The question reminds me of other threads here at CAF, and as I recall, there are various opinions.
Some believe that justice will be served when those who behaved better on earth receive a greater reward.
A related concept is that those who are more spiritually advanced here on earth will have a greater capacity to enjoy being in the glorious presence of God. “All cups will be filled to the fullest, but some cups are bigger.”
Opposing this is the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
Related to that, it seems plausible that Purgatory will bring all the saved, lesser and greater, up to the highest level, that is, perfection.
The saints receive varying degrees of glory in Heaven according to how they lived their life on earth. Some saints are holier than others and attained more merit while on earth so they are greater than the other saints. This is true in regards to all the saints. The Blessed Virgin is greater than all the saints & angels combined and I suppose she can be considered to be the universal patron. When there are two patron saints, I don’t think there is a distinction of greater & lesser.
I never quite understood and disagree very much with different degrees of Glory in heaven. Heck I’d rather be on the lowest tier of Heaven than in the other place. It doesn’t make sense to have degrees, or levels in heaven does it? No one knows is the answer.
It’s a de fide (infallible) teaching of the Catholic Church that there are varying degrees of glory in Heaven proportioned to one’s merits. Those who have gained more merit on earth by their good works will receive a greater reward in the next life than the one who did less. It would be unjust if the holiest of saints had the same glory in Heaven as the death bed converting sinner.
The “tiers” represent how united we are to God; how much we know and love him, which will give us different degrees of happiness (cf. S.T. Supp. Q. 93). I’d rather be on the lowest level of heaven, too, than the top level of hell. But think of being in love. You don’t tell the person, “Okay, I know you completely now. My love isn’t going to grow any more beyond this point.” If the object of one’s love is infinite in every perfection, all the more is it natural that we should desire to know and enjoy him as much as possible.
Not so, it would not be unjust, since both are there by grace. God has been generous to both by showing mercy to both. The holiest of saints may have had less forgiven them but they are still there based on the forgiveness of a merciful God, forgiveness won by the death of Christ on the Cross. Neither the holiest saint nor the death bed convert *deserve *to be in heaven if Jesus had not died for their sin.
It’s both part of Scripture and the teaching of the Church that there are degrees of glory in heaven.
All in heaven are saints, and are totally joyful, but not all souls would have the “capacity” to partake of the Beatific Vision. The example of the deathbed convert vs. the lifelong saint. The lifelong saint who had lived a life of formation and penance would have a soul “exercised”, so to speak, and have a greater “capacity” to “consume” the Beatific Vision. The deathbed convert would also partake of the Beatific Vision but to a lesser degree because his soul would have less “capacity” to do so (note all the “scare quotes”; things of heaven can be expressed only imperfectly). He would be one of the least in the Kingdom, as our Lord said.
That may be “church teaching” (reference please) but how can we, this side of heaven, make any possible distinctions? What practical consequences might there be? Would I wake up tomorrow and think, well I was pretty good yesterday, so I’m going to slide today - ?
In a Jewish reference that I read, the reward in “the Divine Presence” cannot be forecasted, because the Divine – Blessed be His Name – attaches different significance to actions than we do. The LORD may especially reward what we might have thought was an insignificant action.
(*Aside: related saying of Jesus: Jesus said something about getting a reward, if we have even given someone a drink of water.
I think there’s two or three ways of looking at that. Probably the most important way of looking at it is, that ALL of us can help our fellow man, even if all we can afford is a drink of water. We can always do something for others. another way I thought about this was that giving somebody a drink of water IS ALL that I have to do for somebody else – that’s a pretty cheap way of helping somebody. That’s not the spirit of generosity that Jesus is referring to. So, one’s reward may be proportional or more-than-proportional, if we always look out for others*.)
In a neighboring old church, there were lots of statues (since removed) of different sizes, which possibly reflected a difference in estimation of their heavenly glory.
It’s up to the LORD to decide what we have done and what we deserve, especially in consideration of what gifts we were given, ourselves. I did not have the gift of being a father, so I may be judged differently for that.
The gospel says something like this, that to whom much was given, much will be expected (viz. parable of the talents).
Both are there by grace, but one responded to grace better than the other. The one that accepts God’s grace and gains more merit is given greater glory than one who doesn’t respond to grace very well and gains little merit. It’s how God rewards our labours. If the beatific vision were equal for everyone regardless of their merits, I don’t think that would be right.
It’s from Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (imprimatur in 1954). It says, “The degree of perfection of the beatific vision granted to the just is proportioned to each one’s merits. (De fide.)” The book makes reference to the Council of Florence which said that the souls of the perfectly just “clearly behold the Triune and One God as He is, but corresponding to the difference of their merits, the one more perfectly than the other.” The same was defined at the Council of Trent and has foundations in Scripture and the Fathers.
I dont know about levels of heaven, but we do know, for 3 people that once lived on earth, they are now in heaven, with their earthly bodies, not glorified bodies, Mary, Enoch and ( I can never remember the other one, Elisha, or Ezekiel?).
So I would imagine experiencing heaven in an earthly body is probably much different than what everyone else experiences.
I agree with Confiteor Deo。。。。and the constant teaching of the Church through the ages in documents and councils… and the lifes and writings of the saints…
The degrees of glory in heaven will be different.
Having said that, I would like to make a few statements for our mutual considerations…
To what degree of holiness each of us will receive at the end of time ultimately depends on the giving of Christ…a mystery to be revealed. The question we may propose then is this,“Since it ultimately depends on Christ, could our efforts make any difference in this growth in holiness.?”
A resounding Yes.!
“The giving of Christ”, filters down to us as a Higher Cause to a Lower cause. It is 100% the work of grace(higher cause), and 100% our work(lower cause).
It feels like we decide to do this or that good work or to follow this or that inspiration. It feels as if we are the ones coming up with the idea and the strength and the accomplishment of anything.
The danger of pride can come in.
"Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory. (Psalm)
“After you have done all that you should do, tell yourselves you are only worthless servants doing what you are suppose to do”.(Gospel)
We must attribute it to the grace of God fully accomplishing it in us and be grateful for this gift!
And if we fail,…mea culpa, mea culpa, mia maxima culpa.!
Can and should we pray for a great and extraordinary degree of holiness, which is a great infusion of sanctifying grace, every day of our lives, in spite of our failures and faithlessness.?
A resounding yes.!
To-day’s reading, ask and you will receive…
Yet with a disclaimer…we pick ourselves up and struggle on with frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation. Two of the best means to grow in holiness.
St Faustina, in her diary , was told by Our Lord, in perfect conformity with the Council of Trent, that “every communion makes one more capable of communion with God” for eternity.
For growth to be real and substantial, we need to be fervent in spirit.
If we peruse the books by Garrigou Lagrange, a preeminent catholic theologian in the late 20th century, a faithful dominican, we will gather that we can grow in grace on a daily basis,on a minute to minute basis, and thus amassing ourselves treasure in heaven. Of course, it would mean we must practise continual prayer like that proposed by the Philokalia and the Eastern Fathers like John Cassian. Most of the Carmelite and Cistercians and Benedictine monks practise this form of prayer…which opens one up to infused contemplative prayer, and a more profound union with God.
All of the baptised are invited to this degree of intimacy with God. We are sons and daughters of the Most High…but alas we may not have the courage and determination to go thru the purifying fires of the purgative, illuminative and unitive aspects of growth…
Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Reconcilation received in Faith and Love coupled with true devotion to Our Blessed Mother are the greatest means for to obtain the strength to face our miseries and faithlessness and to seek His pardona nd is grace. Like our Holy Father , Pope Francis, says it is not that God is tired of forgiving us, but rather we are disheartened and weak and too ashamed to face our miseries and thus never reach that point of humility that is needed to grow and mature…
Of course, that are some souls who do not have to go thru the miseries of addiction and weakness of sin, and do not falter as miserably. Unfortunately, and most humbly, I have to admit I do not fall in this beautiful category…and yet…
Our span is seventy years or eighty for those who are strong.(psalm)
Lord, make us know the shortness of our lives, that we may gain wisdom of heart.(Psalm)
God is the Infinitely Beautiful Being who from the instant of our entry into heaven, will delight us, “what no eye has seen, no ear has heard…”, with the vision of Himself, Threeness of Persons, Oneness of Godhead, Ever Ancient, Ever New.
As they go through the bitter valley, they make it a place of springs,
the autumn rain covers it with blessings.
They walk with ever growing strength’
They will see the God of Gods in Zion. (Psalm)
I desire for you and pray for you as I pray for myself:
May God grant all who read this and who who meet you, a great and extraordinary increase of the love of God by a great infusion of sanctifying grace now and every day of our lives!