The theologian St. Thomas Aquinas famously put the question of happiness at the center of his moral teaching. He was not unique in this position. In Ancient Greece and other cultures, philosophical inquiry often began with this basic question. What is it that will truly make us happy? What is unique about Christianity, and this is brought out in the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, is that the question of happiness is answered in the person of Jesus Christ. He explains that true happiness is the “beatific vision.” In other words, in heaven we will see God as he is, and not through figures or images, and this unveiled vision of God will satisfy all the longings of the heart.
However, true happiness is not just in the world to come. We can experience true happiness in this world by growing in intimacy with our Lord. Throughout the Christian tradition, sanctification was seen as a foreshadowing of the glories to come in heaven. When Christian Mystics and Saints read phrases such as “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God,” the believed that this “seeing of God” was none other than a mysterious grace of communion with God.
The problem is that our worldly attachments keep us from “seeing God” in the depths of our hearts. The saints describe our voyage in this world as a purification in which we come to know, love, and serve our Lord with greater faith, hope, and love. Ultimately, seeing God is not about experiencing something with our senses, but rather surrendering to the Divine indwelling, the grace that is given through the sacraments which takes hold and penetrates our lives.
In the sacraments, we receive everything we need for happiness. The problem is not with the sacraments, but rather our reception of those sacraments.