March 7, 2008

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

When the Eureka! moment goes on forever

Cynthia DewesThe coming of Easter makes us think about what it promises, namely the opportunity to meet God one day when our life ends, and to be with God forever thereafter.

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we may spend eternity enjoying God’s glory in what’s called the Beatific Vision. We shall see God as he is. Wow.

The question for most of us is, if we’re lucky enough to make it into the presence of God, what will that entail? What will heaven be like?

Sometimes, reading the Old Testament, we get the impression that an afterlife would involve blowing rams’ horns and cavorting around as the Jews did when celebrating earthly events, such as weddings. Of course, not all Jews believed in an afterlife so maybe they just hadn’t given it much thought.

Old movies often portray heaven as a place floating on cumulous clouds, all white and puffy and soft-looking. The inhabitants wear white, flowing robes, something like the dress worn in Jesus’ time. Sometimes they have halos over their heads.

Sometimes they even have impressive wings, although those are mostly assigned only to angels. St. Peter is depicted as a semi-comical old guy with a gray beard and a kindly expression. If God appears, it is usually as a resonant voice from above or a majestic figure sitting upon a dazzling throne.

Some folks seem to picture heaven as a place where fun reigns. It’s a big, continuous party, which they can enjoy without any earthly stresses, such as having to get up for work the next day or not knowing how to dance. It’s the sum of all the happy vacations and nights on the town that they have enjoyed on Earth.

Personally, I can’t believe heaven is not a place filled with music. This would be organ and choral music along the lines of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Virgil Fox at the mighty pipe organ. Come to think of it, this scenario might annoy some people and even I might tire of it after a few thousand years. In human time, of course.

I think we catch glimpses of heaven here on Earth during our lifetimes. They are the times we can feel something happening, which is not only important but thrilling, something which has no human explanation. The longer we live, the more we discover such insights.

One of them is surely when a mother is nursing her baby and the infant gazes trustingly into her eyes, resting a tiny dimpled hand on her breast. Another is the moment we know we are loved by someone, the instant we sense a mysterious connection, which really can’t be named.

And we’ve all had a Eureka! moment when the evening sun blazes up for an instant before dropping beneath the horizon. We’ve experienced dramatic storms and idyllically peaceful moonlights, which stir in us an indefinable recognition.

Intellectually, it will be so satisfying to know the reasons for everything: why this or that happened, why we met certain people, why our lives turned out the way they did because of a decision we made. Then again, maybe we’ll be so spiritual that those kinds of concerns won’t even come up.

Meeting those we loved who have gone to God before us is probably tops on my list of what-I-hope-heaven-to-be. It fills me with love even to think of “seeing” my parents, children and friends, and to praise God forever with them. Easter is the answer.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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