The Silence of the Saints

All Saints Fra Angelico

St. John received a vision of heaven.  As we hear in our first reading at Holy Mass today, one of the elders in the vision asked St. John to speak about the heavenly scene.  But he wouldn’t.  Instead, John confessed that he did not know.

As St. John had written in one of his letters, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed” (emphasis added).  As we sing in our psalm for today’s Solemnity, “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?”

The Catechism puts it like this (1026-27):

Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.  This mystery of blessed communion with God and with all the saints is beyond all understanding and description.  [emphasis added] ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’ (I Corinthians 2:9)

The qualities outlined in the Beatitudes—poor in spirit, mournful about the sin of the world, meek, merciful, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, peaceful, and clean of heart… If we try to synthesize our idea of these qualities in a human personality, I think we could add one more:  Quiet.  Not loud.

We can safely say: when we try to put the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount into practice, we wind up speaking less.  We speak a great deal less than we would if we had never heard of Jesus Christ.

As we cultivate this quieter life, we can listen for the great, secret silence of heaven.  Yes, we know from reading Scripture that hymns of transcendent harmony resound up there, like rushing rivers.  But, from here, the music of heaven sounds like…silence.

That silence of the saints contains the great secret.  This unutterable secret lies at the very center of Christianity.  Anything and everything that we know—pumpkin pies, autumn-leaf-covered mountainsides, warm fireplaces, kisses from your honey—all these things, good and sweet as they are, are less good than heaven.  Heavenly goodness shines in the distance, the secret that defies all description and utterly exceeds the conception of man.

May we hold that secret in our Christian hearts by faith.  The secret of the saints is the goodness we strive for.  That secret makes life worth living.


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