Most people have some idea of what Heaven may be like. Movies and TV shows usually give us a saccharine, almost childish picture of Heaven. The Book of Revelation is not much help with its celestial choirs of angels and long processions. I can see Heaven as having miles and miles of beautiful white sand and aquamarine water, billowing up to the shoreline. On those beaches many people would be just drinking in the magnificent beauty of God’s Paradise that He prepared for us. On a more practical and even esthetic matter, there would be no need of any swimming attire.
A nude beach in Heaven, you say? No way! I think it is something that just may be true. Of course I seriously doubt if St. Augustine would ever be found on a nude beach. I do know a couple people who have been to nude beaches on earth. The first is a middle age woman whom I have known for many years. She and her husband came to America from Eastern Europe in 1991. Their attitudes about nudity are much more relaxed than ours. On their trips to the Caribbean on at least on two occasions, they went to the nude beach on the French side of St. Maartens. The beach was populated mostly with other Europeans and with everyone in the same state of undress there was a natural aura to the beach.
Of course there are nude beaches and there are nudes beaches! The only discomfort she felt was the voyeuristic eyes of some people at the restaurant some 50 yards away, who were fully clothed. The second time they went she felt more relaxed and they spent the time talking with others as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
For the first time in her life since she was a child, she said she felt truly alive as the sun and the cool ocean water refreshed her entire body in a way that was virtually indescribable. She loved the complete sensation of having the ocean water bathe her body in its icy delights. According to St. John Paul II, and his Theology of the Body, in this context any shame or discomfort had to come, not from the nude bathers, but from the lustful intent or curiosity of those who did not know how to morally view other human beings in their natural state.
Admittedly a nude beach is probably not for everyone, especially most Americans. A case in point is my other friend who went more to a nude beach out of curiosity but kept his swimming trunks on. Part of the problem is our tendency toward concupiscence–that inner drive in us that spoils the good and natural things of life. This is the real enemy in life, and one of the most pernicious aspects of our fall from grace. This driving force of human degradation seeks to drown our human integrity, body and soul, in a slough of mud and filth.
To my mind lust is in the eye of the beholder. I might add there is probably more lust committed on beaches from wearing or viewing the provocative outfits and immodest attire that characterize our sex-saturated culture than on any nude beach. The pope was trying to counter this tendency in people to turn the pure and natural beauty of the human body into an object of unadulterated lust.
Maybe St. Augustine and the legion of anti-body heretics that have populated the Church over the centuries are the ones responsible for this regrettable situation. I am thinking of the Gnostics, the Cathars and the Irish Jansenists who all had a hateful disgust for God’s best natural creation—the human body. To his dying day, St. Pope John Paul II strove to counter this insult to God ‘s greatest creation.
So are there nude beaches in Heaven? The Scriptures only tell us how to go to Heaven, not how Heaven goes. Our Catholic imaginations are free to wander. My idea of Heaven is to walk in the sand on a sunny beach, as the ocean flows loudly onto the shore. Ever since I made a retreat in senior year at Holy Cross, I have thought of the rolling waves of an ocean or a sea as a sign of eternity. The ocean seems to run on and on for as far as the human eye can see. It looks as if it has no end. My wife and I have been walking the sandy beaches of Florida’s west coast for 35 years. I feel that infinite sense of eternity ever time we do that.
In Heaven there will be no plausible reason for any clothing once we get our glorified bodies. There would be nothing but truly heavenly bodies and I don’t mean the kind in Las Vegas or New Orleans since we would all be awash in the infinite warmth of God’s love. Now we wear clothing for warmth, modesty and sometimes style or fashion.
Heaven must be even better than Hawaii every day of the week, so the cold is no problem. Without sin, lust or jealousy why would we wear clothing? What a beautiful way to commune with our fellow saints, just like my friend and her husband–no pretenses or hiding anything! In the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi thought nothing of going au natural to protest the materialism of his age. I may be wrong but my attitude is far healthier and more in line with God’s plan of creation than most of my fellow Catholics. But then again the heavenly possibilities seem endless!