Fr Rutler on Heaven and Hell

As there would be no concept of darkness if all were light, no sense of vertical if all were horizontal, no notion of male if all were female, so would there be no intimation of separation from God if all were united with him. Because Christ is the Lord of Heaven, his warnings about Hell become more understandable, and because Christ is the Logos, the “Word” which holds all things together, his mysteries are perfectly logical, and among those mysteries is the state of separation from him.

Heaven is perfect “life” and the “state” of supreme, definitive happiness (Catechism, n. 1024). Logically, Hell is the opposite: imperfect life and the state of misery. Both are conditions and not places as we refer to geography in time and space. They are real, but cannot be located on any map, except by the longitude and latitude of the soul’s love for God. “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18-19).

The cruelest people in history have tended to be extravagant sentimentalists, accepting flowers from children while they destroy infants, and glorifying mankind while despising men. The Prince of Lies is the definitive sentimentalist because he would have us live in a state of feeling instead of fact. He rejects the divine logic of Hell as the contradiction of Heaven and says they are the same. But logic wins in the end, as it did at the end of the twentieth century when the utopias of tyrants were exposed as earthly hells.

“Following the example of Christ, the Church warns the faithful of the ‘sad and lamentable reality of eternal death,’ also called ‘Hell.’ Hell’s principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (Catechism, nn. 1056-57). In these “darkest days” of the year, the Light of the World begins to be seen, in order to “cast off the works of darkness” (Romans 13:12). Contemplation of Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell in the season of Advent, dignifies the human intellect by showing how to know the Christmas joy of the “Word Made Flesh,” not as amiable nostalgia, like Civil War battle re-enactments or dressing up like Washington crossing the Delaware, but actually realizing Heaven in that daily Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost which is the Holy Eucharist:

Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours, Almighty Father,

God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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