Preparing for the Beatific Vision

March 18, 2024

The attributes bestowed by God upon man are quite beautiful if you take the time to admire God’s work in every human being. There is nothing that does not involve an act of Divine intimacy in how God made both man and woman. From the moment we receive the ability to breathe and encounter the world outside of our mother's womb, we are initiated into a created order established by God to love Him and other human beings as he loves us. Part of this Divine vision involves his method of speaking to us in a way we can understand. This specific action is about God as a Divine Pedagogue or the way he chooses to communicate with us.

Part of God’s divine approach to speaking with us involves the institution of laws or commands more specifically the Ten Commandments. One might say that references to the Ten Commandments are either outdated or not plausible by today’s current cultural standards of living. However, as we encounter our ancestors the Israelites murmur about God when things go awry in the book of Exodus[1] or Numbers[2], it reveals an important reality that human beings need order and structure. In this case, we need a rule of law, that transitions to a rule of faith that serves as the identity for the Creed that Jesus Christ the Son of God proclaims to his Apostles and disciples at the Mount of Beatitudes.[3] And, the process of making a profession of faith and being baptized[4] as part of the entryway into the Church.

These deposits of God’s love revealed in the Old Testament receive an additional divine character in the birth of His only-begotten son Jesus Christ. The significance of the Son of Man possessing both a fully human and divine unlocks another divine chamber where now you and I can encounter God more intimately through His Son who proclaims the message of love, mercy, sacrifice, and suffering ultimately witnessing the Son continue this offering of love through death by crucifixion.

God, I argue does not want to see us perpetually lost in our relationship with him; he wants us to see him face to face in the beatific vision within the confines of his heavenly home. He accommodates himself to us through His Son where we encounter the selfless humility of Jesus Christ through his death on the cross. We are reminded of God’s accommodation in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians which implores the necessity of imitating Christ's humility,

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[5]

The beatific vision is defined as the contemplation of God in heavenly glory[6] where we encounter God for who he is as Abba, Father. Associated with the beatific vision is the reality that God made us to know, love, and serve him as the path to paradise. If we are made in God’s image and likeness, should we not desire to be partakers of the divine nature of God?[7] The beatific vision is a gift of divine joy, which serves as our aim when conceived and baptized. The moment we receive the grace of Jesus Christ at baptism, the path to see God opens, and now our entire body and soul composite is directed toward the divine.

How should you and I prepare for the beatific vision? Our first task is to embrace our identity as a child of God. The fact that we were given a body and soul, intellect, will reveal the depth of God’s love for us. These holy attributes provide us with the ability to communicate with him. As if these gifts were not enough, he proceeded to offer us his Son Jesus Christ to know God more intimately through the Son and understand the depths of his love when his only-begotten son was crucified for our sinful behavior.

Our second task is to allow time for silence and contemplation, this means removing as many distractions as possible from your daily living and designating a time during the day to be in conversation with God. This task aims to allow yourself to be snatched by the love of God and not by your sins. Meditating through the practice of Lectio Divina on the Way of the Cross, the Beatitudes, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and the letters of St. John especially chapter three of his first letter where he guides us on how to walk away from sin and then in turn love one another[8] are sound biblical methods we can use to foster a time for contemplation and renewal.

Our third task and arguably the most difficult is to lead a life worthy of the crucifixion and embrace suffering as a gift. We know that suffering is a consequence of sin, however, Jesus reclaimed suffering as an act of faith as part of our participation in Jesus’ salvific work on the cross. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that suffering has meaning,[9] Jesus took our ailments and infirmities,[10] and he reminds us that he came to serve and not be served and gave his life as a ransom for many.[11] The beatific vision is by all estimations our final act of faith where we see God face to face.[12] I leave you with the following words of consolation from St. Cyprian,

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.

 

St. Cyprian, Ep. 58, 10, 1: CSEL 3/2, 665, CCC 1028

 

[1] Ex 32:1-6

[2] Num 11:1-10; 14:1-12

[3] Mt 5

[4] Mt 28:17-20, Rom 6:17

[5] Phil 2:4-11

[6] CCC 1028

[7] 2 Pet 1:4; CCC 459

[8] 1 Jn 3:4-18

[9] Is 53:11

[10] Mt 8

[11] Jn 3:13, 6:62

[12] CCC 163

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