“He will be gracious to you when you cry out
as soon as he hears he will answer you
The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself
but with your own eyes you shall see your teacher.”
Gorgeous, sensuous words of tenderness and promise. Please notice the emphasis on sight, on seeing God: “with your own eyes you shall see your teacher.”
I’m not sure why, but it’s become unpopular to speak of our heavenly hope as oriented toward “seeing God.” The great medieval intellectuals loved to ponder the “visio beatifico,” the beatific vision, as the endlessly fascinating activity of heaven. Why is this so strange for us? People today can binge watch hours upon hours of streaming television without getting tired because of the fascination with the characters and the story. Is it really that far-fetched to imagine heaven as being enveloped in a fascinated gaze in the One who is Himself the source of all drama and love and truth?
Perhaps we balk because we think that “seeing God” is unchanging and therefore boring. But Isaiah gestures at the newness of what this will be like by pointing to the enhanced mode of vision this will be:
“the light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater like the light of seven days” (Isa. 30:26).
In other words, the radiance and clarity and sheer brilliance of this vision will make the noon day sun we see now seem dark. It will be a new, elevated way of seeing. Our minds will be freed of present darkness.
If you’re impatient like me, it is refreshing to know that this vision is also, to some degree, something we do now by gazing upon Christ. Saint John Paul II said the plan for the new millennium is to “gaze upon the face of Christ with Mary.” Whether we do this in prayer, liturgy, the Scripture, in the face of friends, family, the poor…seeking the face of Christ is how we make progress up the mountain of God. It’s how we learn a little more each day to do what Isaiah promises: “you shall see your teacher.” That’s finally the reason we keep climbing in our pilgrimage to the top of God’s holy mountain: to see the face of God forever. And to see ourselves, and all whom we love, in him. That’s a vision that keeps us climbing.