Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Foretaste of Heaven

 St. Therese writes of her pilgrimage to Rome with her father and sister:

On our way into Italy we passed through Switzerland, with its high mountains, their snowy peaks lost in the clouds, its rushing torrents, and its deep valleys filled with giant ferns and purple heather. Great good was wrought in my soul by these beauties of nature so abundantly scattered abroad. They lifted it to Him Who had been pleased to lavish such masterpieces upon this transient earth.

Sometimes we were high up the mountain side, while at our feet an unfathomable abyss seemed ready to engulf us. A little later we were passing through a charming village with its cottages and graceful belfry, above which light fleecy clouds floated lazily. Farther on a great lake with its blue waters, so calm and clear, would blend with the glowing splendour of the setting sun. I cannot tell you how deeply I was impressed with this scenery so full of poetry and grandeur. It was a foretaste of the wonders of Heaven. Then the thought of religious life would come before me, as it really is, with its constraints and its little daily sacrifices made in secret. I understood how easily one might become wrapped in self and forget the sublime end of one's vocation, and I thought: "Later on, when the time of trial comes, when I am enclosed in the Carmel and shall only be able to see a little bit of sky, I will remember this day and it will encourage me. I will make light of my own small interests by thinking of the greatness and majesty of God; I will love Him alone, and will not be so foolish as to attach myself to the fleeting trifles of this world, now that my heart has had a glimpse of what is reserved for those who love Him."

I know this feeling, these thoughts. The beauty of the geographic area in which I live is astounding, and there are times when I am driving along on my way to or from town that the glory and majesty that I see spread before me makes me want to stop and worship God on the spot.

There have also been times when the immeasurable beauty has been, it seems, spiritually enhanced just for my benefit – it is hard to explain what I see, but it is more than what is there in our physical reality. Those times are great consolations.

Sometimes, when as St. Therese says, “the thought of religious life would come before me”, I know that I would not such a life for any physical grandeur in the world, even for the enjoyment of God’s greatest creations. As the Saint says, “I will love Him alone, and will not be so foolish as to attach myself to the fleeting trifles of this world.”

Once, while praying, I had experience of seeing a my chapel wall open up to reveal an indescribably beautiful meadow scene…well, as I said, it was indescribable. The beauty was other-worldly, of course, because the whole experience was such. It was natural beauty made supernatural, a “foretaste of the wonders of Heaven”, as St. Therese so aptly put it. But this scene was a foretaste that surpassed even the natural wonders that surround my home, and I will never forget it. It made me understand that Heaven is so far beyond our wildest dreams that we cannot even imagine what we will experience there. The presence of God is unfathomable.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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