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CHAPTER XIV.

ON THE JOYS OF PARADISE.

AFTER the death of a certain virgin St. Gertrude saw her soul exulting in celestial glory; and having heard her relate many most wonderful things, she said to her, 287“How knowest thou all these things? for whilst thou wert in the body, thy capacity was very simple.” She answered, “I have learnt them from that Source, of which a certain Saint says, that to have once behold God, is to have learnt all things.” In like manner in the Revelations of St. Bridget, the Virgin Mary Mother of God, and other citizens of heaven very frequently declare, that they see and know all things in God. Assuredly the Saints in heaven perfectly know the truth, they know the nature of all things, they see and know whatever belongs to the order and beauty of the whole world. Hence St. Gregory saith, “Since the blessed souls in heaven see within the brightness of God, it is in nowise to be believed, that there is anything without, of which they are ignorant.” And in the twenty-eighth Chapter of the fourth Book of the Insinuations of Divine Piety or Revelations of St. Gertrude, we find that St. Gertrude saw herself presented before God, clothed in a garment on which was distinctly marked everything that she had thought, said or done in religion, whether good or bad, so that not even the smallest point of her good or evil thoughts, intentions, words or works could be hidden, since God and all the dwellers in heaven know them most perfectly in the light of infallible truth. Whence she learnt from God, that the state of every man lies open in like manner to God, and to the Saints throughout endless ages. Therefore every blessed spirit, seeing the Essence of God, sees and knows all things which concern the perfection of his own glory, sees and knows whatsoever he desires to see and know, but he sees not all things, 288which exist and shine in God. For if the creature could know all that is in God, he would comprehend God, which is by no means possible, since the creature is finite, and God is infinite. Wherefore not even the most blessed of all creatures, that is to say the Soul of Christ, comprehends the Divinity, or the infinite Essence of God. The uncreated God alone fully comprehends and knows Himself. He however, who in heaven is highest in merit, and most ardently loved God, beholds Him most clearly, and understands most in Him. There each one in his measure partakes of the glory of God, which is common to all, and each one is filled.

Christ said to St. Bridget, “If when visions are shown to thee, thou wert to see the beauty of the blessed souls or of the holy Angels as it is, thy heart would be broken with excess of joy. If again thou wert to see the devil as he is, thou couldst not endure so horrible a sight and live. But thou discernest spiritual things as if they were corporal, and the souls and Angels appear to thee in the likeness of men; because thy spirit, being as yet impeded by the flesh, cannot otherwise take them in.” Wherefore our Lord said to St. Catherine, “Thou well rememberest, that when once I had shown thee in extasy the devil in his own shape as it were at a glance and for a moment, thou being restored to thy bodily senses, didst choose rather to walk with naked feet upon a burning path till the day of judgment than to behold him again. And yet thou knowest not how horrible he really is, whom thou didst see so imperfectly. But so great is the loveliness 289of even the lowest citizen of heaven, that the sensible beauty of the whole world put together can in nowise be compared to it; its brightness far surpasses the meridian brightness of the visible sun.”

In the eleventh Chapter of the fourth Book of the Revelations of St. Bridget, the Virgin Mary Mother of God tells St. Bridget that the number of the blessed angelic spirits is so great, that if all men were counted from Adam to the last who will be born at the end of the world, ten glorious Angels at least might be assigned to each man. The divine Dionysius the Areopagite also writes, that the number of the holy Angels exceeds all numbers of inferior creations. Several of the Fathers, however, think that there are not more Angels in heaven than there will be souls of men saved at the end of the world; so that the numbers of Angels and Saints will be equal.

O how joyful will it be to behold all that heavenly host, and that ravishing multitude, resplendent in gracious humility, most sweet charity, ineffable beauty and perpetual glory, and most perfectly to know each one of the citizens of heaven!

God said to St. Catherine: “I have provided and arranged much concerning the love of the heavenly citizens, and the angelic spirits in eternal life. For I would not that each should enjoy alone his own good, which he receives from Me, but have ordained that the good of each one be shared by all. I have willed that in most orderly and perfect charity the greater should enjoy the good of the lesser, and the lesser likewise should partake of the joy of the greater. 290There, both great and small, obtain perfect happiness and perfect consolation, because all are filled according to their measure and degree. O how fraternal and how united to Me is that charity! The Angels with immense gladness communicate with the blessed spirits, and the blessed spirits with the holy Angels. Therefore all, being abundantly imbued with sweetest charity, exult beyond what thou canst understand, and in a wonderful manner rejoice in Me with jubilation. Every citizen of heaven beholding Me the Eternal God, beholds the glory and praise of My Name in My Saints, and in the good angelic spirits, and in all other creatures, and even in the demons. He clearly perceives the truth, and possesses all things that he can desire. He is ever satiated, and yet he never suffers disgust. Although he discerns the offences of sinners, yet he can in nowise feel grief from this or any other cause, but he feels compassion without pain, loving the sinners themselves, and ever with affectionate charity beseeching Me graciously to show mercy unto the world. The will of the blessed is utterly united and conformed to My Will. Hence though parents should see their children lost in hell, they are yet not moved by any compassion towards them, but are well content, seeing them tormented as My enemies. The blessed desire indeed to be reunited to their bodies, but this desire afflicts them not, since they most certainly know that it will at some time be fulfilled. Nor must thou imagine that after the resurrection the glorification of the body will bring greater happiness to the soul; for if it 291were so, the bliss of the souls which are in heaven would be imperfect until they had resumed their bodies, which is by no means possible; for no perfection is wanting to them. The body will not augment the bliss of the soul, but rather the soul will out of its abundance confer it on the body. The eye of the intellect sufficeth not to see, nor the ear to hear, nor the tongue to express, nor the thoughts of the heart to understand, how great is the beatitude of My elect (1 Cor. ii. 9.). what and how great is the bliss of beholding Me clearly, of sweetly embracing Me, of for ever enjoying Me, who am the Supreme and Eternal Good!”

A certain virgin who was often admitted to the utmost familiarity with God, used, while her soul was elevated in God, to utter only these words: “O my God and my all!” For in God are all things, and God is all. All things were from eternity in the mind of God; since in Him the ideas and forms of all things immutably existed, and the Divine Essence Itself is the pattern and idea of all things which have been and are to be created. For whatsoever God creates, whatsoever He has done or will do, has been from all eternity known by Him, and remains for ever in His unchangeable knowledge, and shines forth in Him. Oh, how greatly is God to be loved and desired! He is Himself light, beauty, peace, sweetness, graciousness, and goodness, immense, invariable and eternal.

We admire, and with good reason, the splendour of the sun, the brightness of the moon and stars, the adornment of the heavens, the order of the 292elements, the multiplicity of animals, the variety of colours, the pleasantness of gardens, the elegance of flowers, the verdure of the grass and leaves, the brilliancy of gold, the lustre of gems, the aptitude of bodies, the fairness of the human form and face; but if we were to behold the unspeakable beauty of in visible creatures, namely, of the heavenly spirits and blessed souls, our senses would fail us with wonder and admiration. How much ought we not then to admire and love the incomprehensible beauty of God? For the beauties of created things are nothing else but minute rivulets flowing from that supreme Beauty, as from their original source. We admire also the songs of the little birds, and the sweet sounds of the lyre, the harp, and the organ; we admire the excessive sweetness and fragrance which God has given to honey, to wine, to fruits, stems, flowers, herbs, and spices; but God, from whom all sweetness flows, is incomparably and infinitely more sweet and delightful. Melody, fragrance, savour, are in God in a manner that is indescribable, superessential, most true and most perfect. Whatever sweetness, beauty, excellence, attraction, or perfection we find in a partial and limited measure in creatures, exists collectively, simply, and with infinite plenitude in God. The visible light and brightness of the sun is darkness and obscurity compared to the divine light. Hence the blessed John says in the Apocalypse, that the heavenly city has no need of the sun, because it is enlightened by the most splendid, most serene, and most blissful glory of God (S. John, Apoc. xxi., 23); 293and in it there is one everlasting day, to which no night succeeds. All fairness of created things may in deed be called deformity, compared with the uncreated fairness. So also the sweetness of creatures is as it were bitterness, compared with the sweetness of the Creator. In like manner all the riches, nobility, glory, majesty, excellence, dignity, and perfection of this world are nothing in comparison with the riches, nobility, glory, majesty, excellence, dignity, and perfection of God. And all the joys and delights which can be felt in this world, compared to the most pure joys and perennial delights which are derived in heaven from the vision of God and the companion ship of the Saints, are like a little drop of water compared to the whole ocean. Let us therefore desire our God, who alone can fully satisfy us; let us love that supreme and unchangeable Good, in whom is all good; let us sigh after that blissful and eternal life, compared to which the present life should rather be called death than life. And, alas! how imperfectly, how weakly, with what dark and distracted minds do we here praise God! but there is praise perfect and everlasting, where love is ardent, sweet, and constant. The most favoured virgin, St. Gertrude, once under stood in spirit, that the light of the Divinity was so great and so incomprehensible, that if each one of the Saints, from Adam to the last man, were to attain as deep and clear a knowledge of it as any one has ever attained, without that knowledge being shared by any other, and even if the multitude of the Saints were a thousand times more numerous, yet that light of the Divinity would infinitely surpass all understanding. 294The same is true of the beauty, sweetness, and goodness of God, and of His other desirable perfections.

With good reason therefore did this virgin, Gertrude, who, in her union with God, had tasted the delights of the heavenly country, thus exclaim, and commit to writing these words: “O blessed region, making Messed with the affluence of bliss; harvest of delights, whose minutest grain is able amply to satisfy the avidity of all the elect, containing all things desirable, attractive, and sweet that the human heart can conceive! O eternal solstice, fair noontide, secure abode, dwelling filled with every pleasure, joyful paradise, flowing on all sides with rivers of inestimable delights, fascinating by the varied beauty of its flowery gardens, and soothing with most sweet sounds, yea, with the entrancing melody of intellectual music, and inebriating with the overwhelming sweetness of interior joys, and transforming by the marvellous charm of secret embraces! But wherefore should my stammering tongue attempt to speak of it? when even if all the powers of Angels and men were combined in one science, it would never fully suffice to form one single word which could in any measure express, or reach to the height of its excellence.” These are the words of St. Gertrude. But if such inexplicable things were shown to that virgin during her exile, what, I ask, is given to the blessed citizens of heaven, who see God not in a dark manner, but face to face (1 Cor. xiii. 12)? May Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God and of the Virgin, who is blessed for evermore, deign to bring us into that heavenly home, Amen.

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