Q — I attended a festival at an Orthodox church in Portland and took a tour. The deacon there told the group that no one is currently in heaven, and that the state of bliss face-to-face with God is something that will come to be only after Jesus’ second coming. Those who died are spiritually asleep, the deacon said. I realize none of us know what happens after death, but does what this Orthodox deacon said align with Catholic thought on the subject?

A — I am no expert on the theology of the Orthodox churches. And certainly the way that this deacon has reportedly spoken about the matter seems to me, from a Roman Catholic point of view, not quite nuanced enough. Our Catholic conviction is this: all whose living has been heavenly in this world, purged from sin after death, will be in heaven with God, with the angels and with the saints. Nonetheless, it is also our conviction that no one can be finally complete in heaven until all are finally complete in heaven at the end of time. Catholics believe in the coming of Jesus in glory at the end of time. When that happens, when that event takes place, it is our Catholic conviction that God will be all in all. When God is all in all, then every human person who has responded to God’s invitation to graceful communion, now free from sin, will come to heavenly finality in God. Perhaps that is what the Orthodox deacon was getting at, the essential social nature of being in heaven, of being in Christ, of being Christ’s holy Body. No member of the holy Body can be complete completely until the entire holy Body is completely complete at the end of time.