HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







Eschatology or the Catholic Doctrine of the Last Things
A Dogmatic Treatise
Rev. Joseph Pohle Ph.D. D.D

Heaven is supernatural and eternal, and has various degrees of happiness for the Blessed, corresponding to the higher or lower measure of grace with which each is endowed and the intimacy of his union with God.

1. ETERNITY OF HEAVEN.—The eternity of Heaven was in olden times denied by the Origenists. Benedict XII defined it as an article of faith: “This same vision and fruition … continues and will continue till the final judgment, and thenceforward forever.” The dogma is as old as Christianity, for the Apostles’ Creed says: “I believe … in life everlasting.”

a) Sacred Scripture employs many beautiful figures to illustrate the perpetuity of Heaven. Thus it compares Heaven to “a treasure which faileth not,” which “no thief approacheth, nor moth corrupteth;” a reception “into everlasting dwellings;” “a never fading crown of glory;” an “everlasting kingdom.” St. John frequently refers to the abode of the Blessed as “eternal life.”

b) The Fathers conceived Heaven as unending. Heaven must be everlasting, says St. Augustine, because no happiness could be perfect that would be overshadowed by the fear of a possible cessation or loss. St. Thomas defines eternity as an intrinsic and essential quality without which Heaven would not be Heaven. The opinion of some of the later Scotists that eternity is an accidental quality of beatitude, is untenable.

2. VARIOUS DEGREES OF HAPPINESS AMONG THE BLESSED.—The ancient heretic Jovinian held that virtues and vices, merits and demerits, rewards and punishments are all alike. Luther, in accordance with his false theory of justification, contended that glory as well as grace are absolutely equal in all men and do not admit of degrees. The Catholic Church, on the contrary, holds as an article of faith that there are among the Blessed various degrees of happiness, in proportion to merit. “One is more perfect than the other according to the different merits of each,” says e. g. the Decretum Unionis of Florence.

a) This teaching agrees perfectly with Sacred Scripture. Our Lord Himself intimates that there are various degrees of happiness among the Elect, when He says: “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” St. Paul expressly declares: “Each shall receive his own reward according to his own toil.” And: “He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly, and he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings.” And again: “The glory of the heavenly is different from that of the earthly. There is the glory of the sun, and the glory of the moon, and the glory of the stars; for star differeth from star in glory. And so it is with the resurrection of the dead.”

The Fathers express themselves in similar terms. St. Polycarp bravely assures his heathen judge: “The more I suffer, the greater will be my reward.” St. Ignatius of Antioch writes: “The greater the toil, the greater the gain.” Tertullian says: “How is it that there are many mansions in the Father’s house, if not for the variety of merits? How does star differ from star in glory, if not for the diversity of rays?” St. Jerome argues against Jovinian: “If there is no difference in merits, if virgins do not differ from married women, if the easier works of piety are equally meritorious with the constancy of the martyrs, it is vain to strive for perfection,” and proceeds to show how absurd it is to suppose that a death-bed repentance puts the life-long sinner on a level with the Apostles.

The objection that inequality of glory in Heaven would provoke envy and jealousy among the Blessed, is refuted by St. Augustine as follows: “There will be no envy on account of unequal glory, because one love will govern all.” According to St. Thomas the measure of glory enjoyed by each is gauged by the strength of the love he has for God: “That intellect which has more of the light of glory will see God the more perfectly; and he will have a fuller participation of the light of glory who has more of charity, because where there is greater charity, there is a more ardent desire; … hence he who possesses the greater charity, will see God the more perfectly.”

b) The inequality of heavenly glory has given rise to the Scholastic doctrine of aureolae, i. e. special marks of success attaching to those who have won conspicuous victories over the three arch-enemies of man, the world, the flesh, and the devil.

The aureola of the virgin marks a heroic victory over the flesh; that of the martyr, over the world; that of the doctor, over the devil, who is the father of lies.

These marks must be something real, immanent in the soul, and may be conceived as an internal joy over the victory won. What some theologians say of the external visibility of these crowns of glory, or their color, is pure conjecture.

READINGS:—*Lessius, De Summo Bono et Aeterna Beatitudine Hominis, Antwerp 1616 (ed. Hurter, 1869).—Suarez, De Fine Ultimo.—* Bellarmine, De Sanctorum Beatitudine.—Schnütgen, Die Visio Beatifica, Würzburg 1867.—A Krawutzcky, De Visione Beatifica Comment. Histor., Breslau 1868.—Kirschkamp, Gnade und Glorie in ihrem inneren Zusammenhang, Würzburg 1878.—*Bautz, Der Himmel, spekulativ dargestellt, Mayence 1881.—*Franzelin, De Deo Uno, thes. 14–19, Rome 1888.—F. Boudreaux, S. J., Die Seligkeit des Himmels, Kevelaer 1898.—Scheeben, Die Mysterien des Christentums, 3rd ed., pp. 583 sqq., Freiburg 1912.—E. Méric, Les Elus se reconnaîtront au Ciel, Paris 1881.—Blot, S. J., Das Wiedererkennen im Jenseits, 10th ed., Mayence 1900.—G. Gietmann, S. J., art. “Nimbus,” in Vol. XI of the Catholic Encyclopedia.—Jos. Hontheim, S. J., art. “Heaven,” ibid., Vol. VII.—Delloue-Leahy, Solution of the Great Problem, New York 1917, pp. 217 sqq.—B. J. Otten, S. J., A Manual of the History of Dogmas, Vol. II, St. Louis 1918, pp. 430 sqq.








Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com