Abbey Views

It’s Christmas in Heaven
I have always been fascinated with what other people think Heavenis like.
It is intriguing that whenever artists try to represent Heaven, orwriters try to
describe it, or movies try to show it, Heaven usually comes across as rather
boring, the only attraction being that one is not suffering in Hell. While not
suffering in Hell has much to recommend it, one does hope that there’s more
to Heaven than sitting on clouds wearing white robes and playing small harps
for ever and ever!
Representations of Heaven in comedies are always entertaining. I
remember an episode of “The Simpsons” that has Marge imagining two
Heavens: one tor Protestants, and one for Catholics. Protestant Heaven is a
classy country club with people talking through their teeth. Catholic Heaven
involves a Hispanic party with Jesus being tossed up in the air with a blanket,
and then everyone breaks into a river dance. “Oh dear,” says theProtestant,
“it appears Jesus has gone native.”
A screamingly funny portrayal of Heaven comes towards the end of
“Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.” Here, Heaven is a giant Las Vegasstage
show, complete with chorus girls. The main singer is singing a song that
proclaims that everyday is Christmas in Heaven.
Because these are comedies, they reveal much about ourselves inparodying
our ideas of Heaven. Being human, our ideas of Heaven involve our
prejudices as much as they involve our faith. Let’s be honest: our ideas of
Heaven often are about who gets in, and who doesn’t. We should strive to be
better than that.
Generally speaking, I think it is safe to say that for most of us,Heaven is
an idealized version of life as we know it. I believe this is natural and
unavoidable. After all, this lite is what we know. And there is much to
recommend this way of thinking about Heaven. As Christians we believe God
created all that exists, and that it is redeemed and good. Therefore, what our
experience of life is can more often than not be our starting point when
thinking about Heaven.
An interesting phenomenon is what I think of as “The Grass isAlways
Greener on the Other Side of the Fence” phenomenon. That is, cultures that
are more rural tend to think of Heaven as a magnificent city, with streets
paved with gold and all that. Whereas cultures that are more urban will
generally conceive of Heaven as a pristine forest with friendly wildlife.Rightly
considered, both of these ideas can lead to intuitive insights as to what
Heaven may be like.
One of my favorite metaphors for Heaven goes something like this:
Heaven and Hell are identical. In Hell, everyone is seated at alavish banquet.
However, no one can eat anything because the silverware is so long that one
cannot use it to reach one’s mouth. Heaven is exactly the same thing. But
instead of trying to feed themselves, everyone uses the long silverware to teed
each other.
When it comes to me, I personally have two concepts of what Heavenis.
One is trivial, the other not so trivial. In my trivial version,Heaven is me at a
really good local coffee shop, drinking really good coffee and eating home-
made coconut cream pie for breakfast one day, pecan pie the next. Outside is
parked my cream-colored 1965 Rolls- Royce Silver Cloud III with a blue
interior. The music inside the coffee shop is always perfect.
In my not-so-trivial version of Heaven, Heaven is more a state ofbeing,
and is rather more abstract than physical. Simply put, Heaven is ultimately a
state of falling deeper and deeper in love with God and everyone else. And
this tailing deeper in love is never ending.
No one can definitely say what Heaven will be like. I would be sobold as
to assert that the only things we can count on is that we will be with God, or
perhaps it is God who will be with us. As Jesus said, “I am with youalways.”
And as the name Emmanuel is defined, “God with us.” Whatever the case
may be, as Lady Julian of Norwich has it, “All shall be well, and allmanner
of things shall be well.”
– Br.Martin
BenedictineMonk, St Gregory’s Abbey

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