THE ETERNAL HAPPINESS OF THE SAINTS
OF THE VENERABLE CARDINAL BELARMINE
ANNO superiore, ad meam præcipue spiritualem utilitatem, conscripsi mihi ipsum, libellum, De Ascensione Mentis in Deum, per Scalas Rerum Creatarum.”* Nunc, quoniam placet Deo senilem ætatem meam adhuc longius aliquantulum protrahere, subit animum de coelesti Patria, ad quam anhelamus omnes filii Adam, qui hanc vallem mortalitatis gementes et flentes incolimus, aliquid meditari, et meditationes stilo alligare, ne pereant. Igitur in Scripturis Sanctis, quæ sunt veluti Epistolæ Consolatorise de Patria Coelesti ad exilium nostrum à Patre transmissse, quatuor nomina reperio, ex quibus utcunque bona illius Loci nobis innotescere possunt. Nomina sunt, Paradisus, Domus, Civitas, Regnum, &c.
LAST year, for my own spiritual benefit especially, I composed a “Gradual to ascend unto God from the Contemplation of created objects.” Now, since it hath pleased God to prolong my old age a little longer, I wish to meditate on that heavenly country to which all the sons of Adam ardently aspire, who dwell, lamenting and weeping, in this valley of death; and these meditations I desire to write, lest they perish. Wherefore in the Holy Scriptures, which may be compared to “Consoling Letters” sent unto us in this our exile from heaven by our Father, I find four names mentioned, from which we may in a manner learn what are the good things of that land. The names are, -Paradise, Mansion, City, and a Kingdom. Of Paradise St. Paul speaks: “I know a man in Christ above fourteen years ago such an one rapt even to the third heaven that he was caught up into paradise,” &c. Of the “Mansion” the Son of God himself speaks: ” In my Fathers house there are many mansions.” Of the “City” St. Paul speaks in his Epistle to the Hebrews: “But you are come to Mount Sion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” Of the “Kingdom” there is mention made in St. Matthew: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
This name is continually occurring in the Holy Scripture. The abode of the saints in heaven is called a “Paradise,” because it is a most beautiful place, abounding in delights. But because men might suppose that paradise was a garden placed near a house, which could contain but few people, the Holy Spirit has added the name, ” House,” because it is a royal mansion, a great palace, wherein, besides a garden, there are halls, couches, and many other excellent things. But because a house, however large, cannot contain many people, and lest we should think that very few will possess eternal life, the Scripture adds the word “City,” which contains many gardens and many palaces. But since St. John, speaking of the number of the blessed, saith: “After this I saw a great multitude which no man could number.” And as, moreover, no city can contain an innumerable multitude, the word “Kingdom” is used, to which is added, “the kingdom of heaven” than which no place in the whole universe is more boundless and extensive.
But, again, since in a most extensive kingdom there are many who never see each other, nor know their names, nor whether they ever existed; and since it is certain that all the blessed behold each other, and know each other, and converse familiarly with one another as friends and relations: therefore the Scriptures, not content with the name of “Kingdom,” added that of a ” City,” that we might know its inhabitants are truly citizens of the saints, and as familiar, and as closely united together, as the inhabitants of the very smallest city. But, in order that we might likewise remember, that these happy men are not only citizens of the saints, but also friends of God, therefore the Holy Spirit calls that a “House,” which it also named a ” City.” In fine, because all the blessed in heaven abound in delights, it is likewise called “Paradise.” Hence these four words Kingdom, House, City, Paradise mean one and the same thing; and the Paradise is so extensive, that it can truly be called a House, City, and Kingdom. Wherefore, concerning this most blessed place I will first, under the word “Kingdom”; then under that of a “City ;” afterwards under that of a “House ;” and, lastly, under the word “Paradise” meditate in the chamber of my heart; and, with God s assistance, commit to writing what He shall please to suggest unto me.