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Is There A Cosmological Heaven? — 5 Comments

  1. Let us acknowledge up front that the answers do not lie on this side of our transition from this life to the hereafter. We can quibble about angels dancing on the head of a pin, but until the size of the angels and the area of the pinhead are specified (the latter is variable and the former is undefined), it’s all speculation.

    I agree that there is no “there” to a cosmological heaven. However, after physical death of the body, the elemental components (atoms and all of the subparticles) are recycled (matter and energy are interchangeable, but the totality remains constant). To me, that means that our bodies in fact remain parts of the universe, less specified than they are when we are alive, and thus we do go to a physical “heaven”.

    Similarly, I believe there is no theological “heaven” as a place where we wear white gowns and practice our heavenly “Kumbaya” forever. But, like our bodies become disassembled yet remain as part of the physical universe, our souls withdraw from that physical universe and become united with God, the ultimate energy that lies behind everything we know–and don’t know. Heaven is not a place, but a state of being in unity with the founding force. Reunited, I should say. I suspect we lose our identity as an individual but share in the omniscient awareness of everything. Again, angels and pinheads.

    We look to the heavens when we pray because that is where awesomeness and wonder lie, where the unknown is, and where we hope to join God and all the spirits and souls. Not because heaven as a place is there but because heaven as a concept can best be appreciated through the cosmos and its wonder.

    Steve Lanoux

  2. I begin, as we all do, the Rosary each day with a recitation of the Apostle’s Creed, which contains the line “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” And I do so believe. So.. just where is this resurrected body going to be? It will need a surface to stand on, air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, etc., etc. This sure sounds like a “place” to me.

    But I don’t expect such a “place” to be anywhere in today’s observable universe. After all, isn’t there supposed to be a “New Heavens and a New Earth” while the present world is passing away? I suspect that wherever the post-Second Coming Heaven will be, it will be located in an entirely new cosmos.

  3. Fr. James,

    It is great that you are going to be a speaker at that conference.

    Well, agreeing that we need to have common understanding of the definition of those terms, I would start with the second question. Do I believe in a theological heaven? My answer is yes, as a Catholic who believes heaven is a state of perfect life and denitive hapiness in which we see God as he is and we live with Christ. However, this answer made me think in two points:

    First, to believe in a theological heaven also implies a moral issue for me: Am I making this heaven evident enough to the people I encounter in my life? I came to this question because as I was reading you post I recalled that passage from the Gospel of John (Jn, 14, 8-9) when: Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father, so how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Therefore, if we call heaven the perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity, in which we see God as he is, face to face (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1023-1025), and if we are called to show Christ, and the Father, to the world through us, we should also be called to make the heaven evident to our neighbors. Of course, given that Phillip had some problems in recognizing this with Jesus himself, I guess it is not as easy or quick as it might seem. However, the question remains for me, Am I making this heaven evident enough to the people I encounter in my life? Am I doing “my job” well enough? Am I being an instrument of His peace? If so, why are they still wondering if there is a heaven?

    Second, to believe in a perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity made me think in what perfection means, and if I can see and achieve perfection in my every day life. We know that etymologically something perfect means something completely done, something that does not need anything else to be better. I understand that this is the reason why some cultures saw the apparently unchanging or immutable motions of the sky, at naked eye, as a paradigm of perfection. If the sky does not change, it is perfect, completly done, in contrast to all our changing world, down here, where each process is a sign of imperfection, that shows it is not completely done yet. However, I am not sure to share a sense of perfection as restricted to something completely statical, rigid. For example, I am thinking in musical master pieces. Let’s think of the Four Seasons of Fr. Vivaldi, I could not add or take a single note to improve it, so it is perfect, completely made, but it is not static. Or, let’s think about those special moments with our loved ones, when we do not need anything else. It is more than poetry to affirm that we are touching heaven then. And lets think, of course, of the Mass, when and where heaven touches earth. In this sense, although we do not have a perfect life here on earth, we do have some moments or bits of perfection, of not static perfection but of dynamic perfection. Our lives are still not perfect because we could still miss someone or something while we are having those perfect moments. However, through the gift of beauty, we can have an advance, in those moments or fragments, of the definite perfect life that we hope, which would be timeless, given that then or there we will need nothing else, not even an extra second.

    Now, Do I believe in a cosmological heaven? Well, again as Catholic, I look forward the life of the world to come. With the Church I believe that: “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness… The universe itself will be renewed… Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man… The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1042- 1048). Then, I think the cosmological heaven is not a current reality at this time (there is not a “completely done” part in it), but as all the visible universe is destined to be transformed, to come in its fullness, to be completely done, it is a reality to come, in which we look forward.

    Thank you for inviting us to meditate on this.

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