Our second session of C.S.Lewis’ The Great Divorce began by looking at what the We had established in our first session that Lewis is exploring many things including how and why individuals make the choices they do. It is also a fantasy inspired by faith. What he is not doing is discussing Theology or Doctrine. Our starting point for looking at what the Church teaches has to be the Catechism. The Four Last things are:Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.
Our session leader also pointed out some omissions in terms of Church teaching. Lewis does not seem to explicitly communicate an understanding of the Communion of the Saints. Something of this might be seen in the meeting between the Ghosts and Solid People but there doesn’t seem to be an awareness that the Ghosts are being prayed for by those on Earth. One reason for this might be that for Lewis, as an Anglican, this may not have been a focus. Even Anglo-Catholicism, which does recognise prayers for the dead, doesn’t, in our experience emphasise it in the sense that it is focussed on in the Catholic Church. And Lewis was more ‘middle of the road’ perhaps in his tradition. For us, this is certainly one of our many gains since coming into full communion with Rome.
Another ‘omission’ is that of judgement. Both the Bible and the Catechism talk clearly about judgement and also reward and punishment. Sometimes language can get in the way when we talk about these things. Reward can mean ‘prize’. It might be seen as something I have earned and yet the writings of the saints, among others, teach us that what we “get” in heaven is God and being in his presence. This is no way earned. It is given as grace. When we talk about punishment it is interesting to note that we often don’t want it for ourselves but are quite happy for others to receive it for their sins! You only need spend a moment reading a variety of blogs on the Internet or certain newspaper articles to see the truth in that!
Underneath this is the concept of God’s justice and God’s mercy. We often talk about these as having to hold these in tension as if they were two almost incompatible aspects. Again some of this might stem from our desire to receive God’s mercy and others to receive God’s justice towards “others” However these two are perfectly compatible. At the end a loving God gives us our hearts desire. If we truly love him we will find ourselves in his presence. If we hate him, he will not force us to stay there but allow us to be where he is not. Lewis says elsewhere that Hell is locked from the inside.
There is some aspect of judgement that is about cause and effect and this is what Lewis is investigating here. There is an interaction between our desires and our choices, how we live our lives and the people we become. The outcome here is that God’s judgement and his mercy acknowledges the effect of this and as a result he honours whatever the outcome for our soul.
Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others
The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,” will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him. . . . Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
1039 In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life:
All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When “our God comes, he does not keep silence.”. . . he will turn towards those at his left hand: . . . “I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father – but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head. Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence.”
1040 The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death.
1023Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face:
By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment – and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven – have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.
1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.
1025 To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,”but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.
For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.
1026 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 Christ.
1027 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.”603
1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation 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.
We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”