Why Don’t the Blessed in Heaven Sin? Why do We?

If we can just manage not to bungle our redemption, so that we make it to Heaven, we will there remain free – in the sense that it will be metaphysically possible to us – to err and fall from that state of limitless power and grace and goodness, as happened at the first instants of our world with Lucifer, and as we do every five minutes or so right now. A free man may always sell himself into slavery.

But we won’t want to.

Why? Because as we take up our places in this resurrected and, as it were, rebooted world – its memories of fallen life intact, but its errors purged – we will actualize our true nature. One important aspect of that nature is an angelic, synoptic perspective on things. The angelic perspective isn’t omniscience – finite beings cannot comprehend the infinite – but rather approaches omniscience asymptotically. Meister Eckhart called it spatiosissimus, and characterized spiritual development as a continuous increase in the spaciousness of human life.

Thanks to the Fall, most of the spaciousness we might otherwise naturally achieve is now foreclosed to us, except when we are taken up in the mystical ecstasies of the Heavenly Ascent enjoyed by great saints. But in our resurrection bodies, we will be able to climb as far up Jacob’s Ladder as we like. And as resurrected beings redeemed from a Fall, we will have an advantage over Lucifer and Adam: we will know quite well what sin and pain feel like, we will know what it is like to be Fallen. And we won’t want to go there again.

Think of the worst pain you have ever experienced. Would you ever volunteer to subject yourself to it everlastingly and without hope of remission, for the sake of the pleasure of, say, eating a piece of chocolate cake?

That is what the prospect of sinning would be like for the blessed.

The thing is that we don’t reckon how unspeakably wonderful blessedness is. Take the most wonderful, sublime experience of your life, of any type, and it is as nothing to blessedness. “For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room.” Cheerful, healthy, untroubled happiness here on Earth is to blessedness as agony is to bliss.

Why aren’t we good? Because we have no idea what goodness is really like. As we develop spiritually, and become more spacious, and encompass more and more knowledge of the way things really are, we gain more and more knowledge of what it is like to be blessed. We begin to learn what goodness is like. At some point on the road to theosis, we pass the threshold of a phase change. In that metamorphosis, we go from being someone who is mostly crippled by sin and its sequelae in confusion, more error, more noise and confusion and ignorance, leading to further bad decisions, life catastrophes, and so forth, to someone who is not, to someone who is mostly free of the coils of this vicious cycle. The passage of that threshold consists mostly of an accession to understanding. It is as though the soul is enlarged by the infusion of grace in the prayers and in the sacraments, so that it simply expands beyond the bounds of slavery to sin.

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Thanks to Bruce Charlton, who provided the occasion of this thought, in a thread where this post began as the end of a long comment. It’s an interesting discussion over there, and well worth a look.

A comment below from Bruce B. has prompted me to paste into this post a bit more of that long comment, so as to try to make it clearer.

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6 thoughts on “Why Don’t the Blessed in Heaven Sin? Why do We?

      • Sorry Kristor. Just suggesting a possible answer to the question that is the title of your post.

      • Ah, I see. I tried to answer the question in the post. I guess I was unclear …

        Purgatory seems to be a phase in the process of theosis: the shedding of the body of death. I’m sure it will hurt a very great deal, but I am guessing it will be like the pain we suffer under the hands of a doctor, in a procedure intended to heal us, rather than like the agonies we would suffer under torture. Good pain rather than bad, if that makes any sense.

        Once we are through purgation, we’ll be more or less blessed, and however much we will continue to appreciate the beauties generated here below – Bach, Everest, Chartres – will react to the notion of a return to profane existence with horror.

  1. Good questions. I believe that the answer to the first is that Lucifer fell because he didn’t know it would be a bad idea. Adam and Eve, likewise. I explain my reasoning rather fully over at Joseph of Arimathea, beginning with my comments to his post, Orthodoxy and Evolution. Joseph and I discussed the question of the Fall in a series of subsequent posts. Be warned: each one of them is quite long! The whole exchange with Joseph was extremely fruitful for me.

    As to the second, creatures naturally capable of the BV who are unfallen are in principle capable of ascending Jacob’s ladder whenever they want, and to go as far up it toward the Throne as they like. Not so for fallen creatures, who are saddled with Original Sin, with the consequence that their own ontological resources do not suffice even to get them to the first rung.

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