With heaven or Paradise is meant first of all the state of eternal beatitude in the immediate vision of God, secondly it is meant a place, the house of the Father ready for his children, since the foundation of the world (Jn 14,2); the dwelling of the angelic hosts (Cf. Gen. 28,10s; Mt18,10; Lk 2,13). The Scripture, read correctly by the Magisterium of the Church, tells us that as soon as the soul is separated from the body there is the particular judgment (Qo 11,27; Lk 16,22; Heb 9.27). The soul is immediately at the presence of the Judge, seen in His reality of Incarnate Word, in His two natures (divine and human) in the unity of his one Person, the Word. The judge, if the soul has purified herself in the power of the grace of God and in the hope of seeing him (1 Jn 3,3), will immediately accept her (Mt 25,21.23). The immediate welcoming is the formula of the judge (cf. Mt 25.34).
The soul separated from the body, is not of some kind of matter, but, precisely, is Spirit, as spirit are angels; it follows that may not be located in a place as a body. However, the soul separated, as the angel, may not exist in an emptiness of nothing. In the emptiness of nothing, beyond the immense creation, exists only God, who is infinite. The separate soul cannot not be in relation with the creation, because then it would be a universe in itself, while ontologically it is not, because it was created to be the substantial form of the body.
The angel is in relation with the creation, is in relation with men and things. As a spirit (soul or angel) can be concretely in a place is something that is impossible to know to us here on earth.
Our desire to ascend to Heaven is not primarily focused on going to the Heavenly Abode, but to be with Christ” (Phil 1,23), which is ascended into heaven, and to see God as he is (1Jn 3,2), “face to face” (1Cor 13.12), not like Moses who spoke face to face to Him for his intimate friendship with God (Es 33,11.20), but without seeing him as he is. The Gospel of John in fact tells us that “God, nobody has ever seen Him” (Jn 1,18). That souls go to heaven and are with Christ active in praise and thanksgiving is out of the question. Paul wants to leave the body to be with Christ” (Phil 1,23), the saints in heaven pray, thank, praise God (Rev 11,17). The immediate vision of God will cease the faith because it will be seen, will suspend the hope because it has already been achieved and obtained, remains charity, because it will never end (1Cor 13,8).
In fact, without charity there would not be beatitude in the immediate vision of God.
If one would see God in the closed state, without love, the vision of Him would not be beatitude but tearing frightening, not because seeing God communicates tearing, but because being in the closed state, is to be deformed, unrecognizable, and therefore rejected by God who is Love (Lc 13,25S). There is no place for love in a soul saturated with hatred. To see God is to love him is to have eternal life, which is a participation in the life of God. Over time one has the participation in the faith, in eternity one will have it in the vision. The soul in heaven will be united to Christ and will have the opportunity to see the humanity of Christ by means of the species intellegibilis infused by God, and will see, in the light of the beatific vision, the unity in Christ of the two natures, human and divine, in the sole Person of the Word. The soul will see the reality of the three Persons, distinct from each other and in eternal relation, one in the single Essence.
We in our journey towards the heavenly destination, we cannot go beyond this in the theological investigation. In fact, Christ (1Tim 6,16): “dwells in an unapproachable light, that none among men has ever seen or can see”. In heaven, we will see God as he is, but without being able to embrace his infinite; this will not be a handicap since the infinity of God is the inexhaustible source of his eternal love. You may well say that Paradise is the new eternal; the riches of God will never end for all eternity.
The light that elevates the soul, because the vision of the Essence is absolutely not possible to its nature, is called by theologians “lumen gloriae“. This “lumen gloriae” has references in the Scriptures. (Ps 35,10): “In thy light shall we see light”; (Ps 55,13): “So that I can please God in the light of life”; (Cf. Ap 21,23; 22,5). The “lumen gloriae” is a divine action which invests the intellect which thus sees God. The “lumen gloriae” is a created reality, because if it was to coincide with the same divine Essence there would be pantheism, and this would be a great mistake, because it would be denied the transcendence of God.
The “lumen gloriae” does not abolish the intellectual expression of the soul, but does not give to the intellect a species (shape, image) intellegibilis, because no image can represent God as he is. As this very high operation occurs, is unfathomable, however it is desired already on earth. Job said (19.26): “After my skin will be torn away, without my flesh I will see God. I will see Him, I myself will see Him with my own eyes, I and not another”. Thus the psalm 42/41 (): “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and behold the face of God?”. The desire to see God is flanked, here on earth, from the warning that no one can remain in life seeing God (Gn 32, 31). This thought is understandable because if we, here on a journey, we were given the “lumen gloriae” we would have such a jerking of the soul that the body could not withstand: only the risen and glorious body will be able to withstand.
Christ in his journey on this earth had in his soul the beatific vision (Jn 3,13), but such a vision, in harmony with the reality of his Incarnate Word, was also in harmony with his mission; mission established in the kenosis (Phil 2,6-8), that is lowering, draining, annihilation, for which the Word made possible for the beatitude to super abound not on his body. The desire to see again your loved ones in heaven will be satisfied because you will see them. The parable of the rich man and of Lazarus tells us so. Lazarus and the rich man saw each other and the Dives and Abraham spoke. We will see and communicate with our dear ones because God will inspire in us the ability to do so, as it happens is a mystery, we speak of infusion of the species intelligibilis, but the mystery remains. It should be noted that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus there is not still the beatific vision of God, therefore there can be no recourse to this, but the characters communicate.
In Heaven, the saints hear our prayers to intercede with God. In the heavenly liturgy is presented by the Apocalypse there is the presence of the prayers of the saints (Ap 5.8; 8,3-4). The Saints in Heaven praying in Christ, with Christ, for Christ, for us: this is the communion of saints which embraces the triumphant, expiating and militant Church.
Prayer is not informing God because he sees well what we need, but it is action of love and humility, which recognizes the need for the intervention of God: love and humility are essential in the earthly journey, but remain in the glory of heaven, and are the source of the eternal alleluia to God. Without prayer, there would be the inertia that expects everything to be done by God, but it would be a disappointment for the saints that God would not have included them in the economy of salvation. They were not excluded in the earth (Col 1,24-25), and they are not excluded in heaven. From the moment that the saints pray for us it means that in heaven they know, in God, our needs and our prayers.
It is for us mysterious as a saint can hear the prayers of many and many prayerful people who pray together and at the same time individually (think of the multitudes who invoke Mary). Mysterious is this, and therefore we must stop otherwise we would say and we would say, and at the end we would not have said anything; it is enough to know that in God this happens, and the Church does not have the slightest doubt. If one want to say most is that the saints, see in the divine Essence our situations and prayers. To see the divine Essence does not mean seeing everything of God, but only what God wants you to know, and God wants the saints to know our prayers. The angels saw the Essence, but they ignore, for example, the time of the end of the world (Mt 24.36).
In heaven, all can see God as he is, however with different ability to receive his ardently action of love. Who has given with generosity on earth will be able to receive more love of one who has given less. Does not depend on God, but from the opening that the soul has reached in time, through charity, which is the bond of perfection” (Eph 3,14), to receive the splendour of the Light that is God. The communion of saints, however, ensures that those who have greater capacity to welcome the splendour of the Light, enlighten the brothers who have less, because love is to serve the joy of others, and it is joy also to receive from others.