Faith under Attack
The Splendor of the Celestial Palace
Cornelius a Lapide
We continue to post texts that prove that Heaven is a place according to the perennial teaching of the Church.
“And there came one of the seven Angels, who had the vials full of the seven last plagues, and spoke with me, saying: Come and I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he took me up in spirit to a great and high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God. Having the clarity of God: and the light thereof like to a precious stone as jasper stone, as crystal ” (Apocalypse 21: 9:11).
“One of the Angels” - Soon after showing St. John the plagues that will fall on the world in the last times, one of those Angels now rewards him by showing him the Blessed in Heaven.
“I will show you the Bride…” - This should be understood as the Angel saying: I will show you now, distinctly and clearly, the happiness of the Church Triumphant and the Blessed.
This bride is the celestial Jerusalem which here signifies at times its actual place in Heaven and at times the Blessed. The Angel describes the city thus: The new city descending from Heaven is showed to you so you may understand the splendor of its inhabitants and the richness of their ornaments - proper to the spouse of Christ - and the sanctity of their palace.
Like someone showing a pilgrim the dress, corteges, carriages, stables and pomp of a King so he might know the greatness of the King, so here the Angel shows John the richness of Heaven, of the spouse, that is, the Church and the Blessed. …
“He took me to a great and high mountain” - He alludes to Isaiah: “In the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains” (2:2). The mountain to which John was led was not outside the city so that atop it he might observe the city; rather, the mountain was the city itself, the mountain on which the city was built. … The mountain signifies the sublimity of the gift of prophecy, says St. Jerome (ad Algasiam, question 4), which elevates the spirit of the prophet to see celestial and grand things, in such a way that from on high interior and exterior things harmonize.
“Having the clarity of God” - In Greek it is glory of God, but glory here means light and clarity, as it becomes clear below, principally in verse 23, which says, “The city will need neither sun nor moon to shine over it, for the clarity of God will enlighten it.” This means that the clarity is excellent, admirable and divine as is proper to God, as God’s glorious and beatific palace is seen by the eyes of the Blessed in an inexhaustible variety of beauty and colors. This was also what happened with the Body of Christ in the Transfiguration. A dim example of this is what happens with the prisms of a crystal, which display to the eyes an admirable variety of colors and beauty.
“The light thereof like to a precious stone” - This light is not like that of a torch, but rather like that of the sun, because it illuminates a great city that extends 1,500 miles. This light is also like the river of living water, which chap 22:1 shows as proceeding from God and, consequently, from the throne of God. But since this throne was not shown to John in the air or in Heaven, but rather in the city itself that descended from Heaven, it follows necessarily that the focus of this light was there, in an elevated point in the middle of the city. And this light properly spreads over the city, but not outside of it.
“As jasper stone, as crystal” - After having said that it is like a precious stone, he specifies that it is like jasper. But since there are various types and colors of jasper, to avoid confusion, he explains that it translucent and resplendent like crystal. … Like crystals the rays of the Blessed extend in Heaven, where everything and everyone is translucent and clear, that is, splendorous.
The celestial splendor is so beautiful and agreeable that it greatly surpasses the brightness of the sun that gives light to our earth. Here all the celestial things are described, which in the opinion of all are magnificent and sublime, to show that nothing on earth is comparable or equivalent to what exists in that place where Angels and men dwell. …
The jasper is a green and strong stone to signify that the vision of God delights and fortifies the eyes and minds of the Blessed constantly and increasingly forever. The jasper is described as translucent like crystal to signify that the deepest essence of God is seen and is penetrated by the Blessed.
Summarized and translated by the TIA desk from Cornelius a Lapide,
Commentaria in Scripturam Sacram, Paris: Ludovicum Vides, 1876, vol. 21, chap. 21
Posted October 31, 2011
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