It works both ways; you know…you probably don’t think on this too often, though. It’s part of our instinct. We don’t have to think about it. Long ago our ancestors began inscribing their feats on the walls of caves. Our history is preserved by carving onto animal bones, painted on canvas, chiseled into stone, chemically developed onto paper, and digitized into computer memories. We want to preserve that which has meaning to us.
The purpose, of course, is to honor that which enforces our beliefs, our faiths. We want to capture moments to remind us of what we have accomplished that we are proud of, that repeatedly tell us and others who visit us what we are and what we are working towards.
Look around your own home. What pictures have you framed? Where do they hang? What signs have you decorated with? What symbols are represented overtly or are incorporated into your artwork? Have you looked around lately? And, when was the last time you took something down and put it or threw it away. “That’s just not me any longer,” you think. We celebrate what we believe by those images we keep around us. They are intended to promote continued actions from us, and help remind us to avoid acting to the contrary. These images will come to mind away from home as well, when we are pressed for a decision as we prepare to take an action.
We’ve learned to take this further, and we’ve known, as humans, for some time how we can contemplate an idea and ‘visualize’ ourselves taking actions on our beliefs. Proverbs 4:23 is one source of how ancient this knowledge is; “With all vigilance guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life.” When the Evangelist Mark recorded Jesus’ words “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours,” he was passing on this gift to us for all posterity. Even the secularists recognize this Divine gift. Napoleon Hill wrote in his work “Think and Grow Rich”, “What a man can conceive and believe, he can achieve,” and an entire self-help industry has echoed it for nearly eighty years. Visualizing is prominent this time of year in our culture. We are constantly asking the question of graduates, “What do you want to do?” and “What are your plans?” We are asking them to visualize their futures to the point of articulating them back to us. It is more than a common courtesy, it is asking them to engage in their Divinely given gift of creation.
If we picture what we believe, then, there is one more idea to consider. What happens after we leave this time-tied reality? What is there, if anything, beyond the reality we currently are woven into? Christians believe in Heaven, Hindus in seven of them. Spiritualists believe there is something, but what they are necessarily vague on. Social scientists have recorded the faiths of indigenous peoples, including their prehistory and after-lives. For secular-humanists, this exercise is non-existent.
I will share as a Catholic, here, what I can know of this ‘after’ life. The ‘disciple Jesus loved’ was given a vision of heavenly worship. It is recorded in the Book of Revelation. Where others look at this book as one of death and destruction and await the wrath of God, Catholics can look at it and see, beginning in Chapter 4, that Heaven is a place of worship and engagement with God. John describes for us in words what this heavenly worship looked like to him. Catholic churches reflect this in the designs of the altars where we gather and engage in the action of the New Covenant we’ve received.
If you’d like to see a vision of heaven, of what comes ‘after’, visit your local Catholic church. Ask someone in the office to give you a tour. And, if you are Catholic, or even if you are not, create such a picture in your own home to remind you, to internalize within you, memories and ideas that will come to mind for when you are deciding to take action.
The High Altar in St. Michael the Archangel Church, Findlay OH. The components of John’s vision include ‘the Lamb who appears slain’ (crucifix), the torches, and the angelic hosts in white robes. The ‘throne’ is the tabernacle in the center. Missing from this view is ‘the Book’, which is situated toward the congregation, and the eternal lamp indicating the Presence of God.
Full altar at St. John Neuman parish in Sunbury OH. Components of John’s vision include the “Lamb who appears slain’ in the Eucharist and the cross on the table, the torches (lit candles), and the Book of the Word to the right of the altar, the ‘throne’ is not the Presiders chair, but the tabernacle behind the priest, centered. The heavenly hosts are represented by the paintings and the carved imagery.