When we speak about Heaven there is a tendency to dismiss our speculation as “just imagining things.” But Our Dear Lord, knowing that we need examples that are a little more concrete, gives us ever-so-tiny hints of Heaven — lights and ideas and experiences that are going to be very similar, only greatly enhanced in Heaven.
Music in Life
Let’s take music. There are all kinds of music, and each one of our hearts rejoices in some kind of music. But we don’t hear the same thing, even when we like the same kind of music.
So, let’s go through some of the kinds of music we experience in life — some that we hear with our ears, and some that stirs our souls even if we aren’t listening. All of these will be present, but perfected, in Heaven.
Music of Nature
When we think of music, we tend to think mostly of music played on instruments. But there’s much more to it than that.
For example, have you ever realized that there is a music of nature, ringing out the creative powers of God? Nature has a tune! Listen to the music of the branches as they rustle in the wind. Listen to the crackling of leaves under your feet. Listen to water fall down a hillside. We might say that’s just noise, but no: It’s just a different kind of music. We don’t hear it because we’re so busy between our ears.
And then, of course, there is the music of instruments. When our sisters here at the monastery are practicing for Mass, sometimes I don’t even join them: I just like to sit there and listen. It’s a kind of recreation for me. They play with love, and even their mistakes are beautiful to me. The music of instruments enlivens the emotions. Sometimes when they’re playing something very beautiful, I look up at the Blessed Sacrament, and all I can do is say, “Jesus, You’re so wonderful. I love You.” Musical instruments can take our emotions and raise them up to God.
Music of Silence
Then there’s the music of silence. Silence is more than the absence of noise: You can have an absence of noise and not even hear the music of silence. I’m talking about the music of silence that is quiet, but filled with His thunderous presence.
We can all just take a half a second to listen to the silence in the room and see if there isn’t a kind of thunderous, awesome presence. That’s not really absence of noise: It’s the omnipresent God — and it’s a tiny hint of what we’re going to feel and understand in the Kingdom.
The Music of Pain and Loneliness
Now, here on earth there’s also what I like to call the music of pain. This music of pain is a little offbeat. One time, when I was a young novice, we were practicing a song I thought might have been the worst song anybody ever wrote. It seemed totally out of key, as if no one was singing harmoniously with anyone else. But after many days of practice, it suddenly became absolutely beautiful. I asked the music director what kind of music it was, and she told me it was polyphony. It still sounded offbeat, but I recognized this beauty in it.
That, to me, is the beautiful music of pain. I think that, in the eyes of God, of the Kingdom, and of the ones you love and miss, that kind of offbeat music is your pain ascending to God; it’s a hymn of resignation to God’s Will. I think it is perhaps the kind of beautiful music that Jesus sang on the Cross.
And then there is the music that comes from loneliness. Have you ever emptied a glass and then tapped it with a fork or knife or something and the tone it produced was absolutely phenomenal? I think the music that you sing to God by the emptying of your vessel — by the accomplishment of the Will of God in your life — pierces the Heavens.
Music of Heart and Light
There’s also the music of the heart — a music that can’t be expressed in words or even tones. We can imagine a time when we were wonderfully content for a few hours or a few days, maybe on a trip or while visiting with loved ones or while on a walk in the woods, and there’s a feeling of joy that is a real song — different from what we can verbalize, different from the notes on the scale, but nonetheless a kind of music.
And then there is what I call the music of light, which shines on the soul that’s reaching out to find and understand its Creator. It’s the light on the face of a child who is unsullied by the world, who innocently looks up in wonder and awe. That certainly brings out music in the heart.
Music in the Book of Revelations
Let’s look again at the book of Revelation, where there is amazing imagery about music (and silence) in the Kingdom. In Revelation 15, we read about the beautiful melody of the angels and saints: “They all had harps from God, and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:2–3). But in the eighth chapter we read, “The Lamb then broke the seventh seal, and there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Rev. 8:1).
The majesty of God had become so glorious in the entire Kingdom there was nothing but quiet awe. And then, suddenly all the Kingdom began to sing, “Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God!” (Rev. 19:1).
Even those of us who don’t care for music very much will be exhilarated. Every bit of imperfection will be gone. It makes me think of the angels who appeared to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth and announced the good news in song: “Glory to God. The Messiah is here.”
The first Christians sang all the time, sometimes even as they were in the arena waiting to be devoured by lions. Can you imagine what a beautiful song that must have been to God? And can you imagine the effect it must have had on the people in the arena who were crying out for their blood? This was a song of abandonment to the Will of God, the song of total freedom, free of fear of anyone or anything. When we think of that kind of song, don’t we wish we could sing it right now?
After all, in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, St. Paul says, “Sing the words and tunes of the psalms and hymns when you are together, and go on singing and chanting to the Lord in your hearts” (Eph. 5:19). That’s how we’ll pray in the Kingdom, with a song coming from our hearts.
You see, in Heaven, we will sing tunes in our hearts and minds because we will see everlasting beauty face-to-face. There will be nothing we can say. We have no more concept of the beauty of God than a child in the womb has a concept of the beauty of his mother’s face or a sunrise or a sunset. As we begin to sing in the Kingdom, we will sing of His mercy to us. We will understand how many times He protected us, guarded us, guided us, and how many times He kept us from even greater sins than the ones we committed, even greater mistakes than the ones we made.
Here on earth, parents can pick out the voices of their children and understand them even when no one else can. Well, in the Kingdom, God will hear and understand us as if no one else existed.
Conclusion: Beauty in Heaven
Let’s conclude by looking at the description of Heaven in Revelation 21.
“The angel that was speaking to me was carrying a gold measuring rod. . . . The city is perfectly square, its length the same as its breadth. He measured the city with his rod and it was twelve thousand furlongs in length and in breadth” (Rev. 21:15–16).
We might think we have some pretty nice diamonds in our rings, but the biggest diamonds on earth are pebbles compared with those in Heaven. “The wall was built of diamond, and the city of pure gold, like polished glass” (Rev. 21:18–19). We’re talking about big hunks of precious stones, not these little things you see in jewelers’ cases. “The twelve gates were twelve pearls” (Rev. 21:21). One pearl a piece! It makes it look as if we’re playing with toys in this world. Isn’t it a shame that we get so attached to them?
The description goes on, with floors of golden glass and
no darkness, since the light of God never goes out (Rev. 21:21, 23). You might
think this is all symbolic, but how can you say? I know that there are many
ways of reading
Scripture, and you can read the same passage in all three ways — mystical, literal, symbolic — but no matter how you slice it, you’ll never be able to prove exactly what it’s like. But it will certainly be absolutely incredible.
I think the most glorious moment in the Kingdom will be when God looks at us and we look at Him face-to-face for the first time. And He will look at us with such love that, were it not for a special grace, we would melt away into nothingness. For the look of God is so powerful and so beautiful and so loving that it makes our entire earthly lives seem like nothing.