When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
I believe it was in his book The Great Divorce that C.S. Lewis described heaven as a place of intense intimacy. All the redeemed souls might be contained in a drop of water or a grain of sand. But Hell, he speculated, might be a vast plain, dotted at unimaginable distances from one another with fortress-like mansions. Each condemned person lives in splendid solitude, cool and detached from neighbors, uncaring and uncared for. Mr. Lewis died in 1963 but, in compliance with 21st century standards of luxury, we might add a computerized home entertainment system to each mansion.
Very likely, the doomed do not even know they are cursed; they would suppose they were blessed for having everything just as they want it, without interference from pesky friends, relatives, neighbors or enemies. Meanwhile the blessed might not notice their cramped quarters because they are so delighted with one another’s company.
My vision of heaven of heaven is similar in that I think there will be no gossip in heaven; because we’ll be so present to one another we would not dream of such chin-wagging blather.
But let’s back up a bit and talk about relationships: the great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, in his book Ich-Du (I and Thou) said there are only two relations, the I-it and the I-thou. The I-it comprises all relationships between myself and things, situations and third persons (he or she). The I-thou consists of our relationship, you and me.
However, the I of the I-thou is not the same as the I of the I-it; and there is no I that is not I-it or I-thou. There is no I that is not in relationship. That’s a radical thought for a narcissistic generation, each of whom thinks “I am the center of my universe.” In fact the narcissist knows only other its, hes and shes; and has no contact with other persons. They call no one with that intimate German word, du. They live alone in a grand manor and do not even comprehend their loneliness.
Upon death and judgment, I-it relations vanish into the nothingness from which they came; we have a saying, “You can’t take it with you.” Nothing of the I-it will survive; there is only I-thou, which survives eternally.
The saints, as I imagine them, are continually aware of one another and continually delighted with their company. As a devout husband would neither speak against his wife in her presence nor apart from her, for fear of betraying their love; so the Redeemed revere one another in God’s presence.
True, we might need some solo-time to be alone with our thoughts but the blessed take one another into their privacy. Because we are Church, united by our Baptism and Eucharist to the Body of Christ, we delight in each other’s company even in our solitude.
Mr. Lewis described the bliss of heaven as singing and dancing before the Lord, a great throng of grateful joy; sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting, sometimes rapt in stillness, sometimes thrilled with frenzied motion – always glad in the Lord and his mighty works.