Saturday, 9 May 2015
What Happens After Death? part 5. BY REV. G. J. MACGILLIVRAY, M.A
When the soul has reached Heaven, it has reached its goal. It has found perfect and eternal satisfaction. But a soul without a body is not a complete human being. Consequently, as God has revealed to us, there is some day to be a resurrection of the body. When this world has run its course, Our Lord will return, as He plainly said, for the Last judgment. There will be a general resurrection of the dead. That is to say that the bodies which we lost in death will be restored to us, so that we shall again be completed human beings. Then will take place the Last judgment, or the General judgment, as it is also called, to distinguish it from the Particular judgement of each soul, which takes place, as we have seen, the moment after death. People sometimes wonder, if each soul is judged at death, what need there is of the General judgment. Several reasons may be assigned. One reason is that, as a man is not only a private individual, but also a member of the human race, so it is fitting that after each man has been judged separately there should be a general judgment of the human race as a whole. The Particular judgment is the judgment of the individual; the General judgment is the judgment of Mankind as a whole. And, again, it seems necessary for the full manifestation of God’s justice. The first judgment, of each individual was private. There must, therefore, also be a public judgment, in which the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, and the justice of God made manifest to all.
But what of the nature of the bodies that we hope to have in Heaven after the Resurrection? We shall rise again with our own bodies, the same bodies that we have now. So much is of faith. But it is also certain that these bodies will be greatly changed. They will not necessarily consist of the same particles of matter as compose them now, for the identity of the body does not depend upon the identity of the matter composing it. That is clear enough, since the matter in our bodies is continually changing even in this life. And that disposes of a number of superficial difficulties about the same matter having possibly formed part of several bodies.
It is also clear that the body will be changed in many other ways, since our bodies, as they are now, are not fitted for an eternal existence. St. Paul says that “it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” This cannot mean that it has the nature of a spirit, but rather that it is completely subject to the spirit. It will be free from suffering, from corruption, and from all the natural necessities of this life, and endowed with a supernatural beauty and glory, sharing in the glory of the glorified soul. But more than that we can hardly say, since the conditions of that eternal life are so utterly beyond our experience.
After the Last judgment there will be no more change. This earth will have passed away. Purgatory will have ceased to be. Only Heaven and Hell will remain. There will be no more change and no more time, but only Eternity. Sometimes here the thought will occur: shall we, then, not get tired of the happiness of Heaven? That is one of our difficulties, that we cannot imagine a happiness which never pass, of which we shall never grow weary throughout eternity. How is it that this will not happen? The first reason is that it is a complete and perfect satisfaction of all our desires. We grow weary of every earthly happiness simply because it is not perfect, it is not completely satisfying. That is why we always desire some other object of happiness, something that will give us what was wanting in the last object. But in Heaven that cannot be so, because the Object of our happiness there is God Himself, who is infinitely perfect, and can leave nothing more to be desired. And the second reason is, that of that infinite Object we can never reach the end. Through all eternity we shall always find some new beauty, some new goodness, some new satisfaction. It is true that we shall grasp and possess Him all at once and completely, to the utmost capacity of our nature. And yet, just because He is infinite and we are finite, we shall in some wonderful way find Him always new, we shall see in Him new goodness and new beauty. He is “beauty ever ancient and ever new.”
And, again, the joy of Heaven will never pall, just because it is so utterly unselfish. It is sometimes supposed that the Heaven to which we look forward is a mere selfish enjoyment. In fact, it is quite the contrary. We have already seen that rest in Heaven does not imply inactivity, but the very reverse. It is difficult for us to understand this, because it is a kind of activity different from any that most of us are accustomed to practice in this life. The nearest approach to it is found in that state of infused contemplation which some of the mystics have tried to describe. All the ordinary powers of the mind, imagination, and reason are suspended. But the soul itself is intensely active, absorbed in contemplation. Something akin to that, but far more perfect, must be the activity of the soul in Heaven. And it is not selfish, but just the opposite because the soul absorbed in God has forgotten itself. It is utterly selfless. The very essence of its happiness lies in this, that it has ceased to think of itself, it has no desire of its own, but lives only to give glory to God. In Heaven we shall at last understand that perfect happiness consists in forgetting ourselves, in living not for ourselves, but solely for God, giving ourselves to Him, losing ourselves in Him, living only to love Him, to adore Him, to give Him the glory that is His due.