Paradise is a name of pleasure and delight, for it signifies a garden, or most beautiful orchard, suitable both for recreation and amusement. In the book of Genesis this paradise of pleasure is not once named, when the terrestrial paradise is the subject of the discourse. But in the prophet Ezechiel speaking of the heavenly paradise, it is said of the chief angel who afterward fell and became the devil: “You were in the pleasures of the paradise of God.â€
But since the Holy Scriptures mention nothing of Paradise, but that there were in it many trees and the fountain of living water, therefore it is my intention under the word â€œParadiseâ€ to explain the joys and pleasures which the blessed possess in heaven. And this will be, unless I am deceived, a useful contemplation to excite our minds to seek and reflect upon the things above: and thus so to regulate our life, that when we depart hence, it may not be to sorrow and darkness, but by the divine assistance, to Eternal light and happiness.
All men, with few exceptions, are influenced more by pleasure, than by any thing else. And the Church in one of her prayers says, â€œThere may our hearts be fixed, where our true joy is.â€ And first we shall consider what the Holy Scripture says of the heavenly Paradise, whence we shall prove that in it are true joys; then we shall endeavour to explain what these joys are: and lastly, by various reasons, or rather comparisons, we shall prove that these joys are far more excellent than we can either comprehend, or think, or even imagine.
First, then, the name of paradise signifies pleasure and delight, as we have already seen from the Book of Genesis. And that there is a Paradise in heaven, Ezechiel testifies. Our Lord also testifies in the gospel, when he said to the thief hanging by him: â€œThis day thou shalt be with me in paradiseâ€
He used the word paradise for the kingdom of God, and its essential beatitude: for the good thief had said, â€œ Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.â€ St. Paul testifies in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, where he says, â€œ I know a man in Christ such a one rapt even to the third heaven, and was caught up into paradise.â€
St. John testifies in his Apocalypse, where he introduces the Lord thus speaking: â€œ To him that overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of my God.â€ From these passages it is evident, that the region of the â€œblessedâ€ is a place of happiness and delight. And when our Lord says to the good and faithful servant, â€œEnter thou into the joy of thy Lordâ€ does He not most clearly declare, that the house or city of God is a place of joy, to which good and faithful servants are admitted when they leave this world?
Our Lord in many places compares the kingdom of heaven to a supper, as we read in St. Luke, where it is said: â€œ A man made a great supper,â€ And again, â€œI dispose to you, as my Father hath disposed to me, a kingdom: that you may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom.â€ And when likewise we are told in the Apocalypse, â€œBlessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.â€
The Scripture, by the figure of the supper, certainly points out the pleasure and delight of the heavenly paradise; unless some one assert, that there is no pleasure in the sense of taste. In addition to these passages, the kingdom of God both in the Gospels and the Apocalypse is compared to royal nuptials: as we learn from the parable of the king, who made a marriage for his son; and from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, of whom the wise went with the bridegroom to the marriage; but the foolish virgins remained without.
The same also is found in the Apocalypse, where many things are said of the â€œmarriage supper of the Lambâ€ celebrated with great magnificence in the kingdom of heaven. Now the beatitude of the saints may be compared to a royal marriage, because on such occasions every variety of pleasure is experienced and enjoyed. But of this we shall treat in the following Book.
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In fine, in the Apocalypse St. John sees a choir of virgins who followed the Lamb wheresoever He goes, and sang a new canticle which no one else could sing. Which passage St. Augustine explains in his Book on â€œHoly Virginityâ€ as having relation to certain joys and holy pleasures, which virgins alone will enjoy. Thus it is manifest, that in our heavenly kingdom and city, there are many true joys amid most abundant pleasures.
– – – written by St. Robert Bellarmine