By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has “opened”
heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect
possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ.
He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have
believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the
blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into
This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who
are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture
speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the
kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise:
“no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is,
unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate con-
templation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this
contemplation of God in his heavenly glory “the beatific vision”:
How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed
to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation
and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to
delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven
with the righteous and God’s friends.
In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to
fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation.
Already they reign with Christ; with him “they shall reign for
ever and ever.”
All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imper-
fectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but
after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness
necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
The Church gives the name
to this final purifica-
tion of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of
The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on
604 St. Cyprian,
58, 10, 1: CSEL 3/2, 665.
606 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820;
(1547): 1580; see also Benedict XII,
(1336): DS 1000.