My question can sound like a question out of blue, but I am going to ask it anyway.

We can come up with many different descriptions of so called "perfect relationship", but for Christians the best example of perfect relationship (or the most "ideal" relationship) would be the relationship within the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Will every relationship that takes place in heaven (which includes heavenly relationship between God's creations, for example, a relationship between two heavenly human beings) as perfect and complete as the relationship of the Trinity?

On one hand, my logic says it is impossible for God's creatures to have such perfect and complete relationship with some other God's creation, since we as a finite and inferior being do not have capacity to receive love or to give love as much as our infinite God. On the other hand, my logic says that because heaven is "the perfect" place, the strength of relationship/union that occurs throughout heavenly community should be equally perfect, powerful, and strong to the utmost extreme. If the heavenly relationship between God's creation are not as perfect and complete as that of the Trinity, that means unity in heaven is in a sense can be fragile.

Will every heavenly relationship (including relationship between a heavenly human and some other heavenly human) be as perfect and complete as the relationship that Trinity has? Please answer according to Catholic understanding.

Thank you,


1 Answer 1


In creatures, relations are extrinsic to the essence of the creature. For example, my essence* is humanness, but my relation to my father, mother, wife, friends, or even to God is not humanness; it's not my essence. However, in the Holy Trinity, the Divine Relations are the essence of God Himself. This is a consequence of the Trinity being supremely simple.

*Essence or quiddity is the answer to the question: "What is it?" ("Quid est?")

St. Thomas Aquinas writes, answering the question "Whether relation in God is the same as His essence?,"

…in God relation and essence do not differ from each other, but are one and the same.

cf. Fr. Gilles Emery, O.P.'s The Trinitarian Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas ch. 5 "Relations" (p. 78 f.)

Thus, it is clear that since God is infinitely perfect, and He is His Trinitarian relations, these relations are infinitely perfect.

When we behold the Beatific Vision in heaven, we do not become God; we maintain our individuality. We will know God as perfectly as His grace enables us us know him,* but not as perfectly as He knows Himself.

*There are hierarchies in heaven; not all saints (i.e., those in heaven) are equally close to God. The Blessed Virgin Mother is closest in her relation to her Son.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his Compendium Theologiæ cap. 106 ("Fruition of Natural Desire in the Beatific Vision [in Heaven]"):

…the most perfect way of attaining likeness with God: to know God in the way He knows Himself, by His own essence.

Of course, we shall never comprehend Him as He comprehends Himself. This does not mean that we shall be unaware of some part of Him, for He has no parts. It means that we shall not know Him as perfectly as He can be known, since the capacity of our intellect for knowing cannot equal His truth, and so cannot exhaust His knowability. God’s knowability or truth is infinite, whereas our intellect is finite. But His intellect is infinite, just as His truth is; and so He alone knows Himself to the full extent that He is knowable; just as a person comprehends a demonstrable conclusion if he knows it through demonstration, but not if he knows it only in an imperfect way, on merely probable grounds.

This ultimate end of man we call beatitude. For a man’s happiness or beatitude consists in the vision whereby he sees God in His essence. Of course, man is far below God in the perfection of his beatitude. For God has this beatitude by His very nature, whereas man attains beatitude by being admitted to a share in the divine light, as we said in the previous chapter.

Also, the classic work on how there are hierarchies in heaven is Dionysius the Areopagite's On the Heavenly Hierarchy.

  • Hello, thank you for your answer. The way I understood heaven is that heaven is the place where I will be in a complete union with God and all other saints. My question is, how can one be closer to God than the other if everyone is in "complete union" with Him? The way I interpret the term "complete union" is "complete intimacy", similar to when we refer to a married couple who are in deep loving relationship for each other we say that they are "united" in spirit. If one can be closer to God than the other, then not everyone in heaven is in complete union with God? Commented May 21, 2016 at 12:07
  • @Joseph "If one can be closer to God than the other, then not everyone in heaven is in complete union with God?" Everyone beholds God equally in heaven, but everyone does not comprehend Him equally, and no one comprehends Him exhaustively as He does Himself. (See what I added to my answer.)
    – Geremia
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 17:46
  • Good answer. Note that Aquinas generally uses Aristotle’s meaning of “essence,” which refers first of all to the concrete individual, not the Platonic sense, which corresponds to the species or the “kind of thing” in question. (It is not that Aquinas rejects either one, but like Aristotle, he favors the first, in general.) However, Trinitarian dogma was first formulated by Church Fathers who were much better versed in Platonic philosophy, so they naturally used the term "essence" in the Platonic sense. Commented May 21, 2016 at 19:47
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    A suggestion: you might add that “perfection” (perhaps better translated nowadays as “fulfillment”) is an analogous term. It does not always mean quite the same thing. In particular, there is perfection in the absolute sense, which is enjoyed by God, and perfection in the sense enjoyed by creatures, which is necessarily limited. All of us creatures are called to be perfect in our own order, not to enjoy the perfection proper only to God. (Clearly, for us men, that entails a particularly intense participation in God’s perfection, so much so that we can call it “divinization” or “theosis”.) Commented May 21, 2016 at 19:52
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    That also means that different individuals, even among men, may only be capable of differing levels of perfection (which will depend in part on the degree to which we have cooperated with grace on earth). In Heaven, we will realize our potential to the maximum; the “total capacity,” so to speak, may differ for different individuals. Commented May 21, 2016 at 19:56

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