Eternity and Eternal Happiness

February 23rd, 2021

The passing of time doesn’t register in our minds as a constant. Sometimes waiting even a minute or two can evoke a feeling of impatience in us such as when we’re running a little late and the microwave oven isn’t heating our lunch as fast we would wish. In a different setting, we find that hours can zip by as though it was a few moments. Whenever we are doing something we love or are really focused on the activity, the passage of time is something we hardly notice. In either case, a person can respond to this different sense of time in a variety of ways. When we’re anxious about the outcome of something, waiting can seem excruciatingly long.

When we’re afraid of a looming deadline and we find the time zipping by, we can become frantic. In contrast, when a person finds a moment of pure happiness, it can enrich his outlook for days or weeks. And when someone is engaged in doing exactly what she wants to be doing, a whole day can go by without her hardly noticing.

How does the idea of spending eternity in a heavenly community strike you? Some people’s previous experience can lead them to fear it will become boring and empty of joy. We can be assured that since all angels wish well to each other and seek to follow the Lord as best they can, each day they get to do the kinds of things they love to do. Although there is a comforting continuity in their lives, there are also daily changes and growth. They can have a sense of progress and spiritual improvement that will never end. The richness
and variety of their lives ensure that the happiness of their life not only doesn’t diminish over time, but actually grows. How does eternity register in the minds of angels?

We’re given the remarkable teaching that “thousands of years do not appear to them as a period of time, almost as if they had lived for only a minute” (Arcana Caelestia 1382). The Lord encourages us to watch the patterns of our thoughts and reactions. If we find ourselves either feeling stuck in a hard place that seems without end or we feel impatience, frustration, or anger that something is taking too long, it can be a wake-up call to reflect on what our priorities are. The Lord teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Matthew 6:19-21)

Angels set their heart on the useful things that fill their lives. The passage of time is hardly noticed by them. May all of us get some of the joy of this experience.