some of this flavor from Charles Williams whose mystical novels a replete with it (The Place of the Lion).
I have personal experiences of this. I’ve been in the presence of a wonder-working icon in which I felt that gravity was shifting, and that I was being “pulled” into it. In that sense, it “weighed” more than anything around it. I’ve also been with holy persons a few times (possible saints, I suppose) in which the only word I could use to describe them was “large.” They weren’t “holy” in the sense that they felt more moral or better behaved. They simply seemed more real in a way that made things around them seem less real. They were just the opposite of “ethereal.”
I wanted to include such stories in the article, but it was getting too long.
I think that any woman, standing in the presence of the Theotokos, could experience her own “woman-ness” in a way that nothing else would provoke. Indeed, I would say that women cannot really begin to understand what it is to be women apart from her. Men, for that matter, will not know what it is to be truly men without her. And, it is also in the same manner that we cannot possibly know and understand Christ apart from her. Christ (incarnate) does not exist apart from her. There is no such thing as a woman-less man.
The first Adam had “woman” inside him in some manner (she was taken out of him). But her being “in” him was “not good.” She needed to be beside him – so that humanity was fully male and female – for things to be whole and true.
The Mary-less Jesus in much contemporary Christianity is a diminished Jesus. Worse still, is a sort of genderless Jesus, a Jesus that has become so ethereal that he no longer seems male.
In That Hideous Strength, Lewis explores these problems (not in terms of Jesus and Mary), but in terms of Mark and Jane Studdock, both of whom cannot find themselves until they find themselves as truly male and female. That aspect of the novel bothers many younger readers – which is a comment on how anti-male and anti-female our present culture is. Humanity is becoming “thinner” a watercolor caricature of the truth. The birth rate is crashing, marriage is disappearing. We’re becoming less human.
I could (and probably should) write much more about this.
Interesting description of the ‘reality distortion field’? of the wonderworking icons…
Except, it’s real…and we’re just play-acting!
I still struggle to communicate the feeling…just staring and trying to rationalize something that cannot be contained or defined.
Thanks again, Fr. Stephen
‘We are becoming less human’
Yes, primarily perhaps because of the eradication of the ‘fulness’ of the female?
If the fullness of the human – the image of God – only comes into the world through that agency of the female, manifested in its fullness in the Theotokos, then the movement away from the deepest significance of the female is that which leads us away from our humanity.
This is something which has trouble d me for some time
There is a sense which that which should be rightfully hidden, discrete, is made ‘visible’ and thus loses its Truth. So feminism brings the female into the false light of the world, one which does not know the veiled Truth of the female manifest in the Theotokos.
Now because of the rise of so many isms, many feminists despair as all their attempts to ‘make things better’, turn to dust. Witness the hostility of the Trans movement to the Female.
Once again “The Great Divorce” comes to mind. The greatest and most complete picture of the age to come – for those of us who need a picture to give them hope.
Fr Thomas Hopko of blessed memory made reference to a book called “The Flight from Woman” by Karl Stern, who was a Jewish psychologist who became Roman Catholic. I have long had this on my “to read” list, along with “Woman and the Salvation of the World”. From what Fr Tom said, Stern’s book seems to describe exactly what you have expressed in your comment.
Miroslav Wolf wrote a chapter in “Exclusion and Embrace” about male and female being “not without” one another. This was the most helpful thing I ever read on the subject as a Protestant, and your using the term in today’s article brings some things into focus for me. I believe what the Church teaches; it has taken me some time to un-knot my own thoughts and the experiences behind them regarding the whole male and female thing. Yannaras helped me a lot with thinking about the iconicity of it… and I still have a ways to go, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Yes, please do write more on it, as you can.
Thanks for this Father.
I was one who used to come to a standstill and say “we don’t know” what the age to come, Paradise, Heaven, will be like. But the way you present the picture given us through scripture, now this gives us something to imagine! Yes, all things are made new, renewed, not back to its original form, but more glorious, because Christ will be all and in all. What we are now, what we see with the eye, hear with the ear will be the same, but not in form. All will be glorified, as St Paul describes. A flower will be a flower but like none we’ve seen before. Same with music. Same with our relationships, they will be in true communion. This is how I understand your words as best I could. I would very much like for you to write more, as you mentioned you may do.
I have one question though. I can not think about the age to come without thinking about seeing Jesus face to face. Here’s another place where I come to a standstill. I get emotional…fearful and at the very same time that’s all I care about…I just want to see Jesus. Even knowing about the dread judgement. Doesn’t sound rational, I know, but those are my thoughts. A very great desire.
My question Father…what do you think it will be like seeing Jesus face to face? Do you ever think about that moment? Please pardon my childlike question!
Jesus – face to face
This is easily the sweetest and the most dreadful thing imaginable. Christ contains the whole of who we are and who we are intended to be. To behold Him face to face is to behold, in personal form, everything! At the same time, He is utterly the truth of all things: the Logos. It is dreadful for it inevitably means judgment – all that is (or has been) false, mean, evil, twisted, etc., in me is seen for precisely that.
This is the dilemma of the two thieves. They both see the same thing. But one acknowledges all of that and asks to be remembered in Paradise. The second sees his own sin but wants a reality of all of those dark things without consequence – for God to become what he is (in the worst sense). God has already made Himself to be what the thief is – so identified with him that he shares his crucifixion. But the wicked thief will not bear the little shame of his death and does not hear the joy that would also be his.
Nothing is sweeter than the face of Christ.
There’s sweet shame and joy and awe when in the presence of Christ. The emphasis is always in being seen by Him rather than gazing upon Him ourselves,. There’s degrees of this….
How do you see monasticism or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom fitting into the context of your discussion of male and female, Christ and Church? (A beautiful discussion, BTW.)
I was always struck by Lewis’ fullness or denseness of life that got simply richer in “The Great Divorce.” It makes sense to talk about that in terms of gravity! And this is truly “life abundantly” as well.
Reading your article, it strikes me that all the abstract “isms” we are constantly subject to (greatly accelerated IMO in twitter-world) make us less and less real by contrast.
We are slowly being lifted out of our painful state of life and into the Heavenly realm. A realm of perfection; a realm we can only dream of while here on earth and in our bodies, trodding along in fortitude and hope. We cannot know what fullness lies ahead just as we cannot know what and who we really are. Only when we pass on to meet our Lord, will He be the one to show us and give us the complete understanding we long for here, while waiting for His eternal peace.
Thankyou for sharing your thoughts with us! God bless…..
Thank you Father. Very profound thought about the second thief. Had he had his way the dark reality would not be ‘shaken’, thus preferring the second Adam to essentially remain as the first.
Lord have mercy! Makes me shudder, these things!
Dino, thank you too. I remember in the past you referred to such an emphasis. Such a thought is noteworthy. I have to think on that.
To be seen by Him, as Father said, is everything. This dreadfully includes my wicked deeds. Knowing this, I am not able right now to separate in my consciousness, His gaze on me apart from mine on Him.
Wow….don’t know what to say.
Yet, doesn’t make me any less want to see Him face to face. That’s the only way I can word it. That’s all I want. Crazy, huh? Because there is going to be a transformation. Now what does that entail?
No wonder we repeatedly pray, without ceasing!, Lord have mercy…
Another thought, tying into Dino’s comment about our experience of the different degrees of Christ’s gaze upon us and Mary’s question about celibacy and monasticism. I think this is what you mean, Dino, by ‘different degrees’… that the more set apart you are in this world to Christ (holiness), the more clear, the more intense, will be your experience of knowing Christ in that age (and even now in this age)…that is, “knowing” as we define knowing. Yes?
No need for dread. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us… To meet Love as Person face to face will be more glorious than we can imagine. The only “fear” we need anticipate is that of awe. Awareness of our unworthiness will only magnify our joy at what a great gift we have been given in His endless love.
I think that celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is, if you will, about pursuing an even greater “maleness” or “femaleness” rather than less. My experience of Orthodox nuns, for example, is that they are feminine in an almost transcendent manner that is hard to describe. They are absolutely not neutered. Their womanhood reminds me of the Theotokos. Of course, I’m speaking here in experiential terms because I have no intellectual terms to account for it.
Mary, thanks so much for your encouraging words! I do agree that to see Christ face to face will be unspeakably glorious. I just do not want to presume, and I don’t, that He turns His face from my sins. Actually, that is the dread Father alluded to. It will be face to face, in that ‘One is Holy’ face, that the extent of my sins are revealed. That gives me great pause! I can understand why certain prayers and holy people say to remember your day of death, to have it ever before you. They say that a lot.
But I’m with you, Mary, in that Christ God is love. And His love heals. He truly gives life.
I do not mean to give the impression that I live in dread. I trust that He works for our good, that He leads, guides and protects, that He is with us along with all those with Him. But I also do think about that Day. I do not take it lightly. It’s going to be a Day like none other.
Father Stephen, I have been trying to find teachings of the Fathers on the “New Earth” and was wondering if you could speak to that in light of this reflection, or point me to some source material? I admit I often feel less than inspired by much of the talk about “heaven” and “light” and have always felt uncomfortable when John says things like “neither was there anymore sea” and no sun or moon. All of these things we love so much about our planet: will they be in the Kingdom?
I will forever remember my first entry into an Orthodox Church. There was Mary with the Christ child in her lap. Both beckoning and warning at the same time. Come closer, if you dare. I was almost physically thrown back and had to catch my breath.
Now years later only calling her Theotokos will do. The word resonates like a fine musical instrument full of warm over tones and the the deep throated rumble of a good eson pointing toward the Incarnate one in whom and through whom we have life. More spacious than the heavens yet inexpressibly intimate at the same time.
Tears of longing, hope and fulfillment mixed with a joyful sadness. The Bridal Chamber of my Son awaits–His tomb, the place of Ressurection. Blessed Theotokos save us.
I’ve not seen anything particularly reliable (or memorable) about the New Earth. I have no idea about the exact relation between this present material order and the age to come, except that they are connected. I’ve always presumed that they are connected in the manner of the resurrected Christ to His body in the tomb. It was raised “imperishable,” etc.
But, we certainly don’t pass into some sort of vague existence. It is more real.
Thanks Father. Do you have any thoughts on Pope St. John Paul II’s theology of the body?
I’ve deleted the last bits of our conversation. I think it was going to go in an unfruitful direction. It is very hard to put these things into words – and I think I was doing a poor job of it.
I’ve read references to it, but I’ve never actually read it.
Male is not without the female, the female is not without the male.
It is of note that the Theotokos is honored as the “Abbess of Mt. Athos,” and that the local explanation of the absence of other women on the Holy Mountain is simply out of deference to her. That is to say, that the monks of Mt. Athos do not explain the absence of women on the mountain in terms of something problematic, but in terms of something supremely true of the Theotokos. Needless to say, nuns would say much the same of Christ. I know that in the RC tradition, nuns are seen as “brides” of Christ.
I think the Christ-without-Mary version of Christianity that came in with certain versions of Protestantism is alien to everything that went before. I have written before (following the lead of Fr. Tom Hopko) that a number of aspects of Protestantism have roots in Islam rather than Christianity. Oddly, Mary receives more honor among many Muslims than among many Protestants.
But, the first prophecy of the Messiah specifically describes Him as the “Seed” of the Woman. It was not a prophecy given to Adam, but to Eve. The mystery is that Christianity is given to us in terms of male and female, and that they are terms that cannot be dismissed. The tradition points us properly in how that reality is maintained and pursued. It is simply the case that Jesus may not be known, truly and fully, apart from Mary because it would be make-believe. She is there. If you see Him on the Cross, she is there. If you can’t see her, then you’re not standing in the right place.
And, of course, every human being carries within them both their father and their mother. If that is not “honored” within us, then we do not yet know the truth of our existence. We cannot and should not seek to distill ourselves away from the fulness of the reality that is male and female. There is much that has to be pondered in silence – but it hovers over everything in our lives.
The synergy of male and female is the warp and woof of creation. It is quite literally everywhere. It is also intrinsic to sacrament. Unfortunately it was also the first gift disordered by our rebellion against God.
That disordered version played heavily in Nietzsche with his Apollonian-Dionysian dichotomy. Freud and indeed all of the late 19th century thinker’s that distilled the most destructive elements of the modern project.
Although so much a part of our lives it can easily be taken for granted, the cosmic interplay of male and female is a deep mystery.
In keeping with my own simple thoughts, I believe God created man and woman in His image and to pro-create. In His image? meaning “spiritually” in His image. We are His creatures or children of God, carrying His Divine nature. If one chooses to respond to God’s call through marriage, or priesthood or becoming a monk, God sees all of this a good and for His purpose. Our responsibility is to respond and be faithful to the call – whichever one it is and for reasons we may not completely understand. Understand? We don’t really need to understand it all, but instead live in trust and hope that God knows what He is doing with our souls to polish them for eternal life. It is our reciprocation and ongoing faithful response that is important. God bless!
Paula et al, re seeing Christ face to face. It strikes me that we won’t really know ourselves until that happens
I appreciate your comments…thank you! I appreciate your thoughts about the male-female thing and about procreation. I would like to divert for a moment and comment about understanding ‘all things’. I see myself in much of what you say.
It is true we do not have to understand ‘all things’. We do not have to understand everything to have devotion. I agree with you. I am a simple thinker too. There are some things (like philosophy, some areas of science, and some fictional writings, like Tolkien and the like) where I have trouble discerning pertinent truths. Poetry is another example. My mind is dulled in these areas. And I realize this and would like to understand these areas better, so that I may be able to have a better understanding of life in general and God in particular; so that I may be able to learn from others who have such knowledge. Language utilizes all these areas, I believe, for our benefit. I will never be able to match the knowledge of the ‘masters’/teachers. It is not my desire to do so. I would just like to have an understanding of what other folks are talking about. But I know my understanding will always be limited.
I would especially like to have a better grasp of poetry because I have noticed that our Syriac fathers speak in this genre. For me it is a welcome change from the philosophical/metaphysical/scholastic approach. That said, I have learned from both approaches. I am very thankful for that. Every tongue, every language, every approach, has the capacity to speak of the revelation of God.
So, you are right. It is not necessary to know everything. Head knowledge is not necessary for faith. But if some folks have many questions, head knowledge can certainly help fill in the blanks. I have found this to be true. But the key is to do this prayerfully, asking God to show you what you need to know. He knows exactly what we need. The beautiful thing in this is each of us can go about searching in our own particular way (we gravitate to an area that poses the least resistance to learning) and God comes to us right at that very spot!
Again, universally speaking, one approach is not better than the other. God is everywhere present. Mankind is diverse. Schooled or unschooled, and at every level of knowledge, one can know God if He is sought. Because we know it is the heart that God knows and wants to transform to His likeness!
In His image? meaning “spiritually” in His image.
Maria, I believe that the function(s) of our bodies is also an aspect of His image. We are not created only in spirit; the fullness of our being includes the physical. The Incarnation of God in Christ, and his work in the material world, is not a lesser a part of His Image.
Our society tends to take a very gnostic viewpoint towards the Image of God, ignoring the body as something that passes away and elevating the spirit as the only thing that, in the end, matters. But the Image of God is imprinted in the Incarnation; we will be resurrected bodily. It is difficult to clearly define but we are cut from whole cloth.
Janine…yes, I believe what you say is true!
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1Cor 13:12.
Father like to quote this verse in his posts about ‘becoming’.
Hi Paula AZ: Your comment is very well put and understood. We do all learn from one another and are presented with those who can provide more (or less) as we need it. God puts those people (with or without) knowledge in our path. He is polishing our souls and we are very individual creatures too! He must be very busy…..God bless!!
Hi Byron: Yes, I understand what you are saying and perhaps I did not express myself properly – I was considering the divine side of our nature being made in the image of God. Our bodies are very important as they are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we need to take care of our bodies just like caring for anything else God gives us. True, it is all one as we will resurrect body and soul. Sometimes I have difficulty with these people who inflict injury on themselves (flagelation & may have not spelled that correctly) because while they believe they are suffering for and with Christ & His crucifixion, I see that God send us what we need or are lacking to polish our souls or teach us. It might be a special calling to suffer in that manner doing bodily harm to one’s self, however I have not come to terms with it. We die and rise in big or small ways each day however the Crucifixion for Jesus, I like to leave for Him knowing He did that for us. (I’m open to comments) God bless…..
Forgive me for taking your comment a bit too literally, Maria! I fully agree. May God bless!
Hi Byron: No need to forgive but I will of course since you have asked for it – I really could see how you came to that thought from what I wrote. God bless!!
Hi Byron: All is forgiven since you asked for forgiveness however I really could see how you came to your thoughts from what I had written. God bless!!
Fr Stephen, what does Jesus mean by in his Father’s house there are many rooms, & that he goes there to prepare a place for us?
Dear Father Stephen,
Thank you for reminding us of our true home…our heavenly home. It is I think a great mystery but my feeble attempts to understand bring me back to an amazing book, Wounded by Love . The Life and Wisdom of St Porphyrios. The mystical experiences of St Porphyrios as he describes pulls back the curtain a bit revealing heaven . With fear and awe he brings us there as much as permitted. “When a person is filled by the grace of God, he becomes different —his soul leaps ! He hears His voice and His soul rejoice. Grace impels me to suffer the same thing. My voice changes, my face changes, everything changes.” These experiences , are described in the last few chapters of this book and are an invitation , I think to yearn for the next life.
Wold love to hear your impression.
Blessings , Katherine
In Heaven as on Earth, and the connection seen through Theotokos as all Christ’s Mercy is received through Her as a real stairway to Heaven.
That what Christ is doing for us is truly unique to us – not generic. But, on the whole, I don’t know.
As of yesterday getting to the blog has acquired a warning: ‘your connection to this site is not secure’. V. strange..
Same error message with mine. Have to go through two screens to override. It still says “!Not secure” in the search bar.
The site’s certificate expired. It seems that it’s been renewed now.
Yes, the site administrator for Ancient Faith got it straightened out. All clear. All safe.
Yep! Fixed! 🙂
Though the search bar still says “!Not secure”.
I’m going to ignore that!
Regarding celibacy for the Kingdom, “That Hideous Strength” has this passage near the end of the chapter “Real Life is Meeting.”
“But [Jane Studdock, the female protagonist] had been conceiving [the world beyond nature] as “spiritual” in the negative sense—as some neutral, or democratic, vacuum where differences disappeared, where sex and sense were not transcended but simply taken away. Now the suspicion dawned upon her that there might be differences and contrasts all the way up, richer, sharper, even fiercer, at every rung of the ascent. How if this invasion of her own being in marriage from which she had recoiled, often in the very teeth of instinct, were not, as she had supposed, merely a relic of animal life or patriarchal barbarism, but rather the lowest, the first, and the easiest form of some shocking contact with reality which would have to be repeated—but in ever larger and more disturbing modes—on the highest levels of all?
“’Yes,’ said the Director. ‘There is no escape. If it were a virginal rejection of the male, He would allow it. Such souls can bypass the male and go on to meet something far more masculine, higher up, to which they must make a yet deeper surrender. But your trouble has been what old poets called Daungier. We call it Pride. You are offended by the masculine itself. …The male you could have escaped, for it exists only on the biological level. But the masculine none of us can escape. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.”
As an Evangelical I first stumbled on this progression from shadow to icon to Reality in trying to understand the role of the Mosaic law for Christians. In my circles, in good Evangelical fashion, we emphasized the inability of law (which we took to mean obedience to any command, good works of any sort) to save us, salvation coming instead by grace through faith. We saw a dichotomy in which law was the wrong kind of thing to save us and grace was the right kind. Indeed, the point of the law was to demonstrate our inability to keep the law so that despairing of our own efforts we might receive God’s grace in Christ through faith.
I puzzled over this, however, wondering how it fitted with Christ’s fulfilling the law rather than abolishing it. I also wondered how it fitted with the Psalmist’s exalted view of the law (e.g., “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet) and, indeed, with the New Testament’s exalted view of it. Reading St. Irenaeus, I stumbled on an answer. He compares the law to a torch and the coming of the Son of God to the sun rising. On a dark night a man blesses his torch for lighting his path. Once the sun rises, he discards the torch as a burden. The torch is not the wrong kind of thing but too little of the right kind. The very quality—light—that the man treasures in the torch renders the torch obsolete when the greater light appears. Similarly, the law was a tremendous blessing, a life-giving light in a dark world. And by being the right kind of thing, feeble as it was in retrospect, it prepared men to recognize the true Light when He appeared in our flesh in all His fullness.
I’ve come to suspect (and I suppose this is what your article is saying) that much more of the Scriptures and of the world we inhabit are like this, both the goodness and the feebleness of things pointing to their ultimate fulfillment. The Mosaic law forbade making an image of God, not because images were eternally wrong, but because the true Image had not yet appeared. The sacrifices had to be repeated year after year because the true Sacrifice had not been made. The way to the most holy place was barred to all except the high priest, and that only once a year, because the true High Priest had not yet opened the way (through His own flesh) into the true holy of holies. Earthly pleasures do not enduringly satisfy, and our lives end in death, because the true joys and our true life have not yet appeared.
Excellent, Reid. Thanks for this.