My less cynical Christian friends,
There are some who will not have any of this heaven and hell business; they think that life ought to be entirely about the moment. In fact, you may even go so far as to call such people worshipers of the present. They, like all who prefer alternatives to Christ, go about rationalizing their ways as seemingly innocently as possible: they might say, “this Jesus stuff is okay so long as it doesn’t interfere with real life” or “there need not be pie in the sky–the good of service should be enough in itself” and of course, “everything is fine in moderation; perfect living is the result of perfect balance.”
But as for me and my house, this particular housing is not home. I should hardly think it necessary to point out all the fallacies in these, the thoughts of the moderate naturalists. It is self-evident that the “good itself” is the “pie in the sky,” and that infinity and truth cannot be moderated, and that heaven is the most real life there is˚. But beyond all this, there is the simple reality that this moment alone, without the hope of heaven, is pure hell.
Why the naturalist would wish to escape heaven, I shall not bother to answer at present–hell has its reasons–but I would much rather remind us all, as best I can, of what it means to long for heaven, lest we should find ourselves as hopeless as they. We need not fear that the hope of heaven is a wrong reason for disciples; love is the right reason, and “love,” as C.S. Lewis writes, “by its very nature desires its object.” Indeed, the desire of heaven is an absolute necessity in Christian living. Christianity is about accepting God’s grace, and there’s no way one will accept it if he doesn’t want it.
I am reminded, as I am all to often, of one of my favorite books: Dante’s Divina Commedia or Divine Comedy. The book, originally titled La Commedia, is an allegorical illustration of the realities of heaven and hell. It features Dante’s beloved Beatrice, a former lover in earthly life. In Paradiso (paradise), the last of the three books that make up La Commedia, Dante ascends into further heaven with each glance at the shinning face of Beatrice. Aside from the less relevant commentary on the nature of erotic love, Dante’s love of Beatrice functions much like our love of heaven; the more we love God and long for His grace, the more He can give of Himself to us.
Beatrice and heaven† are truly Dante’s sole motivation (beyond his fear of hell) as he moves though the Inferno (hell) and Purgatorio (purgatory). He clings to this, his hope of heaven, all the way until he reaches the top of purgatorio. It is here that his noble guide and friend, Virgil, a symbol of intellect*, has to leave him as he finally ascends into heaven.
So shall it be the case with us. One day, we will leave behind everything, even our intellect, for it is, as Virgil was, a pagan. The greatest strife of the human mind to explain reality does not compare with God’s almighty presence. One day, we will find ourselves at the top of purgatorio˚, a place, much like the unreachable horizon, where the heavens meet the earth. And there, we shall let go of all the work we have done which has been but a guide, as Virgil was, with the sole end of brining us to this point where we no longer need it. That day is not far away, but, rather, more present to us than this very moment.
Your dear friend,
˚ (oops, I just pointed them out)
† symbolically, heaven and the perfect union of the body of Christ, the union of men and women being among our best analogize to the anticipated pure union of the body with each part being unique and having a particular function
* also a symbol of the unity between Dante’s writing and the classical style (again, like Beatrice, implying the unity of heaven)
˚ and as a member of the protestant tradition, I hold purgatory as a metaphor of earth, which is how it functions in the catholic tradition anyways, the mere words are different, and to the extent that they are different, they are wrong anyways as a result of their complexity (see fractal reality).