Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters, a blog devoted to helping readers dive into the ocean of truth and swim for all its worth! Our subject of discussion the past few months has been the doctrine of God. Our guide for this study has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, which can be read for free at newadvent.org. Our topic tonight is the divine beatitude and we’ll be asking if God is the beatitude of each of the blessed.
Aquinas says no, which could be seen as a surprise, but there is a reason for this. Aquinas is not one who wants to limit God, but he wants to be sure that we are being accurate with our philosophical terminology. Aquinas has said earlier that the joy of the blessed is in the beatific vision where they see God as He is.
However, there are degrees of joy, and there are some Christians, myself included, who believe this is what is meant by our rewards. We will have a great capacity to enjoy God based on how we responded to Him in this life. Now that doesn’t mean there will be unhappy people in Heaven. All will be happy, but some will have more to be happy with.
Of course, the object of this vision is always God and so the object of joy for the blessed will be God. Aquinas does not deny this. However, the joy comes in knowing God and knowing is an act of the intellect. Thus, the joy is found in the action of knowing the one who we are with.
Marriage provides an example of this that we can understand. The lovers enjoy the sight of one another, but they both know that the best realization of their joy will come in the physical act of intercourse with one another. The object of their love has not changed from dating to marriage, but the way that they are able to express that love and know the other person has increased (It is interesting in this light that in biblical terminology, to have intercourse with someone is to know them).
For all of us, we should be humbled at this. While I do say the knowing is an act of the intellect, this does not mean its reserved best for the solely intellectual types. C.S. Lewis wrote somewhere of how you can be an apologist in a church service watching some lady in the pew and your pride is tempted to think of how much more you know about doctrines and church history and evidences then that person does, but then you get reminded that when it comes to personal holiness, you’re not worthy to untie her shoes.
Our goal then should be that no matter our position, what we have, we give to God. If you have a strong intellect, give that to God. If you have a great singing voice, give that to God. If you have strength of the body, give it to God. Think of the parable of the talents and use whatever it is you have to the glory of God.
We shall conclude this topic tomorrow.