One point of St. Augustine’s I’d like to highlight is the changeability of all creatures—that is, of all things created by God—spiritual and corporeal alike. 1 It’s interesting and relevant for me in particular as it ties in with something I was discussing with my mom recently: the seeming eternal unchangeability of heaven and of people after they’ve died.
First of all, heaven was created by God; 2 therefore, in Augustine’s view, heaven should technically be changeable. Now one of my mom’s questions was how a person could not be in heaven, and then be in heaven, if heaven were eternal; but remember that heaven was created—so while it may be “eternal” in that it has no end, 3 it is obviously changeable because God has changed it to something from nothing. Therefore, it is changeable at least in regards to who resides in it at a given point—meaning that, yes, St. Augustine for instance could be in heaven while I’m still on Earth, and be aware of the change when I (hopefully) end up there in heaven; that is, it wouldn’t be a situation where I always was in heaven anyway. For even though in heaven we have “eternal life,” 4 we have to keep in mind that heaven itself is created—and thus is, if we go by Augustine’s reasoning, changeable (even if it would never be changed fundamentally, considering that it’s “God’s own ‘place’” 5 ). The same goes for our eventually being reunited with our bodies in heaven; for our souls, too, are still created things—and thus could be changed as in being reunited with our bodies.
Yet did not “the Son of God [become] man so that man might become God”? 6 Surely, then, as “God” ourselves, shouldn’t we be unchangeable? But as the Church teaches, “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul”; 7 and it is upon “the Lord’s return” that “he will come ‘to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed.’” 8 Thus, my theory is that we will not be glorified—that is, deified***—until the second coming, until which point we are not made God and are still limited enough to undergo some measure of change. 9
And of course, to remain orthodox to Catholic teaching, I should add the reminder that heaven “is beyond all understanding and description”; 10 so even if my theory does make sense, it’s important to keep in mind that heaven is ultimately beyond our limited comprehension.
***[ADDED LATER] Please note that I am no longer so sure that “glorified” and “deified” are synonymous. I am also beginning to question whether this is a legitimate (i.e., in accordance with Catholic teaching) theory on our deification at all. It may be legitimate, but there may be an issue with it—so please remember that it’s only a theory, and should not be considered something officially taught by the Catholic Church.
1 Augustine, One the Nature of Good, 1, at New Advent, www.newadvent.org.
2 see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 nd ed., at St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church (2 February 2017), at www.scborromeo.org, 325-326.
3 see CCC, 1023, 1709.
4 CCC, 1709.
5 CCC, 326, possibly qtg. Ps 115:16.
6 CCC, 460, qtg. St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
7 CCC, 1042.
8 CCC, 1041, qtg. 2 Thess 1:10.
9 see Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity (Illustrated), Kindle edition, 36.
10 CCC, 1027.