There Are Different Levels of Glory in Heaven
Even in Heaven there will be a hierarchy, and while all souls in Heaven will be eternally happy – not everyone will possess the same degree of glory in Heaven.
The Council of Florence (1438-1445) teaches that the souls of the justified will “see clearly the one and Triune God Himself, just as He is, yet according to the diversity of merits, one more perfectly than another.” Likewise, in its “Decree on Justification,” the Council of Trent affirmed that the souls of the just will experience Heaven differently, based on the merit of their good works, and the Council went so far as to anathematize those who taught contrariwise.
If there can be differing degrees of glory in Heaven, there can also be different joys in Heaven – some more intense than others. All things, aside from sin, come from God – equalities and inequalities, rain and shine (cf. Matthew 5:45), light and darkness. Should we subscribe to the modern notion that all peoples possess the same rights, duties, privileges, and entitlements, then we place ourselves in opposition to Almighty God and His Holy Church.
The Greatest Joy: To See God or to Know God?
The greatest joy of Heaven has been the subject of debate among theologians for centuries. In fact, this debate was common among Franciscans and Dominicans – each taking a different side. Some argue that the greatest joy of Heaven is the vision of God, while others believe that it is the knowledge of God.
One argument for the vision of God being the greatest joy of Heaven is that it is the ultimate fulfillment of the human desire for connection and union with the divine. Since times immemorial, mankind has sought after God and have longed to see Him face to face. In the book of Apocalypse, the apostle John describes a vision of Heaven in which he sees God seated on a throne, surrounded by angels and the saints. This vision is described as a moment of great joy and wonder.
On the other hand, some argue that the greatest joy of Heaven is the knowledge of God. This view is rooted in the idea that knowing God is the ultimate goal of human existence, and that the knowledge of God brings with it great joy and fulfillment. In the Sacred Scriptures, Jesus speaks of the joy that comes from knowing God and being known by Him, saying: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
Could They Be One and the Same?
Ultimately, it is difficult to say definitively which is the greatest joy of Heaven. Both the vision of God and the knowledge of God are likely to be sources of great joy and fulfillment. It is possible that both are equally important, and that they are closely intertwined, with the knowledge of God leading to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the vision of God.
Some have even speculated that to truly see God is to know God and vice versa. After all, for those souls currently in Heaven who do not have a body, what does it mean to “see”? We know the soul includes man’s mind and will. These are the higher faculties with which he knows the truth and chooses the good. So the Beatific Vision, which we know de fide is experienced by the souls in Heaven even before the Final Judgment, must be possible through the human soul.
Note how even in human terms, it is hard to argue you really know someone well if you have never seen them, spoken with them, or interacted with them. We often know what another person is feeling or thinking because we see the expression on their face, in their eyes, and in their body language. The better we know a person, the more we see when we interact with him.
Eye Has Not Seen
Ultimately, the joy of Heaven is likely to be indescribable and beyond human understanding, as it will be the fullness of God’s presence and the realization of all of our deepest longings and desires. As St. Paul teaches, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Let us do all that we can to one day merit Heaven. We must die in the state of sanctifying grace. That is the key. Stay close to the Sacraments and the Catholic Faith and persist. Pray your Rosary daily. Wear your Brown Scapular. Practice the First Saturday devotion. Consecrate yourself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Heed Our Lady of Fatima’s Message and spread it to others.
As Our Lord declares, “But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).