Friday, June 6, 2014
Where is Heaven?
Dear Rev. Know-it-all,
We know that the Blessed Mother is in Heaven body and soul, but are there any other resurrected saints in heaven with their bodies? We are taught that our bodies will be reunited with our souls at the last judgment. Is this correct? How can there already be bodies in heaven?
Dear Ann Phinnity,
I get variations of this question all the time. Where is heaven? It must be somewhere. It clearly must be some place if the resurrected bodies of Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother are there, not to mention Elijah who was taken up in a fiery chariot and Enoch. Genesis 5:24 “Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer, for God had taken him.”
The first problem is the confident assertion, “We know...” St. Paul disputes the very idea that we know. 1Cor. 13:9 “For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.…” No matter what we know, we know it only imperfectly. Most of us have a concept of heaven that we learned in Sunday school when we were seven. Does this mean what we learned when we were seven was untrue? No, it may be true, but incomplete. Again, St. Paul “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1Cor 13:12) and “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love him.” (1Cor 2:9). Eternity is only hinted at by the world as you and I perceive it.
Have you studied any modern physics? Neither have I. I can barely add. This will not stop me from holding forth on the subject. Have you ever heard of holographic theory? No? Good. You won’t know if it I get it all wrong. Let us proceed.
String theory is an attempt by physicists to explain what everything is made up of by describing the itty-bitty particles of which things seem to be made as one dimensional “strings”. I have no idea what this actually means. If it is true, and the heavy hitters like Dr. Stephen Hawking are interested in it, it means that all those things in your kitchen that seem round and square and sharp are ultimately made of incredibly tiny barely visible things that have no width, no depth and no height. They have only one dimension, whatever that may mean. This, of course, leads us to holographic theory, but I’m sure you saw that coming. You must know about black holes, and by this I do not mean the basement crawl space in which you store all that stuff you meant to throw out and are afraid to go into because you think a raccoon has moved in. This is not what I mean by a black hole.
There are some very, very big stars that run out of fuel and then collapse in on themselves because of the force of their own gravity. There is so much burned-out matter in them that when they collapse all that matter is squeezed into a little point that is so small that it can’t even be measured. It is immeasurably dense, even more dense than the neighbor’s kid who can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. It is so dense, and had such strong gravity that even light can’t escape it. If you get anywhere near a black hole you would be squooshed into part of the immeasurable little black hole, called a singularity, and you would probably be torn apart in the process.
A black hole destroys everything that gets anywhere near it. We have no idea what is inside a black hole. We can see right up to the edge of a black hole, but there is a kind of border at the edge of a black hole beyond which we can see nothing because light, necessary for seeing, can’t escape the black hole. This border is called an event horizon. You can’t see beyond a horizon. With a black hole we can’t even guess. Black holes are all over the place. In the middle of our galaxy, the good old Milky Way, there is, you guessed it, a black hole, around which our galaxy swirls like a moth circling a fire.
Dr. Steven Hawking, a really smart fellow, says that a black hole destroys everything that comes into contact with it — even information! Now by information, physicists do not mean things like the recipe for your grandmother’s rum cake, which is probably somewhere in that basement crawl space we have already discussed. When physicists sit around discussing information they mean, “…that which can distinguish one thing from another". Information gives a thing its identity. Physicists are fond of saying that information cannot be destroyed. I imagine it’s something like digging a hole in the back yard. You can fill in the hole, but you can’t un-dig the hole. That’s how all those detectives solve crime in crime thrillers. You can’t undo information. But, are you sitting down? Dr. Hawking, that really smart fellow, says that in a black hole, even information would be destroyed!!!
This perplexed physicists, because one of the basic rules of physics is that Dr. Hawking can never be wrong, and another is that information cannot be destroyed. This worried Dr. Leonard Susskind who eventually realized that information could be stored at the edge of a black hole on the event horizon in two dimensions. This is what called a hologram. When three dimensional information is stored in two dimensions it is called a hologram. This may seem obscure, but I bet you’ve seen a hologram. They are all over amusement parks and star wars movies. They aren’t really that obscure. They are part of daily life and popular entertainment. Who knew?
This leads physicists to suspect, for reasons beyond my grasp, that the universe itself may be a hologram. In other words that truck in your neighbor’s back yard that hasn’t moved in years and about which you’ve called the village at least twice is only there in a theoretical sense. The annoying piece of junk is actually the manifestation, the perception of information stored in two dimensions at the edge of the universe.
At this point I need to lie down and put a cold cloth on my forehead….. I’m back now. The universe, reality itself — or that which we perceive as reality — is actually information. This brings us to an interesting digression. Dame Isabel Piczek, particle physicist and Shroud of Turin enthusiast, points out that the marks on the shroud are really holographic information. The shroud markings are two dimensional, but the shroud contains holographic details and darned if they weren’t able to make a holograph out of the thing. The actual image is not on the shroud. The shroud is just the blue print for the image. The image of the crucified and risen Christ actually hovers about two feet off the shroud. I saw the hologram of the shroud image at Notre Dame de Sion, a pilgrimage hostel in Jerusalem. The mind boggles!
Long before this point, you must have wondered, “What in blazes is this fellow trying to say?” Just this — things are not always what they appear. Even if you have a hard time swallowing the miraculous, and the idea of resurrection, you have to admit that they are not nearly as implausible as modern physics. In fact the idea of miracles fits in very nicely with modern physics. Energy appears in different states and different dimensions and the world is unimaginably more wonderful and mysterious than a pile of brick and mortar.
So what has all this to do with where are the bodies of Jesus, Mary, Enoch and Elijah? Simple, they are in the mind of Almighty God as are you and I. By His word He made everything out of nothing, and by His word sustains everything in being. The universe (or the universes, if there are others as some theorize) is all the speaking of that Being who is being itself. Time and space are nothing for Him who is all in all, (Col 1:17) for whom all places are here and all times now. For Him the place which is heaven and the place which is earth are not different places. For Him the moment of final judgment and the moment of death are but one moment.
This idea of different universes and dimensions is old hat to Christians. We have always believed in different worlds. There is supernatural and natural reality that intersect, quite wondrously in the human person. So where is heaven? All around you. You can’t escape heaven, and you certainly cannot run away from God.