Why Modern Man Wouldn’t Like Heaven (If He Had the Balls to Get There)

“The joys of heaven are for most of us, in our present condition, an acquired taste.” I couldn’t agree more with my boy Clive Staples, with whom I hang out on the weekend, smoke pipes and talk about babes. Most of us would dislike Heaven, if ever we were to get there.

Take the modern, “just me, my bible, and Jesus” Christian. He rebels against institutionalized religion — whatever on earth that means — the “huge churches” — as Jeff Bethke put it — the wealth, the incense, the vestments, the gold tabernacles and the altars of stone. These are needless additions to the Christian journey, distractions at best and corruptions at worst. But hark! [the herald angels sing] the best description of Heaven that we have — le Book of Revelation — describes Heaven in precisely these terms — the terms of an old, stodgy, institutionalized religion.

According to the wonderfully trippy last book of the Bible (since Jesus is a Christopher Nolan fan, his story ends with your mind getting blown) there is liturgy, ritual, vestments (1:13), chanting (4:8), incense (5:8), candles (1:12), chalices (15:7), tabernacles (15:5), the Blessed Virgin Mary (12:1-6, 13-17) and St. Michael the Archangel (12:7) in Heaven. It all sounds eerily familiar:

What a marked incongruity between what our culture desires the spiritual life to be — warm, fuzzy, wish-fulfilling, full of spontaneity and Bible studies — and what Heaven is actually described as — a ritual and a Mass!

For people like me, this is something of a relief. If Heaven resembles this:

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I’ll take a long, long time in Purgatory, thank you.

But the Evangelical might grow to like it, if only for his beautiful and heroic willingness to conform to God’s will. (Heaven is Catholic? Alright, well, who can fathom Your ways Lord, and all that.) But I suspect the secular world would dislike Heaven for a reason greater than ritual, a reason that nauseates the post-Christian man. And thus I arrive at the actual Point, having fooled you into thinking I’m wrapping up: Modern man would dislike Paradise because modern man dislikes Infinity.

Again, let’s talk to Jack. He describes a Narnian paradise in The Last Battle:

“I see,” she said at last, thoughtfully. “I see now. This garden is like the stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside.”

“Of course, Daughter of Eve,” said the Faun. “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.”

Lucy looked hard at the garden and saw that it was not really a garden but a whole world, with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains. But they were not strange: she knew them all.

“I see,” she said. “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful then the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see… world within world, Narnia within Narnia…”

“Yes,” said Mr Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”

Awesome. Lewis’ description of Heaven is not a static one, but the wild, primal cry of “further up and further in!” And what else could Infinity be but the Evermore, the Further Up and In? It cannot be a finalized state — as if infinite happiness were simply “really happy!” Something finalized is inherently limited. We would become bored with even the greatest of joys, if that joy were a static thing.

Which is why pictures like these make me want to vomit:

Heaven portrayed as a static thing always ends up looking like a My Little Pony castle you can never escape.

And pictures like this don’t:

Action! Movement! Guy peeling off his skin!

Heaven is not “this much Peace, and no more” or “this much Joy, and no more” — it is the eternal motion of peace, of joy, and of grace. Christ did not say, “I’ll make all things new, then be done.” Christ said “I make all things new,” Present Continuous tense. By his blood all things are ever-new; it flows unceasingly. Heaven is a place — yes — but it is also an action, a Wedding Feast. Heaven, she moves.

But our world — oh God, our bored and boring world — she doesn’t move, she rots. We’ve sterilized all our infinities and dressed them as limited, ending things. There used to exist secular pathways to God and Happiness — bright roads called the Transcendentals — ways of Goodness, of Truth and of Beauty.

Plato, Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas all agreed: Goodness, Truth and Beauty are infinite in their nature, and man naturally desires to attain all three. In Christian theology these Infinities are God Himself, and if the bitter, most liberated atheist were simply to pursue but one of them, for no other reason than, say, an unreasonable love of good music, he would find his Maker. (And know Him better — I imagine — than the modern Christian.) But good Philosophy isn’t cool anymore. Plato, after all, was a white, Anglo-saxon, Protestant male.

So now we see goodness as relative. What’s immoral for you is moral for me. But don’t misunderstand my whine: The problem with this modern morality is not that it’s too accepting and tolerant a thing, but that it constricts like a boa. We are forbidden to dive into infinite depths of goodness because, well, what may be good for you might not be good for someone else. If goodness is defined by the individual, it dies with the individual. If goodness is defined by the herd, it dies with the herd. Goodness has been rudely cut short.

Similarly, we’ve made beauty no more than the expression of self — art as a mode of spewing the inner politics of the artist onto a canvas, music score, or theatre stage. But, again, the problem with this modern approach to Beauty is not that it is too loose and free — no, it is too claustrophobic. For if Beauty is defined by the self, it ends with the self. Beauty is limited, under the guise of being freed. Don’t believe me? Adequately defend the popularity of this man’s work:

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And we’ve even managed to limit Truth. The old heathen philosophers were fulfilled by their search for Truth because they knew it was search without end. Now we are bombarded with the phrase, “What’s true for you may not be true for me!” If Truth is what you make of it, it is as small and finite as you make it. Our world likes to pretend that such a generous attitude towards Truth leads to pluralism and the resurgence of long forgotten and beautiful tribal religions. Actually, it leads to this:

And no coherent answer as to why, precisely, if everyone has their own Truth, we should be annoyed.

Dammit, can’t you see what we’ve done? We’ve taken the Infinities — the things that for all of human history have fulfilled man and had him gasping for more — and we’ve scrawled “The End” across their divine faces. Plato, in his Symposium, noted that all creation is an attempt at achieving Infinity, especially procreation, for one can live on forever in his children. It follows that purposefully restricting our access to Infinity is a sort of castration. With the blade of relativism, we’ve cut off our genitals — those parts that generate, that allow us to ‘live forever.’ We’ve rid ourselves of the Infinites, we’ve burnt down the Transcendentals, and now we find ourselves sterile. Sterile in our art, in our search for Beauty. Sterile in our morals, in our pursuit of Good. Sterile in our thought, in our desire for Truth.

Thus I can only imagine that if modern man were to die and find himself in a place where Goodness, Truth and Beauty were worshipped as one Infinite Being, without end, and without being defined by man, he would be nauseated. “This isn’t heaven, this is bigotry!” If man is spiritually castrated in this life, how will he enjoy the nuptial pleasure of the next, the eros-enflamed Infinity that is Heaven? If we live as eunuchs on this passing Earth we will be only be bored at the eternal Wedding Night of the new.

So it’s shocking to me that my hip, liberated friends are offended at the Christian concept of Hell. Unless we have a resurgent appreciation for the Transcendentals, Hell is the logical consequence of our relativism. It’s a static place, the eternal fires. One need not concern himself with infinite Love, Goodness, Beauty or Truth. In fact, Hell is entirely separate from the Transcendentals, and the soul is instead thrust into his self, into his own misery. I may very well not make it to Heaven, being a terrible Catholic and all, but at the very least, I’d like to. For a culture running in fear from the Infinite, Hell is Heaven and Heaven is Hell, and it seems that we would gladly choose the lonely, claustrophobic flames, over the frightfully objective Infinity of Heaven. The gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Welcome to Paradise:

  • Keith

    My friend and classmate told me this last night:

    A man at the parish where he serves as deacon got a little fresh with a woman acquaintance. It seems she told me, “I believe in God, I just don’t like going to Mass.”

    He responded, “Well then, I guess you want to go to Hell, because bother Heaven and Purgatory ARE Mass, the real, true, complete and fulfilled Mass.”

  • Joe Gehret

    Excellent post.
    It is in motion towards the Infinites that man finds what he blindly searched for in the mires of relativism: himself.

  • Stephen Nowak

    Dear Sir:

    I would just like to say that I found the first line to be excessively ridiculous and (if I’ve got my contemporarities right) totally pimpin’.

    Yours Sincerely,
    A Reader

  • Nate Craddock

    Aw, come on, give Penderecki some love… to adequately explain why “Threnody” is popular one really has to deal with Beethoven and continue on from there. I’m a musicologist, so sue me :)

    But we are of one mind on everything else… and I’m an Anglican!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Calavitta David Calavitta

    Dude, such a good article. Please keep it up. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=788556061 Edward Carlin

    I love it. Sometimes, I think that the cure for a lot of the pessimism of this world is to meditate on the infinite joys of heaven. It’s a lot easier to strive to live the Christian life when you can remember what it is you are striving for, and I have always loved C.S. Lewis’ imagining of paradise. It has affected me so much, actually, that when my friends are wont to speculate on the end of the world, I like to think that the world we live in will be heaven itself (once it is perfected and glorified), since it was originally made good and is still full of good things.

    Oh, and by the way, I learned from the head tour guide at the Vatican when we stopped to contemplate Michelangelo’s masterpiece “The Last Judgement” that Michelangelo painted St. Thomas holding his own (Michelangelo’s) skin, since he never felt worthy as an artist. His thought was that if St. Thomas, who doubted the Resurrection, could make it to eternal paradise, perhaps he would help Michelangelo in his own self-doubts to arrive there, too, which I thought was a beautiful story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Segert/514974776 Tim Segert

    As always, this is a very well written article. I do, however, have two things that I want to say:

    1. Penderecki’s music is meant to sound “bad” or unpleasant. If you saw the title, it is a reflection of how people felt after an atomic bomb had been dropped on them. I used to have that same approach to modern atonal classical music, but to completely reject it on principle because you haven’t studied it and don’t understand it is to throw the baby out with the bath water. Would you be as critical of him if you knew that his other most famous work is “St. Luke’s Passion”?

    2. I’m not sure if this is what you had in mind, but that kind of criticism of Protestant worship is unfair. I am a recent convert to the Church from a group that has excellent worship, and I have yet to hear anything close to as good in any of the Catholic churches that I attend. I think instead of criticizing Protestant music’s focus on (good) rock and pop music, we should take notes and aim to replicate that quality with the Truth of the Eucharist involved. Didn’t the Church establish Western music for about 1900 years? Let’s make it that way again instead of pulling others down.

    If you can’t tell, I’m a music student who cares a lot about how it is used in the Church. God bless, and keep up the good writing.

    • Grace

      I’m also a musician and I wholeheartedly agree with you about Penderecki! I’m on my phone and this particular YouTube clip wouldn’t play on phones, but now that I see he was talking about Penderecki, I have to disagree with his choice of example!

    • http://www.facebook.com/quasitonality Michael Johnson

      I agree! Penderecki’s music might not appear “beautiful”, but there can be beauty in the portrayal of ugliness – Think of Dracula, Frankenstein, or even the portion of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment shown at the end of this article. That said, this is a wonderfully true article; I just don’t think the criticism applies to Penderecki.

    • Anonymous

      Alright, I’m gonna have to disagree here. The piece was NOT written as a reflection on how people felt after the atom bomb. The piece was written, then he listened to it, THEN he named it after Hiroshima — “I was struck by the emotional charge of the work…I searched for associations and, in the end, I decided to dedicate it to the Hiroshima victims”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threnody_to_the_Victims_of_Hiroshima

      So I’m not sure about this “it’s expressing ugliness and therefore it’s good” idea. But admittedly, I’m not entirely versed in the avante-garde music world.

      • JaneC

        In the article, you asked us to defend the popularity of this work. I can do it very briefly: he dedicated it to the victims of Hiroshima. It wouldn’t be nearly as popular otherwise, but he slapped a sensational title on it that does actually seem to fit with the sensations evoked by it, so it caught on. I don’t think anyone enjoys listening to this work the way we enjoy listening to Handel’s “Royal Fireworks,” but it’s seen as important and significant, so it gets played and recorded. Incidentally, how do you feel about the short stories of Flannery O’Connor? They portray the ugliness of sin and our fallen human nature, not in the almost light-hearted manner of The Screwtape Letters but in a harsh way. Nevertheless, many people think Flannery O’Connor is a brilliant author and thinker, even though her stories aren’t “enjoyable” in the ordinary sense. I’m not really trying to compare Penderecki to O’Connor–I think she is in a whole other category–but I am defending the idea that art doesn’t have to be “beautiful” in the sense that most people think of beauty.

    • James H

      Sorry, I also have to agree with Tim: hard rock just cries out for transcendental themes.

      I respect that we can’t really use it in the Mass, any more than we should have opera singers as cantors; but it would be a shame not to have people capable of moving others to worship using the power and glory of distort guitars and a 5-piece drum kit. If we abandon it, not only does it look like ‘only the devil has all the good [read: fun] music’, but there’s an avenue of artistry that’s closed to the church.

      There are prayer meetings and evangelical outreaches where that music is just perfect. As it happens, evangelical worship services are really only very long prayer meetings, which is why it’s appropriate there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Young/1549754911 Kevin Young

    This was awesome. Totally gave voice to what I feel about the nature of heaven, earth, etc, etc. Keep up the good work man.

  • Susan (Archaeology cat)

    Love it! I distinctly remember back when I was Baptist that the thought of an unchanging, unending Heaven mademe nervous, and I worried about getting bored. I admit that I was afraid of that idea of Heaven, but I assumed it was what Heaven was, until I encountered Lewis and Catholic teaching.

  • Lindsey Raye

    So sad! Let’s try “Why the faithful Catholic will LOVE heaven”

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

      Hey! Hey! Not everyone who is not (nominally, at least) Catholic is gonna be a Westborough!

  • Jay E.

    Jack informs me that this is bloody well put, and wonders if you’ve considered his infinite onion-heaven idea in light of this other quote of exceeding brilliance:

    “At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get IN. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. when all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects.” (The Weight of Glory)

    There is that very great desire to get “in” that is present in all of us. Which explains the ache of dissatisfaction we so often encounter in our joys and pleasures. Especially from reading good stories (at least that is how it is for me, and as it was for Mr. Lewis). Didn’t you ever feel deep pain at the end of an immersive story? You ache because you’ve caught a tiny glimpse, but you want to get IN, you want to mingle with it… Perhaps even more universally, think of when you played as a little kid and invented stories and played with swords or guns and fought imaginary dragons and stormed imaginary castles. You are dissatisfied, because you never really could get IN. Or after reading a book, or watching a movie, you might act it out and play it in an effort to get in. But it was always flawed, because it was only an imaginary “in” and never the Real Thing. Fake dying works up to a point – but goes no further. Think even of the concept of lust. When a man lusts after the body of a woman, is there not that desire to get “in”? We cannot yet mingle with what we see…

    I think Lewis says somewhere something like “it is as if we keep stumbling across the gates to Eden, but you’re not allowed in”. We come across it everywhere and it’s rather painful; Lewis’ “sehnsucht”. Those tiny tastes we get, those little fleeting fulfillment, only stoke the fire of our longing all the more. Particularly when we come across Someone who whispers “Remain in me as I remain in you” and then promptly goes off and is crucified…

    Have you read Lewis’ Perelandra, and in fact the whole Space Trilogy? If you haven’t, quickly drop everything!!!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

      Yes, by all means, the space trilogy! O, old pitiful fool Weston… he started off trying to propagate (blindly) but ended up looking for hell, or, “into the orange”. Golly. This sure fits in well (because it all does).

    • SomeoneSmall

      Perelandra is incredible (and really reveals his friendship with Tolkien), but ‘Till We Have Faces’ is probably my favorite book of his.

      • Jay E.

        Both of those are astounding reads.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/UNPKICSZDQ2POYY3YSKUMG22RY Colleen

        I LOVED Til We Have Faces. By far my favorite Lewis book of all time.

  • http://twitter.com/CatholicMomVA Christine~Soccer Mom

    Was that supposed to be music? I even tried skipping ahead a few times, but only heard screeching and mechanical sounds. What happened to music theory classes? Doesn’t anyone take those, or are they passe?

    • Annony11

      Music theory classes are where you learn the “rules” and framework of traditional western music. You have to understand the rules before you can “break” them. Only within that understanding can one truly appreciate the extremities of modern classical music (as studied in music history classes, for example). I would argue that most of the people who would appreciate this type of music HAVE taken extensive music theory.

      • Grace

        I would concur with that. I am a classical musician with a heavy background in music theory, and I geek out on Penderecki.

        • Annony11

          Personally, I’m not a huge Penderecki fan but I definitely appreciate it for what it is. I’d rather listen to Babbit; Philomel is one of my all time favorites from music history class and most people would probably find it only slightly more stomachable than Penderecki.

      • http://profiles.google.com/rickgutleber Rick Gutleber

        I’m the first one to criticize the 20th century concept of “enough with trying to make good art, let’s make crap instead”, but I honestly would not count Penderecki’s “Threnody” as part of that deconstruction of traditional artistic forms. Frankly I find in it more artistic merit than 99% of popular music from the last couple decades.

        To contrast, when Marcel Duchamp hung a urinal upside down in 1917 and signed it “R. Mutt”, it was a radical concept, possibly even clever. But, every single person after him who did the same kind of thing (and they are still doing it today) is just an idiot. And yet today there are still throngs of people who sit around all day pretending (perhaps even to themselves) to be enlightened, inspired or amazed at something so banal as poop on a wall.

        And, yes, although I am a software developer by trade, I have always been a huge lover and collector of music, studied a year of music theory as an elective in college. I sing in the Church choir and in the past have even done some composition and arranging of my own. I think “Threnody” is really cool.

        Otherwise, I think the article was spot-on.

        • Annony11

          I think you misunderstood my comment (unless this got misplaced which happens sometimes). I agree that Threnody has great artistic merit. When I mentioned “breaking” traditional rules that wasn’t a negative. Composers who understand traditional harmony can certainly choose to ignore as many of the “rules” as they wish precisely because they understand that they are doing so.

  • Scottjhebert

    This is going to sound very odd, but do you think the popularity of vicarious living (a la MMOs, Second Life, and other outlets) may be due to this very castration of our true ability to generate and grasp the infinite in our lives?

  • Medstudent

    So… I went to a local “bible” church with a friend yesterday. As I watched that first youtube clip I simultaneously felt the urge to laugh and cry.

    No exaggeration, the service went exactly like that. It felt like a shallow and watered-down version of Christianity.

    Thank God for the Mass.

    • Raul E. Fernandez

      In defense of some protestant services…they do have a place and I’m somewhat grateful they exist. I have always called them “entry-level” because they’re good at getting non-believers and making them believers.

      But wait, what about the Church, don’t we do that? Well, not as fervently we did in the first few centuries, no. Though the good news is that in these last few decades, the fervor of the youth has grown and thanks to the influence of the Protestants, we too are evangelizing more and more (perhaps not as much as we should, but it’s a start).

  • Evan

    Marc, your writing is brilliant, but I have to agree with the other’s defending Perdercki. Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima is a very good piece of 20th Century music. It has a clear form and knowledge of the past tradition, and it in no way espouses moral relativity. Threnody is beautiful in the same sense that Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and The Passion of the Christ are beautiful. The piece or one of those films may be an unpleasant listening/viewing expreience, but they are all reflecting on unpleasant dark themes. However, those themes clearly indicate an understanding of moral truth. All of those works of art are extremely well crafted and reflect a knowledge and understanding of moral truth.

    Sorry, if I come across as irate, but I really like Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. By the way, where did you discover it?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

      I think (I don’t know) that what he’s trying to say is, that it is a tiny, tiny world that enjoys listening to a horrible sound – it’s not that it conveys badly, but that is conveys untruth (when taken by itself). It is not beautiful in that it is inharmonious to the senses. I’m fine if a monster is depicted as horrible and gross, and it’s fine to praise that depiction or picture, but we don’t say the picture is beautiful unless a knight slays the monster. What it lacks is not skill and artistry, but beauty.

      And, by the way, I’m not unfamiliar with the concept of the horror of the thing. My Grandmother lived near Nagasaki at that time, so it’s not like I’m an insulated bigot.
      Those things don’t deserve to be depicted as beautiful in themselves.

      • Evan

        It is certainly true that sin should not be depicted as beautiful in itself. However, a depiction of sin as horrific points to a greater truth and understanding. And for that, the depiction can be appreciated and called beautiful, albeit not in the same sense that a portrayal of goodness is called beautiful. However, Marc selected the Penderecki to exemplify the fallacy of the belief that beauty is subjective and personal. I strongly agree with him that beauty is objective; however, I do not think that this piece is a good example to prove his point. (As a music major, I could list many 20th Century pieces that I think would prove his point. I will also admit that I enjoy and can find beauty in many pieces of music that baffle most people.)

        • Rachel K

          I agree. The Penderecki strikes me as the aural equivalent of a horror movie, and horror certainly has its place.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

    Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! Three cheers for Dante and contrapassio!

    The medievals had it right, here. Because their maps trailed off into border-less “here-be-dragons” and falling off the edge of the word (well, not really, they thought earth was round, and the heavens went off infinitely, but hey, Columbus!). Yeah.

  • Anonymous

    Your comments on the ever-moving heaven remind of Von Balthasar’s conception of the Trinity. Do you guys read any VB at Steubie? His connection between the Infinite and movement lead to some very interesting, very odd, and very problematic (though not heterodox!) conceptions about the nature of God.

  • Belle

    Thanks for the great article Marc!

  • Fisherman

    So Heaven is like having Mass inside the TARDIS? (please say yes.)

    • Anonymous

      You are my new best friend. Favorite comment of the week: achievement unlocked!

      • Fisherman

        I LOVE MAKING NEW FRIENDS. Admittedly, the TARDIS is only so big, and Heaven is infinite.

      • Danny

        The 34th doctor….. of the Church.

    • Nikki

      I’m so glad I’m not the only person who thought of the TARDIS!

  • http://twitter.com/BlueFox94 Renard N. Bansale

    This article is so truthful that trolls haven’t even touched a combox yet ^_^

  • Guest

    Love the Narnia portrayal of heaven!

  • Ball of String

    Wow. I actually get what you’re saying now. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of the “infinite” was a little vague to me since, after all, our lives are so short that we cannot comprehend exactly what infinite really means.

    Let me get this straight, though–in thinking about Heaven this way, does that mean that it is tapping into our desire of wanting more–and getting it–every minute of every second (like time matters in Heaven)?

    Ugh, now I confused myself again. If in Heaven, we’re not in anticipation, then doesn’t that mean we are in peace? Or is it an ongoing state of happiness? Gah, the concept of Heaven will forever confuse me…but it is interesting. :)

  • Anonymous

    good article, the hell is heaven and heaven is hell is really something to think about, i’ll show this article to some of my old theology teachers, maybe they can use it in the future! =)

  • Anonymous

    As an obscure Catholic artist (nearly all faithful Catholic artists are obscure these days) it was very nice to read a Catholic say that sugar coated pseudo religious ‘art’ makes him want to puke. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh like fresh ice cold water on a very hot day, and then you actually used some good stuff!!!! Nicely done!

  • barefoot cinderella

    I make all things new <– simple present tense, to denote a fact or regular occurence

  • http://profiles.google.com/nixonislord Nixon isLord

    Religion is itself tedious. Given the choice of root canal and a church service, I would pick root canal.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

      But you have to go if you’ve got a rotten tooth. Dental bliss results from dentistry – The other kind from Religion.

    • Anonymous

      if you are paying attention, nothing in life is tedious, except tedious people.

  • filiusdextris

    If memory serves, Lewis hated his first name with a passion, and made anyone who addressed him on a first-name basis call him ‘Jack’.

  • Elena

    I remember when I was 9 0r 10 and reading Narnia for the first time, and the idea of “Further up and further in!” thrilled me, even though I didn’t quite understand why.
    It’s been a while since I reread those, but now I remember that old thrill, and you’ve put the words to why it made such an impression.

  • Jackson

    CS Lewis was a major proponent of diversity in worship styles (wonderful story about an Orthodox man crawling about like a worm during service). Also, to point out something that ought to be said, he was Anglican. I do not believe that he would support the belief that a certain churches’ view of service would be the only one that wouldn’t get fidgety in God’s presence (any more than he would argue that 4 bizarre beasts standing in during Mass would acclimate you to the same worship of that passage of Revelation). Basically, as a Protestant, I can say that we are quite cool with infinity, and that it is just as much our deepest desire to participate in a new song in heaven, one unlike anything on this Earth, in the presence of the Angels, the whole Communion of Saints, and the Triune God. There will be portions of heaven that will resonate with the Protestant, points that will resonate with the Catholic. Unless a man of amber draws a sword from his mouth regularly in a service, or angles who are always in-tune sing Holy, Holy, Holy, or coals are regularly placed on lips, I think we can all safely assume that Heaven will be a beautiful infinity of surprises and wonders even one of which the Bible could not convey nor describe fully. (As a final note, it is worth pointing out that Peter met in house churches. He had no gold chalices, no Latin liturgy (well, maybe), no stamp for the Eucharist. But as the Rock of the Church, he established the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church by the communion and gathering of his flock, for “where 2 or more are gathered” etc. Yet not one Christian would, (I believe) choose a modern Mass for a Mass with St. Peter)

    • Adriel

      A few minor quibbles: Jesus, not St. Peter, established the Church.

      And we Catholics believe some pretty amazing things about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (See The Lamb’s Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn) (No, really, see it) which means that any validly celebrated Mass, even a modern Mass said by Father McUnimpressive at Our Lady of Nowhere in Normaltown, USA, is equally as desirable as a Mass celebrated by St. Peter in the flesh.

      And this is to say nothing of the fact that St. Peter takes part spiritually in every Mass as it is, and a Mass with the Pope is a true physical connection to St. Peter anyway.

  • Phil Bachmeyer

    Marc,
    I’ve been reading your articles for the last three weeks and have found many of your writings to be illuminating. However, I have to say you absolutely blew my mind with this article — and that’s something that doesn’t happen to me often. In fact, I’m reasonably certain the last time it happened, I was in high school. Thanks for doing what you’re doing!

  • Tiber 2012

    I am reading Scott Hahn’s book “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth” and he touches on a lot of these points re: Revelation and the mass. I am an eager revert and absolutely amazed. Great post!

  • Joseph Harmon

    I didn’t read all the comments, so I’m sorry if I’m repeating, but this article reminded me of that profound statement of B16′s: “Hell is the inprisonment in the self,” the very opposite of Love, of which as Karol Wojtyla said “the structure of Love is that of an interpersonal communion.”

  • ds

    There’s a disturbing subtext to article (and by disturbing I mean it pisses me off) that “heaven is how we think it is, and if you don’t believe what we believe you won’t like heaven and that’s good because you probably aren’t going anyway.”

    • Doc

      That’s oddly almost the exact opposite of the article’s import. The import of the article is that the Good the True and the Beautiful are eternal Realities–naturally there will be, if we ever get to enjoy them to the fullest, parts of them that we hadn’t expected. So in order to enjoy Heaven, we’ll need to be willing and able to stretch beyond our puny preferences.

  • http://twitter.com/dferg David Ferguson

    I am an evangelical protestant. I love this blog. Brother in Christ. Cultural ally.

  • Jane Hartman

    I cannot defend the popularity or beauty of Penderecki’s work. I only know that as a contemporary composer, he communicates directly to the heart. His Threnody communicates fear, destruction, chaos, and yes, hell in a non-verbal way. I teach music appreciation and I use this piece as an example. Students listen without having any previous detail about the piece, and I’m always amazed at their ideas about it. They write their images and feelings as the piece progresses and always their reaction is fear, someone coming to get me, chaos, bugs (these are the only living things that actually thrive after nuclear destruction) hell, etc. And this work is done with 52 strings only. It’s not dinner music, but by the same token, it’s great music in that it communicates exactly what it means.

  • Rebecca

    I am not entirely sure I agree with this. In a sense one can say that heaven will require a certain amount of transformation for all of us, and as Flannery O’Connor pointed out, transformation is always painful. But this essay seems to insinuate that heaven is somehow heteronomous and foreign to our humanity — that “modernity” has mysteriously robbed us of our fundamental longing for goodness and beauty. IN a way, really, the modernist discomfort with the restriction of systems (see Kierkegaard’s critique of Hegel) suggests that a thirst of infinity is still alive and well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569235898 Nicole Resweber

    I’ve always loved Lewis’ description of Heaven here. Brilliant essay, B.C. I shall be coming back.

  • Katherine Altham

    I agree with nearly all of what you had to say…except the Penderecki comment, and as a musician I couldn’t let it go. ;) Penderecki is writing about a moment of unspeakable horror in which Hell came onto earth. Put in that context, his work is grandiose, horrifying, and GOOD. Listen to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-Bjp9jptbM&feature=player_embedded ; it’s the same composer, and the piece is called Song of Cherubim. Penderecki can paint with music, and he paints both the depths of Hell and the glories of Heaven. (I actually used both clips as an example in a post I did a month ago.) Penderecki, thank God, is neither a nihilist nor a Freudian.

  • JL Liedl

    You give too much credit to Plato’s conception of love, though there is certainly much of it that is redeemable. He did not give procreation the exalted status we as Catholics give it, because he believed it produced something merely mortal. Ideal love, which focused one’s attention towards the divine, produced things immortal, like art and literature.

  • Chris

    WOW, this is your best post that I’ve seen yet. I am blown away. Please keep up the good work. I enjoy everything you write. So far…. ;-)

  • Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    This just got better and better as I read on. Thank you!

  • Ssc

    Incredibley well written and considered. Thank you. I love the Deacon’s comment. I confess that you have put into language many thoughts that have swirled unorganized in my head. My one comment is that I do not believe that heaven will be like Church. In Church we worship and give thanks for His beauty and His Truth. In Heaven we will experience and be beauty and truth at the same time. One does not worship and thank at the same time as they experience. Just my gut feeling.

  • http://2catholicmen.blogspot.com/ Ben

    “Modern man would dislike Paradise because modern man dislikes Infinity.”

    “A Mystery, in short, is an invitation to the mind. For it means that there is an inexhaustible well of Truth from which the mind can drink and drink again in the certainty that the well will never run dry, that there will always be water for the mind’s thirst.” – Frank Sheed

    How “anti-modern” is this? The mind of materialism wants to believe that we CAN reach the bottom of the well. A “mystery” by that definition offends them. They don’t WANT there to be something about which they cannot fully know, dissect, understand down to the bottom. There is no room for a transcendent God who is not fully knowable and so must be excluded.

    This is from a post by my blog partner Joe. Thought it fit well here.
    http://2catholicmen.blogspot.com/2011/11/mystery.html

  • Mary

    I’m kissing my monitor! Mwah! Mwah! Mwah!

  • Therese_carmella

    It’s a wonder most Protestants avoid the book of Revelation….there it is, people! :)

  • Sarah

    So this is kind of a random comment, but:

    ¨ Christ said “I make all things new,” Present Continuous tense. ¨

    …is actually the simple present tense. Present continuous would be ¨I am making all things new.¨

    I teach ESL and I just wanted to let you know. :)

  • Michael Val Hietter

    Agree with everything, except the absence of Obama in the Rove cartoon. MVH


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