By John Saward
In Sweet and Blessed Country John Saward takes an altarpiece from fifteenth-century Provence as his starting-point for a theological exposition of the Christian desire for Heaven. The altarpiece, Enguerrand Quarton's Coronation of the Virgin, used to be painted for a Carthusian monastery, and so it truly is monastic theologians, and mostly Denys the Carthusian, who advisor Saward in his exploration of that 'sweet and blessed nation' within which the angels and saints ponder the face of God. John Saward's publication breaks new floor not just in content material but additionally popular and technique. He discusses a subject matter, eschatology (the doctrine of the final things), that is normally missed this day, and, even though he observes the disciplines of scholarship, he additionally reaches out to a readership past the academy. This theology of Heaven, faithfully rooted within the Catholic culture, bargains enlightenment to each Christian who seeks knowing of his desire, and encouragement to each man or woman who yearns for final achievement.
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Extra resources for Sweet and Blessed Country: The Christian Hope for Heaven
This is our end: reaching the kingdom of which the salvation and the glory have no end. Hence St Gregory [the Great] rightly says: ‘If we consider what and how great are the things promised us in Heaven, everything possessed on earth becomes worthless in our minds. For earthly substance compared with eternal felicity is a weight, not an aid (subsidium); temporal life compared with eternal life is called death rather than life. 14 Although it is a place, the Empyrean Heaven is not some place a terrestrial observer could ﬁnd by using a rocket or a telescope.
28 As our painting shows, the centre of the Empyrean is God, the Blessed Trinity. Heaven is a God-centred place or state. ’29 The happiness for which we long is to be found by resting deep within the Trinitarian Godhead. Now this Godcentred deﬁnition of Heaven is also Christ-centred, for our Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and no one can go to the Father or reach the Father’s house except through Him—His precious blood, saving merits, and sanctifying grace (cf.
Therefore, the Empyrean Heaven is the highest in site, the largest in quantity, the purest in nature, the fullest in light, the most spacious in capacity. Of which Tobias says: ‘Happy shall I be if there shall remain of my seed to see the glory of Jerusalem’ (Tob. : ). This heaven is the palace of the Most High King, in which the Incomprehensible God Himself manifests Himself most clearly, and in which He operates in a surpassing way. Therefore, He is said to dwell in it in a special way. This heaven is the most beautiful covering of the whole world.