The Vision of God
By Jim J. McCrea
God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena - Dialog - A Treatise of Obedience:
"The obedient man speaks words of peace all his life, and at his death receives that which was promised him at his death by his superior, that is to say, eternal life, the vision of peace, and of supreme and eternal tranquility and rest, the inestimable good which no one can value or understand, for, being the infinite good, it cannot be understood by anything smaller than itself, like a vessel, which, dipped into the sea, does not comprehend the whole sea, but only that quantity which it contains. The sea alone contains itself. So I, the Sea Pacific, am He who alone can comprehend and value Myself truly. And in My own estimate and comprehension of Myself I rejoice, and this joy, the good which I have in Myself, I share with you, and with all, according to the measure of each. I do not leave you empty, but fill you, giving you perfect beatitude; each man comprehends and knows My goodness in the measure in which it is given to him."
It is Catholic teaching that the vision of God is the supreme joy of heaven and our ultimate fulfillment in eternity.
This essay will unpack this somewhat. It's purpose is to help us meditate on God as our Supreme End. With sufficient knowledge and love of God acquired in this life, we may avoid purgatory and enter heaven immediately upon death. For the saved, if they enter purgatory it is because they are still attached to the things of this earth because they have not acquired a strong or pure enough knowledge and love of God. Meditating upon God fervently and continuously will help remedy that.
Let us now consider the attributes of God as elucidated by traditional Catholic theology.
First of all, God is absolutely simple. He has no composition of parts, and all of His attributes are one and the same as each other and His attributes are His very self. For example, God does not *have* knowledge as something distinct from His being, but He *is* the infinite knowledge that He possesses.
God does not have existence, He is existence, and all the rest of His attributes are related by identity.
In heaven the blessed will see that His very existence is His infinite knowledge - that His infinite knowledge is infinitely loving - that His infinite love is all powerful - and that His omnipotence is infinitely beautiful.
In the vision of God in heaven, there will be a supreme delight for the intellect in seeing how elegantly and logically God's attributes are connected and flow from each other. He is utterly simple and natural - yet completely non-trivial. All eternity cannot exhaust Him.
One of the supreme properties of God is His pure and absolute intelligibility. The intelligibility of something is its clarity, understandability, and lucidity - in contrast to something being muddled and confused. The logic of God is absolutely pure and clear to the blessed in heaven. He will completely slake our thirst for truth, and will be seen as the why and how of all things. As profundity gives intellectual pleasure, there will be infinite intellectual pleasure in seeing God because He is Infinite Profundity.
God's infinite intelligibility is connected to His infinite simplicity. God has no parts that are in metaphysical opposition to each other (parts in metaphysical opposition is not necessarily an evil. For example, an automobile has parts in metaphysical opposition in that the wheels are not the engine. That is an aspect of being finite). However in God, there is no part of Him that is not another part of Him. As much we meditate on God, considering this or that attribute or quality of Him, we are considering exactly the same thing, which is nothing but God Himself. When we meditate upon God in this life, we invariably picture or conceptualize Him with some degree of complexity. As an exercise in meditating upon Him, we must always try to bring our minds back to that whatever different things we consider about God we are considering nothing but identically the same thing - purely God. There is nothing in God but God. Such an infinitely simple being is infinitely intelligible because it is infinitely pure. God's infinite purity exists because absolutely nothing in Him is in metaphysical opposition to anything else. Everything is strictly identical. So everything in God (being only one) is speaking exactly the same thing to the intellects of the blessed in heaven, giving rise to His absolute intelligibility. It is an infinite laser focus. This infinite simplicity and intelligibility means that God is infinitely pure which gives infinite joy to the fully pure soul in heaven (that is why the soul must be purified of every last spot before it can enter heaven).
God being infinitely pure means that His love is infinitely pure and intense. Without metaphysical opposition in God, nothing is scattered in Him. Rather than God being good in this or that way, He is Goodness Itself - that is, Pure and Infinite goodness. The highest expression of that goodness is the out-flowing love of God. This out-flowing love is God's very being, as He is a Trinity of persons in which each one pours Himself out fully for the others. This out-flowing love was poured into the act of creation simply so that beings other than Himself could share in His infinite blessedness and beatitude (cf. CCC par. 1).
The blessed in heaven have supreme delight in seeing that the infinite simplicity, intelligibility, and purity of God make Him infinitely beautiful. They have supreme happiness because they also experience that this Infinite Beauty loves them infinitely. The most rapturous human love on this earth is nothing but a pale shadow of the love of God for the soul, and the happiness of the most rapturous love on earth is nothing compared to the happiness of being loved by God in heaven (the martial bond is only a symbol and pale reflection of the union between God and the soul that loves Him). In fact, one only delights in illicit sexual activity on this earth because it simulates love, and something in its feeling reflects the infinite happiness of love in the blessed in heaven. In light of this, the solution to illicit sex (and all the problems it causes in society) is to bring people everywhere back to a contemplation of God and an understanding that our ultimate fulfillment is only in Him.
For this, it is useful to meditate on hell and what the damned have lost through their own fault. For their supreme torment is that they have forfeited an infinite good for a trifle.
On this note, we quote from the Dialog - a Treaties of Discretion - where God speaks to St. Catherine of Siena.
"The first [torment of hell] is, that they see themselves deprived of the vision of Me, which is such pain to them, that, were it possible, they would rather choose the fire, and the tortures and torments, and to see Me, than to be without the torments and not to see Me."
If we have lost God for eternity, we have lost everything.
We do this by unrepentantly choosing a finite good over the infinite good of God.
That in essence is what one does when one commits a mortal sin and does not repent of it.
Dialog of St. Catherine of Siena: