Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Paradiso: All Saints' Day

Today is the great Feast of All Saints!  On this great Solemnity (not Holy Day of Obligation this year in the Dioceses of the United States), we celebrate all those that have achieved sanctity and enjoy the Beatific Vision with God in Heaven, even if not canonized.  I will first take a look at the historical origin of the feast, then move to a consideration of Heaven.

File:Paradiso Canto 31.jpg
A Dore engraving of Dante visiting the Paradiso with Beatrice.

The martyrology notes that Pope St. Boniface IV (reigned 608-615AD) instituted the feast for Rome on the occasion of the dedication of the Pantheon as a Church, and the feast was extended to the whole Church by Pope Gregory IV (reigned 827-844).

The Old Catholic Encylopedia has a good, if brief, article on the Feast of All Saints: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: All Saints' Day

Likewise, the Fisheater's webpage has a brief page on the feast: Fisheaters: All Saints' Day

Of course, the indulgence for the Poor Souls' for those that visit a cemetery actually begins today, in anticipation of tomorrow's feast, and last through 8 November.  From the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum:
"29 Pro fidelibus defunctis 
§ 1. Plenaria indulgentia, animabus in Purgatorio detentis tantummodo applicabilis, conceditur christifideli qui 
1°55 singulis diebus, a primo usque ad octavum novembris, coemeterium devote visitaverit et, vel mente tantum, pro defunctis exoraverit."

Here is that information in English: Plenary Indulgence for Cemetery Visit.

The great Father Zuhlsdorf, on his blog, has a great deal of excellent information, too, on this indulgence, and on the topic in general.  His site is well worth a visit!  Fr. Z's Blog: All Souls' & Indulgences

Looking, then, at Heaven, it is well to know what it is, what it consists in, and what it is not!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the teaching on Heaven as follows:

II. Heaven

1023 Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face:596

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment - and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven - have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.597

1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called "heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.

1025 To live in heaven is "to be with Christ." the elect live "in Christ,"598 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.599

For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.600

1026 By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us. the life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.

1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."601

1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. the Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory "the beatific vision":

How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends.602

1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God's will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him "they shall reign for ever and ever."603

596  1 Jn 3:2; cf.  1 Cor 13:12;  Rev 22:4.597 Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000; cf. LG 49.598  Phil 1:23; cf.  Jn 14:3;  1 Thess 4:17.599 Cf.  Rev 2:17.600 St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: PL 15, 1834A.601  1 Cor 2:9.602 St. Cyprian, Ep. 58, 10, 1: CSEL 3/2, 665.603  Rev 22:5; cf.  Mt 25:21,  23.
[Original text of the Catechism can be found here: Vatican: Catechism of the Catholic Church]

Likewise, the Old Catholic Encyclopedia has a rather informative article on the subject: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Heaven

Finally, in the Supplement to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, there is a discussion of heaven: Question 92 on the Beatific VisionQuestion 93 on the Happiness of the Blessed.  The articles that follow add a few more details.

Of course, one of the greatest literary works of the West, in this bloggers opinion, the Divine Comedy of Dante. How many other authors have a Papal Encyclical about their work? (cf. Benedict XV, In Praeclara Summorum). While not a theological manual, the Divine Comedy does embody a Catholic worldview in his presentation. So, why not go check out the final section of the work that fits with our post? Here is a copy of the Paradiso: Dante: Paradiso

Live well, so as to get to Heaven!

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