I know that heaven is all about love. But in Catholic church, we distinguish love (will) and affection (emotion). In our day to day lives, love is often accompanied by affection - but will this be the case for us in heaven? It may or may not be possible depending on whether the impassibility only applies to God or not. There is a notion that in heaven, we will love each other in the same way that God does for us, but at the same time we know that we will be in our resurrected "body", which may or may not enable us to feel affection. To reconcile God's love and his impassibility, the Church teaches that God's love is not like rock (cold and immutable), but like unceasing fire (hot, intense, but also constant) - will we love each other in this manner in heaven?

It is the matter of "passive love" and "active love". Suppose that you brought a present to one of your fellows in heaven. Passive love would say "I brought this present to you in my commitment to love everyone, but I didn't do this because I 'like' you", whereas active love would say "I brought this present to you, because I really really really do like you!"

I don't know if there is any specific teaching of the Catholic Church on this topic, but there is no harm to ask.

  • What do you mean by "love (will)"?
    – Geremia
    Dec 10, 2015 at 3:35
  • @Geremia At least according to the traditional (i.e., Thomistic) model, the will is the faculty by which we love in the strict sense. (We also have sensitive appetites, which are the source of our emotions, including affections and the feeling of love.) Dec 10, 2015 at 7:38
  • @AthanasiusOfAlex What Latin word does St. Thomas use for "the faculty by which we love in the strict sense"? thanks
    – Geremia
    Dec 12, 2015 at 1:55
  • 1
    @Geremia He has two terms for it: voluntas (“will”) and intellectivus appetitus (”intellectual appetite,” which he uses when he compares the will to the lower, sensitive appetites). See, e.g., Summa I, q. 82, a. 2. Dec 12, 2015 at 6:43
  • @AthanasiusOfAlex Oh, the concupiscible appetite? Or also the irascible appetite, too? (I have a hard time seeing how the irascible appetite could be "love".)
    – Geremia
    Dec 12, 2015 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


We are not quite sure how our affectivity (emotions, passions, and so on) will work in Heaven before the General Resurrection, however the Church teaches dogmatically that all human beings will receive their bodies at the General Judgment. As the Nicene-Constantopolitan Creed (the one said at Mass nearly every Sunday) says

I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

See also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 992-1004 and 1038.

Being in Heaven, therefore, does not destroy our human nature—including the corporeal aspects of that human nature, which is necessary for there to be affectivity in the strict sense—but rather perfects it.

It follows that there will indeed be emotions and affection in Heaven—not exactly the same as on earth (for one thing, there is no marriage in Heaven—see Matthew 22:30 and the parallel passages), but more perfect and more intense.

UPDATE (because of expansion of question)

When the Church teaches that human beings will impassible in Heaven, it specifically means that we will be unable to suffer (i.e., experience pain). It does not mean that we will be incapable of experiencing passions (emotions, affections, and so on). Passions, understood in this latter sense, are part and parcel of human nature, and so they will not be destroyed by the Beatific Vision—indeed, they will be intensified. (See, for example, Catechism No. 1044.)

Of course, they will not be disordered, as they frequently are here on earth. Moreover, the conditions will be different, because the persons in Heaven will be before the very source of all their longings—namely, God. In Heaven, therefore, we will be in the condition of having all our longings—our very deepest longings—perfectly fulfilled.

(God, on the other hand, is impassible in every sense—not because He lacks love, but because His love is constantly active—as the O.P. points out. God cannot experience emotions in His Divine Nature, because one needs a body for that; however, since He is the Creator of the emotions, He experiences something even better than our emotions.)

In short, all of our faculties will be operating at their “maximum” in Heaven: through our will, we will love God (and our neighbor) intellectually; through our sensitive appetites, we will be drawn to Him, they will be actuated at their maximum intensity, and hence we experience affection for Him (and our neighbor).

In short, we will experience all the types of love that are characteristic of man—active and passive, intellectual and sensitive—but at their maximum intensity and without disorder.

Sources for more information

The best source for more information is the Summa theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Regarding the faculties of the soul—intellect, will, and sensitive appetites—have a look at I, qq. 79-82

Regarding the passions (Thomas’ term for emotions, feelings, and similar phenomena), the entire Ia-IIae (first part of the second part) is relevant; but especially qq. 22-25. Also interesting are the questions regarding the passion of love, qq. 26-28.

Regarding heavenly beatitude, see I, q .26, especially Article 4.

Also, see St. Thomas on the Christ’s glorified body (which applies also to our own body after the General Resurrection): III, q. 54, a. 3.

  • @hyunjinc I meant that, in heaven, all of our desires without exception will be fulfilled: both our desires here on earth and our desires in Heaven. Ultimately, all desires and longings come from God and are fulfilled in Him. (This principle applies even to disordered desires: although in such a case there is evidently something wrong with the desire, nevertheless there is some aspect of the thing desired that is good—otherwise the desire would be impossible. Even that partial goodness—as with all goodness—ultimately comes from God.) Dec 28, 2015 at 7:41
  • @hyunjinc Yes, all of our desires (even specific desires) will be fulfilled, but we are not understand that in the mechanical way that your question suggests. The only earthly experience that I can think of that is similar to the Beatific Vision (the direct union with God that we will enjoy in Heaven) is human love. When a person falls in love, all other desires seem insignificant in comparison. Something like that—but infinitely more intense—will occur when we see God. Whatever, say, you found desirable in having Tom ask you out, you will find (infinitely better) in God. Dec 28, 2015 at 14:46
  • @hyunjinc That is not meant to belittle earthly desires; it is just that (to the degree that they are good, anyway) they come from God. Going to their Source will be even better. Also, in Heaven, we will no longer experience disordered desires, because, having the object of our love so close, we will find offending God unbearable. Dec 28, 2015 at 14:48
  • So how should I understand the "fulfillment of all our desire in heaven" in your context? Should I understand it as "every fundamental desire (e.g. I want to receive love), as well as every shallower desire that is consequence of the fundamental desire (e.g. therefore I want Tom to ask me out) that we have in heaven will be brought to reality", or should I understand it as "our every fundamental desire in heaven - which are not necessarily the shallow desires that are consequent of the fundamental desire - will be fulfilled in God"? Thank you
    – hyunjinc
    Dec 28, 2015 at 16:49
  • May I suggest taking this discussion to chat? Dec 28, 2015 at 17:06

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