“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord,” the Book says.
Imagine walking up the steps to a door so large you cannot see its top. Heavy clouds, and a broadcast studio for the likes of a refurbished Fulton J. Sheen, existing like a bat up there, sending his Bela Lugosi visage into the imaginations of all who wait at the door.
The knob moves to meet your hand, but you must knock first, using what can only be described as what a star might look like it it were condensed to the size and shape of a Boy Scout compass and fastened, glowing, on the door. Of course, I would lift the glowing compass, knock and wait.
And of course, because I regard Bob Dylan as a seer, a saint with a guitar with a voice strained through road gravel and gin, I would hear Bob on the single speaker hanging nearby … his line from ” Sweetheart Like You,” which promises something like,
“They say inside your father’s house there’s many a mansions Each one of them got a fireproof floor”
And who knows, Bob might get there before I do, his face restored, but his voice unchanged, like a bucket that drops down into the deep well of just knowing stuff.
In Paradise, I’m positive there is a river, and that river is, well, it is Good. There will be no pain, no suffering, no human anguish…it will all be gone. I can fish all I want, providing I get past the door. Never tire and never ache. It will be Good.
In the mansion of my own room, I can invite Bob over, or have Fulton drop by for some wine, maybe a blessing or two, or if he is elsewhere, say off driving the back roads in an ancient but perfect E-Type Jaguar ( black, of course), well, I know he can be two places at once, so…
Outside my window, there will be evidence that Heaven was there all along. Rising that first morning would confirm my belief that heaven is always right next to us, protected by a thin veil of perception, and the landscape we walk every day, will, once we pass on, be revealed. It will have appeared, so to speak, and we will finally know that Heaven is not in the sky, nor in some “other place”; it is as the singer Greg Brown suggests, “a thousand feet high.”Jesus told one of the criminals hanging next to him, “today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
It’s not up there, in the sky. Remember, Thoreau saying “Heaven is under our feet”?
We all know how we gain access. We all know you can’t sing your way in. We are let in, invited, as it were. Our hearts and souls are examined by something I imagine might be like a cosmic TSA authority checking our internal baggage. God runs the scanner, does the cavity search and gives us a gentle nudge out into a literal paradise. Then, we’re set loose to wander, as I imagine dogs might wander, full of joy and curiosity, moving through and in this landscape which is God manifested in all things.
He’s there of course, and Jesus too, appearing now and then, sometimes disappearing, moving in clouds and shapes, wind and water riffles, reappearing again, falling out of trees or rising up out of the sunlight on a desk top, floating inside a dust mote. Any night in this heaven might find God galloping by on a massive horse, or Jesus taking flight as a condor. Spiritual shape shifters is what they are, and they are dancers, mimes, they are stone and bird at the same time. They exist outside of time, yet they are inside of us, always. “Cleave the stone and you will find me” Jesus said, becoming sweet honey in a rock, in every rock. It is impossible to imagine a God so overwhelming as to be at once a “thing” while at the same time all “things.”
I have no idea who will be in your heaven, or if you will be in mine. But if it’s a good as I think it will be, with Dylan and no appearance of any of the travails, pains, sorrows, diseases and disappointments of this life, then I will gladly dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
And that criminal hanging next to Jesus, both of them suffering beyond suffering on their crosses…imagine his joy and astonishment, imagine him dead but not dead, standing on earth he was sure he’d seen just moments before–the clouds more luminous, the sky bluer than he had ever seen–and raising his arms to praise all that he saw, no pain for the first time in his life.
Maybe he’d go fishing then, or just sit on the grass in the sun and watch God and Jesus do their dance of life, only to vanish and become something else in some other heavenly spot. Maybe the ages would suddenly collapse into each other and Dylan would be standing in front of him, singing “Rank Strangers to Me” as a reminder of what once was a world of sorrow, never to be again.
Or maybe he’d hear Bishop Sheen, so crow-like, crawling through the sky, sending his wonderfully tongued message out once again.
Michael Delp is a writer. He’s not Catholic, but Catholicism (especially via the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen) intrigues him. His most recent book is Lying in the River’s Dark Bed (2016).