And it suddenly reminded me, of all things, of Dante's Inferno. One of the most horrible things about Dante's hell is the repetitiveness of it. In one circle, for example, people are eternally hacked into pieces, over and over again. It never, never, never ends.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
What's interesting about this vision of heaven is the use of the present tense. The beasts never rest, day and night. They continually cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy." And when they cry, the elders fall down and worship.
One could think about this uncharitably: What, is it sort of like those window displays at Christmas in downtown Chicago when I was a child? The beasts saying the same thing over and over and the elders mechanically falling down and worshiping, getting up, falling down and worshiping again?
What is John conveying here? Well, first of all, I think he did have a vision like this, so I think he's telling what he saw and what he understood--that praise to God in heaven is unceasing.
But another idea, which I think we find hard to receive aright, is this: When we are finally in heaven at the end of all things, human history is over. The beatific vision is not at all like ordinary human life, with its ups and its downs, its reversals, its suspense, failure, success. But when we become what we should be, this will not bother us. We will not be, to put it bluntly, bored. We will want, as the catechism has it, to enjoy God forever.
And I think that in our best moments here on earth, led by the Holy Spirit, we catch a glimpse of the true glory and excitement of that state in which we praise God forever and ever and ever.
May we love that which God commands and desire what he promises, "that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found."