Map of Life - Lesson 3

Map of Life: Chp 3. Heaven
Map of Life: Contents
Catechism Series 1: The Four Last Things
Catechism: Q130-134
Bible: 1 Cor 2:9
Aquinas 101: BeatitudeGrace: Necessity and Essence
Summa Theologica2a2aeQ24a3ad2
Companion to the Summa: 
Random articles: Aristotle and the Beatific VisionWhat is union with God, or The Beatific Vision, according to St. Thomas Aquinas?
Ite Missa Est:



  1. Recap:

    Introduction: Just as we need a geographical map to know where we are, and how to get to where we want to go in the world, we also need a map of life to know where we are in relation to everything else in life, and how to get to our ultimate goal in life. This map of life is given to us by God through Divine Revelation which is preserved, interpreted and transmitted through the Catholic Church.

    Chapter 1:  Just as we must have faith in the geographical map-maker at the start of a journey, we must have faith in life's map-maker at the start of our journey through life. The map of life tells us

          (a) what man is (a creature composed of body and soul, in the image and likeness of God by the possession of an intellect and a will),

          (b) where he is destined (his finality: supernatural union with God).

    Chapter 2:  We also need an law of life so that we might attain the goal indicated on the map of life. This law comprises the physical law (for all material creatures) and the spiritual law (for intelligent creatures). Some spiritual laws are natural to man (eg. the ten commandments), some are divinely revealed in Scripture or Tradition (e.g. the laws of the sacraments). Some spiritual laws form the basis of man-made laws such as canon laws or civil laws. 

  2. The "X" that marks the spot on the map of life

    Now the "X" that marks the spot, the ultimate goal, on the map of life for every man is heaven.

    Not all men agree with this:

     -  the atheists say that the "X" is at death (a very depressing notion);

     -  the agnostics say that we can't tell, so there is no reason to worry about it, but one always hopes for the best;

     -  the spiritualists try to find out where "X" is by asking what they believe to be the souls of the dead (a perilous practice);

     -  the Muslims think that "X" is in carnal pleasure;

     -  the Buddhists think that "X" is in nothingness;

     -  the Hindus think that "X" is in the escape from the cycle of life and death;

    Aristotle (+322 BC), could see that man was striving for an ultimate happiness which was beyond this world and beyond his natural powers. He correctly and succinctly defined happiness as a "state that is final and self-sufficient and cannot be lost when gained" which meant that:

     -  it was not to be found in this world because everything changes, and nothing is so perfect on earth as to hold our attention or satisfy all our needs forever; also

     -  man is mortal and weak, having only a faltering hold on truth in his intellect and goodness in his will.

    Aristoltle was right about happiness, but without Divine Revelation, he could progress no further than reason could illuminate. By our Catholic faith, however, we believe that "X" is in heaven. 

  3. The ultimate happiness of heaven

    It is difficult to conceive of the ultimate happiness of heaven (see 1 Cor 2:9) because all the happiness we might find here below is transitory and is susceptible to be supplanted by something better should it come along. We might simply adore ice cream, for example, but the adoration would wear thin after the third cornet, or if our beloved unexpectedly arrived at the station after a long absence, or if we had a tummy bug, or were soaked by driving rain in winter. 

    Symbols of heaven are always inadequate too. Spending eternity in the company of cherubim playing harps on fluffy clouds is not an exciting propect for most.

    We need theology to best conceive of heaven. Theology is the serious application of reason to Divine Revelation with a view to unpacking hidden truths within Revelation. Here are some elements to understanding the ultimate happiness of heaven and how it may be enjoyed:

    (i)  Ultimate happiness in man consists of the perfection of his highest faculties - his intellect and will - which means that it is to be found in the soul rather than the body.

    (ii) The perfection of the intellect and will consists in the perfect knowledge of God in the intellect and the perfect love of God in the will.

    (iii) The perfect knowledge of God and love of God is not possible with our natural powers (there is always something more to know and love by our natural faculties, and we are so easily distracted, or mistaken) which means that our natural faculties need to be raised above the natural order.

    (iv) Our natural faculties are raised above the natural order by supernatural grace which is a participation in the Divine Life.

  4. Heaven is only possible with supernatural life

    The supernatural life is that life transformed and elevated by supernatural grace (same thing as sanctifying grace or habitual grace) so that the intellect and the will may perfectly know and serve God. This does not mean that those souls in a state of grace are immediately capable of the perfect knowledge and love of God (called the Beatific Vision); no, a soul on earth in a state of grace is someone who is on the journey to that perfection which is only attainable in heaven where the faculties are sufficiently supernaturalised.

    St. Thomas says: "grace is nothing else than a beginning of glory in us." (2a2aeQ24a3ad2)

    So, we need supernatural grace, not only for heaven, but also for our journey to heaven - that place marked "X" on the map of life.  Understanding this is fundamental to the Catholic Religion. "All is grace!"