Does the Church teach that in heaven we will recognize and communicate with each other? If so, what will an infant or aborted baby have to say? Will they be a fetus or infant eternally?
In answering questions about what our state in heaven will be like, it is important to recall that we are dealing with mysteries beyond our experience. We cannot simply transpose earthly realities to heavenly ones. We must also recall that we are engaging in a great deal of speculative theology in these matters.
With these cautions in mind, we do well to use a basic rule employed in the final section of the Summa by St. Thomas, (or one of his students) in speculating on these matters. In pondering what our bodies and other aspects of our inter-relatedness will be like, we can reason that most perfection has neither excess, nor defect.
Age is one of these aspects. In terms of physical life, we can speak of being young, and immature physically, and thus we manifest sort of defect of age. And we can also speak of being past our physical prime, and thus we speak of an excess of physical age. Thomas thereby speculates that we will have resurrected bodies that will appear to be of about age 30, an age which manifests neither defect nor excess, and also, is the same approximate age at which Christ died and rose. It is His resurrected quality that models our own (cf Phil 3:21).
Hence, it would seem that in heaven, when our bodies rise, we will not see infants or elderly among us, but we will all manifest the perfection of physical “age.”
Similar reasoning can be applied to other aspects of our physical bodies, such as disease, or missing limbs, or other certain defects. It seems that these defects will be remedied. However, one might speculate that some aspects of our physical sufferings might still be manifest, though not in a way that would cause us pain. For we see in Christ’s resurrected body the wounds of his passion. But now they are not signs of his pain, but rather, of his glory, and so too perhaps for some of our wounds.
As regards our inter-relatedness, this too would be perfected. We will not only recognize and communicate with each other, but we will do this most perfectly as members of Christ, since our relationship to the Christ the head of the Body will be perfected.
Throughout the prayers of the liturgy, e.g. the Kyrie, we often speak of and to “the Lord.” Are we referring here to Jesus, or the Father?
In the Kyrie we are referring to Jesus. This is made fairly clear in the verses, e.g., “You are the Son of God and the Son of Mary, Kyrie Eleison.”
However, more frequently “Lord” refers to the Father. Most of the prayers of the mass, and especially the Eucharistic prayer, are directed to the Father, through Christ. There are certain exceptions to this, in the opening and closing prayers, but in those cases, that we are referring to Jesus, rather than the Father is made clear from the wording and context of the prayer.
Generally, then, the Mass is understood as a prayer of Christ the High Priest, directed to his Father, and it is in Christ’s own prayer that we join.
Thus, with certain clear exceptions, “Lord” almost always refers to the Father.
When we say in the Creed, Jesus descended into Hell, we do not mean the Hell of the damned, but merely the place of the dead. But do we have any idea what that place was like? Also, were the justified and the condemned in that place together?
There is a distinction between the Hell of the damned, and the “Hell” that refers to the place where all the dead were until the Messiah came. It is an unfortunate fact, that in English, “Hell” is used to refer to both places. But the Jewish people clearly distinguished between “Sheol,” where all who had died were detained, and the Hell of the damned which Jesus often called “Gehenna.”
As for what Sheol was like, we are, unfortunately, left to a great deal of conjecture. Generally Scripture describes it as a place of darkness, as the pit (Job 17:13–16). The state of the deceased there is described as a place of utter inactivity. The souls there would seem to be in a sleep-like, semi-comatose state. No one there is able to thank the Lord, or praise him (Isaiah 38:18), there is no work, no thought, no knowledge, no wisdom expressed there (Ezekiel 9:10). It is a place from which no one emerges and is sometimes conceived as a kind of fortress with gates and bars (Isaiah 38:10).
It would seem that both the just and the wicked went there, prior to the coming of Christ, though some are said to go down there “in peace” (1 Kings 2:6 etc.), and some go down there “in sorrow” (Genesis 37:35 etc.).
Further, in this sort of suspended state, there does not seem to be any mention of punishment of the wicked, or reward for the just. Rather, it would seem that all waited until the Lord, who alone can deliver from Sheol, would come (1 Samuel 2:6; Psalm 16:10 etc.). Mysteriously, God is present to those there (Psalm 139:8) but how the dead might experience that presence, is not described.
It is to this place, that the Lord descended. As Scripture implies, he awoke the dead (Ephesians 5:14) and preached to these “souls in prison” (1 Peter 3:19–20). And while we have no complete biblical description of what took place, we can reasonably speculate that some among them, in particular the just, rejoiced in him and accepted him, while others, the wicked and the self-absorbed, rejected him even in death, and from there descended to the Hell of the damned.
Regarding Matthew 24, it would seem Jesus' predictions on Jerusalem’s ruin were fulfilled. However what of His descriptions of alterations in the sun, moon and stars? Were these fulfilled?
Biblical scholars have differing opinions on what elements of the Mount Olivet discourse relate to the destruction of the Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and what might refer to the end of the world. Some of the details quite clearly relate to the events of 70 A.D., such as wars, Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, etc. Even some other details such as earthquakes, and famines occurred around that time.
Other details may be references to the end of the world, (e.g. the sun and moon darkened, signs in the heavens, and the Son of Man coming on the clouds), or they may also have occurred in 70 AD. Josephus, an historian at that time, describes clouds of smoke as Jerusalem burned, which dimmed the sun and eclipsed the moon and stars. He also describes strange wonders in the heavens, possibly a comet, and strange lights near and above the Temple at night.
A balanced approach would be to acknowledge that all the signs had an historical reference, rooted in 70 A.D., but also symbolically point to the end of the world, of which Jerusalem is a sign.
As for Christ “coming on the clouds” it is a prophetic language describing judgment on ancient Israel for lack of faith. It is also clear that Jesus will come in judgment on this world as well.
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