Your first day in Heaven…

My love lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
“Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come….”  (Song of Songs 2:10)

songs

I love when God surprises me!

On the way home from running errands, I stopped by a church to visit Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  I was alone except for the organist, and a vocalist who were seated at the organ and whispering.

Kneeling, I rested my head on my arms, hoping not to be distracted by the musicians. Suddenly, the organist launched into the the majestic tones of Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.  How grand it sounded, as music poured out of the huge pipe organ, filling every nook and cranny of the empty church.

I looked up toward the aisle and imagined a bride, in her beautiful wedding gown, beginning her walk on her father’s arm.  What a glorious celebration a wedding is, and the bride plays the starring role.  Everyone stands to look at her as she appears in back of the church.  Every eye follows her walk toward her waiting groom.

But then…another thought flooded my consciousness.  If a wedding on on earth can be so beautiful, so magical and magnificent, what must the eternal espousals, celebrated in heaven, between God and the soul be like?

Surely no soul arrives in Heaven as though it were just an ordinary day.  God is no ordinary Lover.  Here comes His beloved, for whom He laid down His Life to purchase her freedom. Here approaches a priceless soul, fed on His Own Body and Blood.  Here she is at last, forgiven, cleansed, purified, clothed in His Grace, and ready for that for which she was created — everlasting union with the Most Blessed Trinity.  She will never be lost to Him again.   Sin is no longer possible.  She is His forever.  My love is mine and I am His.  (Song of Songs 2:16)

I shall betroth you to myself for ever,
I shall betroth you in uprightness and justice,
and faithful love and tenderness.  (Hosea 2:21)

Yes, all of heaven rejoices as she approaches the King of kings.  No one is unaware of her presence.  She will even have a new name known only to her and her beloved.

“…to those who prove victorious  I will give some hidden manna and a white stone, with a new name written on it, known only to the person who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)

I am grateful that the organist continues to play the beautiful Wedding March.  But my heart is caught up with awe and wonderment at what must be the celebration of a soul’s entrance into heaven.   It is a new thought for me.  I had never before considered it.

Yet, God has written of this unending day all over the Scriptures– His “foolishness of Love” as St. Catherine of Siena once described Divine Love.  We cannot hope for too much.  We cannot dream too big.  Nothing we can imagine could even come close to the reality.  God is so in love with each of us.

If we desire it, if we accept His Love, and truly love Him in return, someday the Creator of the Universe shall say to us:

You ravish my heart,
my sister, my promised bride,
you ravish my heart with a single one of your glances
with a single link of your necklace.
What spells lie in your love,
my sister, my promised bride! (Song of Songs 4:9-10)

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Isn’t He beautiful?

Thou art beautiful above the sons of men: grace is poured abroad in thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.  Psalm 45:2 (DRB)


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O Jesus, Your Incomparable Face!
It is my Glory, my Joy, my Fascination.
O how I long to see You!
Promise me that that moment will be ever new
That it will never end;
But always be beginning.
Grant that I may be
Eternally falling in love
With the indescribable Beauty of Your Face.
I felt Its Radiance today,
And I was lost in wonder!
O God of Beauty! I await You!
Reveal Yourself to me.
Show me Your Face,
The Face of Love!

A perfect morning…not yet

Have you ever had a perfect morning?

My husband and I are leaving for Germany in a few days, but I know it won’t be the same as that very first time about 30 years ago.

We were in Bavaria, surrounded by mountains still frosted with snowcaps. My husband and son were climbing up to a nearby castle. But, I stayed behind to rest on a bench beside the most beautiful lake I had ever seen.  Shades of aquamarine, emerald and deep ocean blue overlapped one another, like jewels glistening in the sunlight.

Tourists of all ages strolled beside the lake. I especially noticed the pink-cheeked children giggling and chasing each other past patches of gloriously painted wildflowers. I still remember the powder blue butterfly who fluttered nearby. I stared at it, having never before seen a living butterfly of clear blue. The sky overhead was blue too, radiantly blue.

The clean mountain air was invigorating and cleansing. I felt so alert and alive, and so enchanted by the beauty of nature which surrounded me. I imagined I was a character in a Grimm’s fairytale.

Although I have had many beautiful moments in my life, for some reason, God chose this particular one to more vividly impress upon me how all of earth’s joys are so fleeting. I wanted to keep that beautiful morning of the bejeweled lake and the beauty and peace which surrounded it. But I couldn’t. I had to leave, and all that remained was the memory.

Is it not true that when we experience beauty, joy, love, peace, laughter, or any of the good things of life, that we want to hold onto them…almost make them a part of us, so that we might never be without them? But, it is one of the great sorrows of life that “all good things must come to an end.”

Still, there is hope in that truth, and there is deep longing, for one day, there will be no end to our joy. Indeed, we will possess supreme happiness in absolute fullness. We will be unable to contain more, and we will never lose what we possess.

God has strewn our lives with little moments of heaven….in our child’s eyes, our spouse’s embrace, the love of a parent, a friend’s laughter, and even my morning by the fairytale lake. We taste, but we cannot consume the joys of life on earth. We cannot become “one” with them.

But even if we could……  Imagine if we could possess all at once every moment which has ever touched our souls…that in a sense, we could be one with all that has brought us joy and love in life.  We would no doubt be very happy, but we would not yet be perfectly happy.

God could have given us hearts which would have been satisfied with the beauty of creation and the love of creatures.

But Infinite Love longed to be Himself the Fullfilment of all our desires.  God would not have us content with even His most sublime creations.  He bestowed upon us the immense dignity of having souls made for no less than unending union with the Most Holy Trinity.

Such glory seems almost beyond belief.  I know that for me, there are days when Heaven seems so far away…even something like a fairytale of sorts.  Surely it is not possible to be endlessly happy, to be infinitely loved by the very One Who is Love?

But why this longing in my soul for that very thing?  A perfect “morning” that will never, ever end?  A perfect Someone to belong to forever in the most complete union possible.

Love never comes to an end…..
Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now, I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.
(I Corinthians 13:8,12) NJB

Jesus said, “I thirst.”  It is impossible for us to exaggerate the infinite longing in the Heart of God to possess each one of us, nor His yearning to be possessed in turn by you and by me.

And, it will never end, for Jesus promised: ... but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy, and that joy no one shall take from you.  (John 16:22) NJB

And so I am returning to Germany to make more happy memories. But a perfect morning? Only on the eternal shore…

Just until glory comes….

A few days ago, I asked Our Blessed Lady to be the mistress of my home, and that I might be her servant girl.  I am in dire need of her loving presence, guidance and wisdom in my vocation as wife, mother and homemaker…and every other aspect of my life as well.

So, I’ve been listening, eager to hear her advice.  Yesterday, I was busy about those boring, mundane chores which most of us have to do on a regular basis.

I get tired of dusting and vacuuming and cleaning out the refrigerator.  Whilst wielding my Swiffer duster, I daydream of doing other things…at least writing a blog post, or maybe even an e-book.  I wish I lived in a bigger city where there were more exciting things to do.  Nothing ever happens here.  I wish I could make a 30 day retreat, or even travel to all the places of pilgrimage in the world or be involved in Catholic radio.  I still have dozens of books left to read, and if I could work on being an Olympic figure skater… I wish…..hmmm.

Yesterday, I washed the kitchen curtains, and as I struggled to slip the rod past the seam, it got hung up, and I tried to be patient as I maneuvered the fabric.

Then I thought of Jesus, working with Joseph in the carpenter shop in Nazareth.  Jesus, laboring by the sweat of His brow, struggling to shape furniture out of wood… He Who twirls the planets and makes the stars twinkle, and fashions each snowflake into a tiny work of art.

Was He bored?  No…because He did everything out of Love (being Love Himself), and in obedience to His Father’s Will.  Who more than the King of Heaven had a right to put down the tools, and with but a mere thought transform the trees of Palestine into acres of woodcraft?  But, He never did.  He never walked away from the hard work.  Just like He didn’t walk away from the Cross.

Love constrained Jesus.  Love of us confined Him to tedious work in a small town for most of His life, and then to traveling with and teaching a rag-tag group of men who deserted Him when He was preparing to lay down His life for them..and for us.

And I am bored?  The rod slipped through to the other end of the curtain.  “Thank you, Mary.”  And thank you for reminding me what Therese knew so well….that the smallest act done out of love can save a soul and bring God so much joy.

Was it Mary who seemed to reply?

It is sometimes a struggle to do these routine tasks, because you were created for greater things….much greater things.  You were born to spend eternity immersed in that Furnace of Love which is the Most Holy Trinity.  You were created to adore the thrice holy God, your whole being trembling with joy.  Your heart and your soul long for this, and you are restless because you cannot yet fulfill your eternal purpose.  You possess the very image of God …you were born for glory.

I love this thought.  I believe it’s true.  We were…all of us, created to be sons and daughters of the Most HIgh God.   Earth is our exile; Heaven is our true home.

I was awakened from my reverie by our cat coughing up two hairballs just as I was preparing to start dinner.  Out came the paper towels and the steam mop….but this time, with a smile.

Yes Mary, I’ll try to serve without complaining…at least most of the time.  You bore the Son of God and yet spent your life doing the most simple but demanding household chores.

But it helps to dream of glory, doesn’t it?  The glory of one day seeing God Face to face….the One Whom St. Augustine called,  “O Beauty ever ancient, ever new…”

Sweet Mary, help us to prepare for that day as Jesus and you did, by doing the Father’s Will in every ordinary moment of our lives…..but please remind us now and then, that it’s just until the glory comes.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee..”   St. Augustine

 

Suffering — get it while you can

An acquaintance of mine died last week. 

I said a prayer for her when I heard the news, and then I whispered, “Pat, rest in peace. You have finished your work, completed your journey.”

I think about that journey a lot. My friend didn’t make it to the three score and ten mentioned in the Bible. We just never know.

There is something uniquely precious about living in our imperfect world. It is only an instant in even the longest of lives. What are a 100 years compared to eternity?  Yet, we have only this breath, this heartbeat of time in which to determine our eternal destination, and to labor for God’s Glory.

I, who do not relish suffering, still value it and this amazing moment in my existence when it actually costs me to offer something precious to God.

It is quite thrilling to be among the Church Militant, marching through the battlefield of life, buffeted by the blows of pain, loneliness, rejection, grief and a thousand other sufferings which we encounter on our journey.

I think how tenderly Jesus watches over us as we bear our wounds for love of Him.  His eyes never leave us and His Heart almost breaks with compassion.  Yet, when we are brave, and offer up as best we can these trials, surely He is so pleased, so very proud of us.  

We cannot see, but Jesus Himself binds up our wounds with the balm of His Love, measures to perfection all that we are asked to bear, and supports us Himself that we may not be crushed beneath our crosses.

Heaven is our true home, but I find myself pondering how bittersweet it will be to leave this place of exile:  Never again to be able to make an act of faith when all seems lost, to tell God we love Him through tears and sorrow, to endure the battle of temptation and be victorious with His Grace, to do violence to our own will so that we may choose for God, to walk amidst a hurting and confused world and try to be a ray of His Light, to visit a lonely Jesus in His Sacrament of Love and console His Hidden Presence. 

These many treasures are ours for only a moment, and yet I waste an abundance of riches, and neglect the joy I could give to God by seizing every opportunity to cooperate with His Grace.

One day it will all end, and suffering will be no more.  I’m sure much of my Purgatory will be spent in weeping tears for all the times I walked away from the graces God extended to me – times I insisted on my own way, or complained about something trivial or was annoyed with someone else.

Lord, help me to begin again today to be ingenious in finding the jewels you have hidden in every moment of my life.  Those I choose are mine for all eternity.

But much more important: You have chosen to be glorified by the sacrifices lovingly made and offered by your children.

Oh Jesus, help me not to waste the moment this life on earth is, the only moment I will ever have to choose You above all the other distractions and temptations of my world.

In one of Therese’s favorite books, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, by Father Charles Arminjon, in the chapter on Heaven we read: 

And the grateful God cries out, “Now it is My turn!”

He is so eager to reward us. Indeed the lives of the great mystics indicate that He can hardly restrain His Love, as He pours out upon His holy ones a foretaste of Heavenly bliss.

On our last day, if we had never been able to suffer anything in life, would we really be able to endure Infinite Love pouring into us from His pierced Heart, and the embrace of His crucified hands?

Memo to Stephen Hawking

Dr. Hawking:

I have seen your face all over the Internet in recent days, as your comment declaring that “there is no heaven,” has made the rounds.  You further elaborated by dismissing belief in an afterlife as “a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

As I recall, a few months ago, you also authored a book in which you confidently asserted that there is no God.

I am aware that you are a brilliant physicist and mathematician and student of the cosmos, but I am not aware of your credentials regarding theology and/or observance and study of the mystical life of prayer, or countless unexplained miracles, or perhaps most fascinating of all:  the seemingly instinctive desire rooted in human hearts to believe in a god or afterlife.   This yearning for God has been found in virtually all cultures and civilizations since history was recorded.

I was touched by the words of Helen Keller, whom as you may know could neither see, hear or speak.  When she was asked if she believed in God, she said:  I did not know His Name, but I knew HIM.  In her silent and dark world, she knew God.

What do YOU know?  You know a lot about science, and that’s laudable.  But how much do you NOT know?  We live in an age when we have progressed from planes to rockets and space stations.  Some of us were born before there were antibiotics, and now we have treatments even for diseases like cancer and AIDS.  But, we still have a long, long way to go.

And you have a long way to go too.  Brilliant though you may be, you have only begun to scratch the surface of the secrets of the universe.  If you could live a billion years, you would still be re-evaluating and re-writing your discoveries.  Remember when Pluto was a planet?

Here is a clue for you.  Although God can be found in nature, and in all His wondrous creation, you will not really know Him until you seek Him in prayer, until you invite Him into your heart and your life.  Until you fall on your knees before Him in gratitude for the little that you have been privileged to learn about His amazing universe.  Until you adore Him as Lord and King and the Almighty Creator of all that is and was and is to come.

One comment you made sarcastically was actually the only thing you really got right:

“Belief in an afterlife is for those who are afraid of the dark.”  Yes, we are afraid of the dark, for we long to live in the One Who is LIGHT.  We seek Jesus Who said, “I am the Light of the world…”

May you too grow afraid of the dark, and seek His Light while there is still time.