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“And you, Lord God, compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and most merciful, and true” (Ps 85:15)–because hanging on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Whom did he pray? For whom did he pray? Who was it that prayed? Where did he pray? The Son prayed his Father; the one crucified prayed for the wicked; amid all those insults not just of the words but of the death inflicted; hanging on the cross as if he was stretching out his hands in order to pray for them, so that his prayer might be directed as incense in his Father’s sight and the lifting up of his hands be like an evening sacrifice (Ps 140:2). “Long-suffering, and most merciful, and true.” (EnPs 85, 20; PL 37, 1096)


No part of Christian faith is more contradicted than the resurrection of the flesh. To meet such a denier, he who was born to be a sign of contradiction (see Lk 2:34) raised his own flesh, and he who could have so healed his members that their wounds would not appear preserved the scars on his body in order to heal the wound of the heart’s doubt.  But there is nothing in the Christian faith that is so vehemently, so persistently, so obstinately and contentiously opposed as its faith in the resurrection of the flesh. Many Gentile philosophers debated at length about the immortality of the soul and in many and varied books they have left arguments that the human soul is immortal. But when it came to the resurrection of the flesh, they did not waver but quite openly denied it, arguing that it is impossible for this earthly flesh to ascend into heaven. (EnPs 88[89]/2, 5; PL 37, 1134)


Augustine, after speaking about the warfare between the flesh and the spirit:

I want the whole to be healed, because I am the whole. I don’t want my flesh to be eternally separated from me, like something foreign; I want it to be entirely healed with me. If you do not want this, I don’t know what you think of the flesh; I guess you think it comes from some unknown place, as if from an enemy nation. That’s false; its heretical; its blasphemous. Mind and flesh have a single artisan. When he created man, he made them both, joined them both; he subjected the flesh to the soul and the soul to himself. (Augustine, Sermon 30, 4)


Commenting Guidelines

Augustine voices what so many of us feel -  I want the whole to be healed...

So many times, one can't help wondering if it isn't all really just wishful thinking - we want it to be true, because if it is, it really is "good news".  Making the want into a belief, a belief that is central to an entire faith system, seems as though it could simply be a natural and fully understandable human reaction to the primal fear of death. Like Augustine, we all want it to be true, because if it isn't....

 How do we know? We can't know, so then it is really a matter of faith. How does one get that faith how can one be sure of that faith? How does one quell the doubts, and banish the fear? Or maybe it's just a matter of making oneself believe, because to not believe is so dark and lonely.

"Having" faith - the insurmountable obstacle for many, as the questions arise that seem never to be discussed, at least in education for non-theologians. For example, if Jesus was resurrected in the flesh, his human body "raised", how did he go through walls into locked rooms?  Why was he not recognized by those who knew him best - not even a startled "You look just like someone I knew" when he first appeared to them, his closest disciples.  Why is his body wounded flesh with Thomas, but not when it went through walls. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, in the contradictions.


The resurrection of the body (however that is interpreted and understood) is, in my mind, a very important part of our faith and creed. We are embodied people. Our body is part of who we are and while the "flesh" signifies different things including worldly temptations, etc in biblical texts, the resurrection of the body, not just Jesus Christ's body, but our body is to me compelling. It helps us to begin to understand the value of the body.

For all its faults, the Catholic church has maintainted the importance and beauty of the sensual through its liturgy, art, sacraments, and sacramentals to remind us of this fact.

In the Catholic imagination, touch is important, touch in the sacrament of the sick, touch in reception of Eucharist, touch in baptism, confirmation, marriage (the kiss in public and the private consummation), the sign of peace at mass.

I am far from a touchy-feely guy but even for a Finn cultured influenced guy like me, touch and the sensual is important.  And the balance delicate balance between the body, touch, and spirit is part of grace.

I think that might have been what Jesus was alluding to when Mary Magdalene leaned to touch his resurrected body and Jesus forbid her from doing so as he had not ascended.

The general idea in my Unitarian upbringing was that the soul is released from the body at death, that the body no longer drags us down, that we transcend the physical sphere. This idea is still pretty deeply engrained in my head, so I can't really wrap my head around these ideas very well.

What does it mean to be in heaven, healed in body and soul? 

My Baptist sister-in-law, who has a serious lifelong weight problem, says we get brand-spankin' new perfect bodies and she'll be able to eat all the ice-cream cake she wants and never get fat. If that's true, then I get to take up smoking and drinking again and, since there is no marriage in heaven, I can hook up with anybody who takes my fancy, right? 

My sister-in-law's idea of an orgiastic heaven strikes me as utterly off base.

If we live in heaven in corporeal form, both souls and bodies in a healed state, wouldn't we be free of the bodily temptations (particularly gluttony, lust, and sloth)? Does that mean that we would revert to some state of pre-Adamite innocence? Would we be without the knowledge we learned in this vale of tears? Is heaven just a forgetting this life? That idea fills me with terror and sorrow.

I try not to dwell on these things because a) my chances of getting to heaven seem fairly slim and b) I have no control of it anyway.

The best I can do on Easter is to Christ's triumph over humiliation and pain, the transmission of his his teachings, and the immortality of his love for us.

The body/soul thing .... Plato (the soul survives the bosy) and Aristotle (the  bosy and soul are always connected) ... Catholics are into embodiment because they put so much emphasis on Aquinas, who interpreted Aristotle through Christianity - the neo-platonists were more considered dualists/gnostics.

JD Crossan gives the Catholic view ( ...

"My criticism of Gnosticism would be this: one of the most fundamental decisions we have to make, going back to dear old Plato, is whether the human being is a dialectic, in the same sense as before, of body and spirit, or if somehow that spirit or soul is only temporarily, possibly even unfortunately, joined to what is either a flea bag hotel or a magnificent palace called the body. But in either case the soul is only temporarily embodied until it goes home to its true spiritual abode. I think that this is the most radical question in Western philosophy. Whichever way you come down on this question, everything else will follow. If you think that human beings are actually incarcerated, entombed spirits, that we're simply renting bodies out, then everything else will follow. But if you think along with the Bible that somehow or other the body/soul amalgam is a dialectic, that you can distinguish but not separate them, then everything else will follow differently. So Gnosticism seems to be a perfectly good, linear descendent of Platonism (I'm not certain though what Plato himself would have said), but at the heart of it is the presumption that the material world is at best irrelevant and at worst evil. Those seem to be the fundamental options. You have to pick your position from there."

But I like the other view better, given by Keith Ward (  ...

"a resurrected body will not be constituted of the same physical stuff as present bodies (it is said to be spiritual, not physical). The present physical universe will come to an end, and there will be 'a new heaven and earth'. What that means is that the physical stuff of this specific universe is not essential to the nature and continuous existence of persons, even though something analogous to this body must exist ......

What is at stake in this discussion is whether human consciousness is an emergent property of a physical object - and so ceases to function or exist without that object. Or whether human consciousness, though it does originate within a physical body, and does require some form of embodiment, is nevertheless dissociable from its original body, and is capable of existence in other forms. Is the soul adjectival to the body, or is this body just one form in which this soul may exist?..."

Crystal, thank you for those thoughts (and making me laugh with Crossan's "flea bag hotel" metaphor).

I confess that Ward's notion seems so radical as to tax what little imagination I have at the moment, but I've printed it and stored it away for future contemplation. Lent normally makes me feel renewed in my faith, such as it is, but this year has been so grim that I completely opted out of dragging myself through the Stations every Friday and the decidedly funereal tone of the local "Good" Friday service. I just wasn't up to contemplating more death for the last six weeks.

Someone's comment earlier on another thread about the crucifixion being the access point of redemption and salvation was certainly a help to my faith this year. Maybe it was Rita. Whoever, thanks for the reminder.

I recommend for Holy Saturday a slow, meditative reading of 1 Cor, chapter 15. It gives a great sense of what St. Paul thought was at stake in the question of the resurrection of the body.  

Here is a small part of Thomas Aquinas' commentary on that chapter. He is commenting on the statement of St. Paul: “If it is only for this life that we have hope in Christ, we are the most miserable of all men” (I Cor 15:19)  Someone objects that this is not universally true, “because they could say that even though their bodies have good things only in this mortal life, in their souls they have many good things in the other life.” Aquinas answers:

Two answers may be given. First, if the resurrection of the body is denied, it is not easy, in fact it is difficult, to maintain the immortality of the soul. For the soul is naturally united to the body, and for it to be separated from it is against its nature and per accidens;  soul stripped of its body is imperfect for as long as it is without its body. Now it is impossible that what is natural and per se be finite and almost nothing, while what is against nature and per accidens is infinite, [which is what would be the case] if the soul were to perdure without its body. That is why Platonists, positing immortality, also posited reincarnation, even though this is heretical. Therefore, if the dead do not rise, it is only in this life that we have hope.

Second, man naturally desires the salvation of himself. But the soul, although it is a part of the human body, is not the whole man, and my soul is not me (Anima mea non est ego). Hence, although the soul attains salvation in another life, I do not, or any other man. Besides, since man naturally desires salvation of his body also, that natural desire would be frustrated [without the resurrection of the body]. 

Maybe Aquinas believed what he did (via Aristotle) because at that time there wasn't a conception of the vastness of the universe and Earth's small part in it.  Someday the Earth will cease to exist - why would it be so important that  after death we keep these bodies that are what they are simply because they evolved  for surviva and reproductionl on this particular planet? 

This makes me think of all the fiction in which a person's consciousness (soul?) is moved into a different body.  In those cases, we tend to think that the 'real' them is their consciousness, not their original body.

A conversation I had today:

"- I don't believe we will resurrect after death.

- Really? We've been discussing the resurrection of Christ, but you do not believe it?

- It's not that. I do believe that Christ resurrected. We know it's true, because we have witnesses who saw him. But he's the son of God, and no one ever saw anybody else resurrected. I don't believe anybody else resurrects. 

- Maybe for others the resurrection will happen some day in the future, in a long time.

- But, Jesus, it only took him three days to resurrect. All the other people who have died since then, why is it taking them so long to resurrect? What's taking them so long? It doesn't make sense."

This article by Bishop Ware, discussing the unity of body and soul, is interesting. He highlights Maximus the Confessor (and it is too bad that we did not follow Maximus more with respect to original sin as it would have cleared a lot up).

The Christian anthropology of the East seems somehow been able to escape this duality  through their concept of divinization or theosis. Seen in this light, the resurrection of the body is the logical extension of our life.

This truth is underlined with great clarity by St Maximus the Confessor. If according to the account of creation in Genesis Adam, was created last of all, after the rest of the created cosmos, that is because the human person is, as St Maximus puts it, "a natural bond of unity", mediating and drawing together all the different levels of the outside world, because related to them all through the different aspects of his own being. In the words of St Maximus, each of us is "a laboratory (ergastirion) that contains everything in a most comprehensive fashion", and so "it is the appointed task of each one of us to make manifest in ourself the great mystery of the divine intention: to show how the divided extremes in created things may be reconciled in harmony, the near with the far, the lower with the higher, so that through gradual ascent all are eventually brought into union with God". Having united all the levels of creation with each other, then, through our love for God (a key concept in St Maximus) and through the gift of theosis which God in His divine love confers upon us- we finally unite created nature with the uncreated, "becoming everything that God Himself is, save for identity of essence".


I'll be interested in knowing what you think of First Corinthians 15.

I'd also like to know how you conceive of consciousness or the soul, that it can move from one body to another. Is your image that of the driver of a car who can walk away from it when it gets old and enter a new one? 

I think Augustine's question is pertinent: I wonder what you think of the body.

I think Aquinas' statement is worth reflection: "if the resurrection of the body is denied, it is not easy, in fact it is difficult, to maintain the immortality of the soul."  This seems to run so counter to present assumptions. People seem to have very little difficulty in affirming the immortality of the soul but all kinds of difficulty in affirming the resurrection of the body. I confess that I do not understand it. For me the idea of a disembodied soul causes far more difficulties. 

In our culture has Platonism won? Gnosticism? 

Fr. K,

About First Corinthians 15 ...  I guess that a belief in the resurrection of the dead was a thread of Jewish teaching?   Is that why Paul siad that we are all to be resurrected, not just Jesus? ... NT Wright writes about the Jewish and early Christian belief ...

"Resurrection, in other words, means being given back one’s body, or perhaps God creating a new similar body, some time after death.  It is, in fact, life after ‘life after death’; because where you find a belief in resurrection you also find, unsurprisingly, a belief in some kind of intermediate state in between death and resurrection.  Various ways of describing this were developed: the souls of the righteous, said Wisdom (3.1), were in God’s hand.  Others spoke of a quasi-angelic intermediate existence, or of spirits that lived on prior to the resurrection.  The patriarchs were ‘alive to God’.  The Persian term ‘Paradise’ was employed, not necessarily for the final destination of resurrection, but, sometimes at least (e.g. 1 Enoch 37-70), for the peaceful garden where people rested before their new bodily life began." (

I understand the worry about gnosticism/dualism ... that the material world is not good and must be escaped ... and I'm not against believing in embodied resurrection, but what I'm questioning is the idea that the bodies we have now are the only ones we can be resurrected in - the Aristotelian idea that these bodies we now have are a direct response to our particular forms/souls.  I was born with Stargardt's disease, I have brown hair, I'm 5' 4" .... to believe that my body is the only way God wants me to be for all eternity just makes me depressed.

About Augustine and bodies in the afterlife  ... he also said that in heaveb, even though there won't be sex or reproduction, women will still have breasts so that men can have the pleasure of looking at them (City of God, 22/17) .... he had some issues  :)

In mentioning consciousness moving from one body to another, I was thinking of fiction (science fiction) ... like the movie Avatar, for instance, where a disabled man was able to tranfer his consciousness into another body.  I just meant that if your body and your consciousness were able to be separated, most of us would think of ourselves as being the consciousness part, not the body part.



Maybe our indiividual souls are each part of one big soul that we reconnect to when we die.  Sort of  how we talk about God being 3 persons in one God,  we're all separate, but one.  But I also get bodies being resurrected; doesn't all matter recycle? It doesn't just go away. 


Irene --

The possible one big soul that you hypothesize to which all souls reconnect  is rather like what Aristotle called "the agent intellect", a second intellect which all humans have as part of our terrestrial being..  It's not a very clear idea, and historically it has been controversial.  By the way, Aristotle also thought that there were many Unmoved Movers (gods).  But he didn't think there were many Heavens.  No heavens at all, actually.  And while he thought here might be as many as 16 gods, he thought that none of them even knew that this world exists.  His influence on Aquinas was not so dominating as many believe it to be.

Another theory of Aquinas was that when we die, first our rational soul dies, but something like animal  part of the soul remains.  Then that soul goes out of existence, and the body has a vegetative soul for awhile.  Then the body decomposes into many substances.  Hmm.  

Just today there is a news story out confirming that "near-death experiences" are quite real in rats.  It that suggests that it might be true that we die in stages.  There is physiological reason to think that our bodies are not entirely ruled by our brain -- the human heart has an electrical system that is somewhat independent from the  brain.  In other words, the heart can continue beating when there are no more electrical impulses from the brain.  (Boo!)

Complexity, complexity. 

Jean, yes, it was I. You're welcome. It made my day to know that it helped.

Just home now from the Vigil. Happy Easter, everybody!

The idea that all human intellects are part of one big agent intellect is what Aquinas fought against under the title of Averroism; he denied that it was true to Aristotle.

See for a very precise and detailed account of what happens the first 40 days after death, with extensive quotes from various Fathers of the Church!

Raber and I had an interesting talk about this this morning. I suggested that in my old Unitarian life, I imagined death would free us from our earthly carapaces, and we would zoom around as little points of light helping the saints answer prayers. He commented somewhat drily, "You mean like Tinkerbell?" 

He went away to read Fr. Imbelli's "Rekindling the Christic Imagination," which was my Easter present for him. The Boy is blowing up Peeps in the microwave and eating them by scraping them off a piece of waxed paper with a knife. I bought some steaks to grill because it is a nice day and we should be outdoors with some sunshine blowing off all this talk of the tomb

I don't disbelieve in bodily resurrection at the End of Days. But it's hard for me to imagine what form that might take without veering into sci fi territory or proofs of the hereafter, of which I am always skeptical.

1 Thessalonians 4:17 has always captured what I think the resurrection might be like as sensation, our bodies (and hearts) so light gravity will not be able to hold us down as we rise to meet Christ. 

Blessed Easter, everyone.

I like my scars. They are like a print of part of my life. When my little brother dropped a pane of glass on me and I ended in the emergency room... when he accidentally hit my chin with his head and I lost a tooth... when I insisted on going skiing on a foggy day and broke my ligament in a complete whiteout, after which they closed the ski resort... first white hairs, from being pregnant with my daughter... I enjoy looking at my scars and remembering the past. The scars connect my past to the present. I suppose that that's also true to the scars of my heart, although I am hardly as fond of them.

Why would Christ want to be resurrected without scars? Just because it's a new creation doesn't mean that the crucifixion didn't happen.

Claire, I think you raise such an interesting point. Our bodies--the ones we have right now and whatever they morph into before we die--tell the story of our lives, not just in scars, but in the clench of jaws, smile or frown lines, in what we are able to do or not do, and how we do it. Our bodies trigger memory, and without memory, we have no real consciousness--or at least can't make sense of what we're experiencing. Our bodies are tied up with who we are in this life, even if we've become frustrated or suffer because they don't work very well anymore. 

I'm not sure what implications that might have for the resurrection of the flesh, except that perhaps the flesh is as beloved of God as our souls, and God intends to keep us in our flesh as ourselves for whatever purpose we might serve at the end of days.

I do think people get fond of their bodies, love them even, but there are people whose bodies are a constant reminder of bad things too - how they don't fit in, the things they cannot do.  We don't choose our bodies and to be stuck for all eternity with what random genetics gifted us with seems unfair to me. 

Kind of touching on this subject, from  the British Jesuit site Thinking Faith ... "Hating Incarnation" ...


Maybe when God's kingdom comes the healing of the body means that we make peace with, even take some joy in, what our bodies have, to some extent, made of us. Maybe we won't have any more reason to be frustrated with or ashamed of them. I don't want to trivialize here, but I don't know know too many women who wouldn't find that a kind of paradise to be wished for. 

It's interesting, isn't it, that we often use "we" and "us" as they did not refer to or include our bodies, as if who we are does not include our bodies.  Back in the day, it was considered a great advance over Platonic or Cartesian dualism to say, and understand, this: "I don't have a body. I am a body." Am I correct in this? Does our individual self-identity include our bodies? Do phrases that I learned to treasure no longer apply: that we are "embodied, incarnate, spirits"? I've always thought that this view provides an anthropological ground for what Newman thought was the distinctive "idea" of Christianity--incarnation. I had even worked out parallels: human beings as spirits embodied; Christ as Word made flesh; the Church both divine and human; the sacraments as grace communicated through physical signs and gestures. But I'm getting the impression that today the anthropological link is weak and the body thought to be something that might easily and unregretfully be let go, without one's identity suffering any great loss. 

That's why I very much appreciate Claire's comments about scars as imprints of the personal history that has made us who we are.

Yes, that is an interesting observation that our first-person pronouns often seem not to include our physical bodies in these discussions. But I hope that no one assumes any word choice from me reflects any well-informed views on this matter. I'm a neophyte to any serious discussion of the resurrection of the body in Catholic tradition, which should be eminently clear from my comments here.  

I remember Anglican instruction touching on this topic--the dogma about bodily resurrection seemed to be in line with Catholic teaching (somebody in our discussion group referred to our turning into angels after death, which the priest said was incorrect)--but this wasn't a point that was emphasized.

Augustine's comment about this that is quoted above has thrown the idea into higher relief. My first response was to blow it off as a "mystery" and leave it alone, but there's a lot to chew on in this conversation (there's a metaphor that mixes mind and body, no?). 

In my pronoun choices, I'm not trying to argue against bodily resurrection. But, yes, it does show how the duality of body and soul is an engrained habit in my thinking, and I apologize if it is disruptive to the general discussion. I'm just trying to learn.

I would be interested to know how the communion of saints might tie into your anthropological links to the incarnation. 

 "Problems with the resurrection of the bodu" from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy ...


The view of the self as mind/spirit began in our present culture with Descartes who, like Plato, treated spirit and body as two basically independent things, and this view presents some huge philosophical problems --  once you separate the two it's hard to put them back together again as one basic (though complex) thing.  

On the other hand, there's a big theological problem with the older view of man as body-and-spirit.  I mean the medieval/Aristotelian view that our basic reality, our substance, is ccomposed of two metaphysical elements, body and soul, and all substances are such basic realities that to eliminate one element of a substance is to destroy that substance as that individual.  (Analogously, given some water, if you separate the O2 from the H, then there's no more water.)  

In the case of people, the problem is this:  when a person dies the soul is separated from body, so, theoretically, the substance must go out of existence.  But Christian theology says that the soul does not go out of existence.  How to solve the problem?  Aquinas held that the soul continues in existence, but it is *not* a person, not a substance.  It's just the part of us that's kept in existence by God until the resurrection of the body.  

Regardless of these theoretical problems, and although we don't know *how* a spirit and a body can be combined into one reality and later re-combined,  it seems to me that we really don't *have to know* some theoretical explanation to be convinced that we are both spirit/mind and body.  All we need to do is to look at our everyday experience:  when I stub my toe it isn't simply *my toe*that hurts -- it's ME that hurts.   Pain is complex because *I* am complex.  Would that we could separate injured parts of our bodies and our physical pain from our experiences of ourselves, though that would seem to entail killing parts of ourselves.  

By the way, the difference between "mind'" and "soul" is another philosophical problem still hotly contested by all sorts of philosophers, and even the Catholic ones talk sometimes as though they are identical.  (Descartes did.)  Part of that problem is that we can't *imagine* what soul/mind looks like because it/they is not a physical thing at all.  (We can imagine only physical things.)  Yet we are certainly at times extremely conscious of consciousness itself, so, apart from any theorizing, we do know that it's real although not a material reality.  (I'm assuming here, of course, that "consciousness" refers to only one reality-- there might be *parts* of consciousness, or maybe even different *kinds* of it.  Complexity, complexity.)

And, of course, the immateriality of the soul makes it terribly difficult to form some idea of a soul in Heaven without a body.  

Jean --

It seems to me that speaking of body and soul as  "two different realities" isn't objectionable at all so long as we recognize that  "a reality" is ambiguous -- it can mean a whole basic being, like a real cat or a person or a molecule of water,  but it can also refer to mere *parts* of a whole basic reality, including real parts  such as souls and bodies.  In the latter sense it is quite proper to talk about body and soul as two different realities, i.e., as two different metaphysical parts of the whole person.

Language bewitches us, says Wittgensein.

Why is God only spirit not matter ... why are angels only spirit not matter?  I  don't see any persuasive reason to believe in the resurrection of our original  human bodies aside from the fact that Aquinas (and the Pharasees) proposed  it. Jesus' resurrection leaves a lot of questions, but it seems possible  from the way the disciples didn't recognize him that he was not wearing his "original" body after his death, and I'm not sure it follows logically from the idea that he was physically resurrected that we all will be too.

I wonder if these are the terms of a truce between science and religion. They have partitioned their respective areas of expertise. To science goes the study of the physical, the body. To religion goes the spiritual, the soul. Many people agree that there is something beyond the physical reality, and being "spiritual, but not religious", or otherwise keeping the two domains separate, is an easy way to reconcile  trust in the ability of science to explain the things we observe, on the one hand, and the intuition of another reality, on the other hand.


Jean:  I wasn't singling you out when I made the comment about the way in which this conversation has spoken of "us" in relation to our bodies. It was something I noticed in several comments and I thought it might be significant as indicating a certain dualism in all our thinking. Is dualism the default way of speaking about all this, something that we have to un-learn, as I suspect.

Crystal:   (1) I don't know where you got the idea that it is Aquinas and the Pharisees who provide the only reason for proposing the resurrection of the body. I've already cited the texts from Augustine that long antedate Aquinas, and you can then go back to St. Paul, and from him back to the experience of the disciples of Jesus, and then back to Jesus himself in response to the Pharisees.

(2) If you read 1 Cor 15: 35ff, you'll have noticed that St. Paul does not speak of "the resurrection of our original bodies," as you put it, and neither does anyone I know of after Paul. We''re not talking about the resuscitation of a corpse, as in the case of the three raisings recorded in the Gospels.

(3) You have things backward. Paul did not argue that if Christ was raised, we also must be raised, but the other way around: that to deny the possibility of the resurrection is to deny the resurrection of Christ, and if that is died, as he said very forcefully, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching, and your faith, is in vain.... If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain, and you are still in your sins" (1 Cor 15:14, 17). 

Could I ask what you make of Aquinas's statement that without the resurrection of the body it is very difficult to prove the immortalty of the soul?

Jean HR wrote "our bodies trigger memories... without memory we have no real consciousness and can't make sense of our experience". 

The fear of many people now is not death but life lived too long and  beyond meaning -hence the growing conversation  over 'end of life ' issues.   And part of that fear  is of Alzheimer' or other forms of dementia. Death no longer feels like the 'last enemy' [1 Cor15.26] for many people. I have no idea if in some way or other the body is to be restored or handed back to us [in tradtional theology ] - I am far more concerned about the mind.   I lost someone I loved to dementia years before her body died.  She was not a relative  of mine. In the end she did not know her huband or her children, let alone me.    What does resurrection mean now?  What would judgement mean  to someone who does not even know who they are or were?  

I notice that, except for a link suggested by Claire,which I read at length,  this thread has no references to any of the dark side of afterlife  - judgement, purgatory, hell - is that all gone now? [It is a genuine question asked out of my ignorance]. The most recently made saint here  [John Henry Newman] makes clear in his Apologia that he has no problems with the idea of' 'eternal punishment' -but he does not mention for whom. He did not even live to see the first world war or the holocaust  which would make it more understandable to me. I am in the weekly presence of the dying and the thought of these  emaciated, fragile  bodies, mostly quiet   but occasionally one who shouts stuff we do not understand  every waking hour - the thought of these in some sort of judgemental interview in the after-life is  .....  I have no words for  after 'is'.

Are these these the  bodies that will be resurrected?  "The devil is in the detail" said Ann.  Yes.  If 'disembodied soul' makes no sense, which stage of our bodily life will be 'resurrected' or am I too literal in my interpretation and question?  

I think some scars on the body [like some that Claire names] can be carried in humour and even a kind of pride, part of the telling of family history;  perhaps part of a greater and wider history.  But there are scars borne only in silence and shame, that may not even  leave a lasting mark, especially I suspect by women and to have anyone look on them or touch them is unbearable.  One does not have to  believe the body or the material world is' evil' to wish one did not physically exist and to wish rather for bodily annihilation rather than 'naturally desire salvation of' 'his'   body' also as quoted by Aquinas. Does one want the source of so much misery back? 

 There has been much mention of Plato on this thread, but not of his 'noble lie' where the afterlife is concerned.  I personally do  not believe in or even want an after-life. Not to believe does not have to be  'dark and lonely".  I am content  to think of my body as returning to the elements of the universe.  It even raises a smile now that I have learnt that we are all made of stardust!  "From stardust I came, to stardust  I shall return"! Wonderful!  It does not make my life meaningless nor that of  people I  have loved and revered.   It was wonderful to  have known them once,to have known that they existed that once,  just as it was wonderful to have known the natural  world.  I don't think I want my body for eternity if there are no longer hills and woods to walk, rivers to see and listen to, birds and hedgehogs and frogs. It is their diverse beauty and everchangingness that makes them  glorious.  Augustine's vision of what I will 'do' if allowed in is close to hell for me - an endless school assembly of hymn--singing!   And having read Dante - I'd rather spend my time with Virgil and other 'virtuous pagans'.   But if I  stand to lose badly in Paschal's ghastly [and, I think, immoral] wager,   I  would still like to  have your thoughts about the de-mented mind as well as the body 'before I go'.  I find the word 'soul' difficult and never use it; but 'body - mind - spirit'- each word still matters  to me and  how people from many positions use and relate them does interest me. 




Aquinas held that the soul continues in existence, but it is *not* a person, not a substance.  It's just the part of us that's kept in existence by God until the resurrection of the body.  

Ann O., yes, this is kind of how our Episcopal priest explained it, that our souls go into "rest mode" until such time as our bodies will be resurrected. 

I think Claire is on to something when she talks about the truce between science and theology--one the province of the body and the other the province of the soul. 

Fr. Komonchak, I didn't feel singled out, but I did want to make it clear that my thinking about the resurrection was not formed in the Church, and I am probably behind all of you in my ability to think in any sophisticated way about this area of theology.

Lorna:   To give him credit, Augustine does explicitly exclude the vision that makes you shudder, "an endless school assembly of hymn--singing."  The praising consists in loving. 

Lorna, thank you for your thoughts. You speak for others. I am among those who increasingly doubt the reality of an afterlife for human beings - of a heaven or a hell beyond the heavens and hells we experience in our physical human lives. I wish it (the possibility of eternal bliss and love - but not the possibility of eternal hell) to be true. Like Augustine, I want it to be true, but, wanting doesn't make it so.

Jean, I had many years of Catholic education, through college. I also went to a Jesuit grad school, but not much theology at that stage. I took many "adult" courses, including one at  the Washington Theological Union (grad school of theology).  Your questions and thoughts are actually very much the same as those of most cradle Catholics I know, who also had 16+ years of Catholic education.

Fr K:  (2) If you read 1 Cor 15: 35ff, you'll have noticed that St. Paul does not speak of "the resurrection of our original bodies," as you put it, and neither does anyone I know of after Paul. We''re not talking about the resuscitation of a corpse, as in the case of the three raisings recorded in the Gospels.

What body, then, are we talking about?  The corpse is what remains of our physical, human bodies after we die,  returned to earth (or stardust!). Where is the soul then? Is it "in rest mode" until the final days, as Jean put forth as a possibility?  Does the soul automatically "receive" a new body wherever it "is" while the former body, the corpse, has been reduced to dust or ash?

It is very hard sometimes for ordinary Catholics to distinguish when the church teaches and interprets scripture literally, and when it does not.  We are often afraid to even ask these questions, because we fear looking foolish in contrast to the more highly educated in theology and philosophy. But if we don't ask, how are we to learn?

Like many, I do not see the soul and body as one, except temporarily, in a vague understanding that the soul "inhabits" the body during our physical lives, and is freed after physical death. I tend to feel that the soul is somehow embodied in our minds, because that is where our personalities seem to reside.  I think of our souls as the essence of who each of us is as an individual.  And yet if the soul is somehow "in" our minds, what then of those who live their physical lives with extreme brain damage from birth - who have no "life of the mind' it seems to onlookers, babies who are born missing most of the brain (mind?) and whose physical lives are often, but not always, very short.  Obviously the mind and the soul are not the same, the body, including the brain, and the soul are not the same. So where is the soul?

I have never liked open caskets at wakes and funerals, and am directing my children to have my body (corpse) be buried in a "green" burial, without anything being done to it between physical death and burial beyond the measures needed to halt or slow decomposition until burial. No embalming, no vault, no casket - a shroud.  If there is no "green burial" ground near wherever I end my days, then I will tell them to try a Jewish cemetary!

When I look at the remains of people I knew and loved in an open casket, it is disturbing - the familiar clothing, the make up and hair for women, cannot disguise that the person I loved is no longer there. It seems almost disrespectful, as though the body of one I loved had somehow been turned into a figure at Mme. Taussaud's. I do not like having my last memory of a loved one's face be like a wax figure - I want to remember them as they were in life, with the soul still visible in the face and body.  In that sense, I can agree that the soul and body are intertwined in ways that cannot be easily defined, that the soul is somehow the source of animation of the body.

You mentioned earlier, that you cannot separate soul and body - that you cannot imagine a disembodied soul, whereas for many of us, after death, we can't imagine an embodied soul. If the "resurrection" of our bodies does not refer to the body we "wore" during our physical lives, what is this new body that the soul then inhabits?

We non-theologians struggle mightily with these concepts, because the vocabulary of theologians and philosophers is very different than that of the rest of us. Words seem often to carry very different meanings to the two groups.

Several articles on interpreting the resurrection over at NCR online.  There was an article by James Martin, SJ, but now I can't find it, nor can I find it at America's website, where it also appeared. However, I did find a version at the Wall Street Journal's website!  The main consensus, as with so much of christian belief, is that it is a "mystery".

And another by James Martin at the Washington Post.  James Martin talks in the ordinary vocabulary of most people, but is something "lost in translation" from theology-ese and philosophy-ese?  What do our experts say?

Fr. K,

Yes, I forgot about Paul - I've got to stop making comments after midnight ;)  Spiritual bodies would be different than our original bodies and I *can* imagine us having spiritual bodies rather than our exactly recreated original bodies.

About what Aquinas says abot the difficulty of proving the immortality of the soul without the resurrection of the body ...  he does think the soul can exist without the body - like in prgatory or heaven -  but that it's in a incomplete state, yes?    Keith Ward writes this about what Aquinas believes ... "To speak of a 'soul' is to speak of the capacities of a type of physical body, capacities of a type of animal capable of abstract thought and responsible action. Souls cannot properly exist without bodies"  But I don't see how Aquinas can prove this to be true, he can only assert it.

Crystal (and everyone) What exactly is a "spiritual" body and how does it differ from plain old "spirit" or "soul"?   Can one assume that a "spiritual" body has not substance - is not "material"?  If so, what is it?

About the survival of our actual body after death --

Seems to me that the best evidence is that even in *this* life our bodies do not remain the samematerial that we start out with.  Consider only the growth of hair and nails -- new ones are constantly appearing and falling or wearing away.  And, of course, we can have a part lopped off and still survive.  No, we don't regenerate missing legs and arms, but we do have millions of cells dying each day and being regenerated.

In other words, our substance, our individuality, is not dependent on any *particular bit* of matter to persist as this person, though it is necessary if we are to continue to exist in t his world as a whole person that our spirit part muust have some body/matter or other to be combined with.

So what's the problem with getting an enirely new body at resurrection?  We're getting partly new bodies all the time.

Yes, there are problems with understanding just what "matter" or "body " is, especially given the new discoveries of contemporary physicis.  But it seems that regardless of those new theories, the facts remain that our bodies do regenerate at least in part.


I notice that, except for a link suggested by Claire,which I read at length,  this thread has no references to any of the dark side of afterlife  - judgement, purgatory, hell - is that all gone now?

No, it's not all gone, and I think about it often. I hestitated to bring it up on this thread for fear of throwing off the focus, but it's always in the back of my mind.

And bodily resurrection makes Hell more terrifying; it's one thing for Hell to be a hopeless separation from God's love, but the added dimension of physical torture and pain at the hands of Supreme Evil hardly to be imagined, Dante or one of those Jack Chick tracts aside.

OTOH, I've heard Catholic theologians make statements to the effect that, of course, there is a Hell, but the Church does not teach that anyone, not even Judas Iscariot, is beyond the reach of salvation.

I don't disbelieve in an Afterlife, but I guess I'm back to square one here: whatever Heaven or Hell turn out to be is beyond our comprehension in this life. 



Ann O., you make very good analogies. 



I don't think anyone knows what a "spiritual" body is like, but if Jesus' resurrected body is an example, then it seems to be material enough to eat food, and he says "Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. - (Luke 24:39) " ...  but not typically material since it can move through solid objects and can instantly disappear.

Here's an interesting article ... ..."Transformations of the flesh: Approaching the spiritual body through an engagement with Sarah Coakley"

And there's this video by NT Wright ...  "What did Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 15 by a *spiritual body* ...

Lorna, for me too Alzheimer's is the ultimate nightmare. Could someone whose mind has been destroyed by Alzheimer's resurrect in that diminished state? Surely not. The way in which I think of the resurrection comes from the accounts of the Transfiguration. Jesus was the same, but different. Plus Mt 13:43 "The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." I can't fill in the details, but it sounds good!

As to the "endless school-assembly of hymn-singing", maybe it is better to think about climaxes in our lives, moments when we wished time would stop, when, perhaps, our heart was overflowing. Could it be that our hearts will be overflowing with love of God? One example of such a fleeting moment is in the poem "Le Lac", if you can read French:, or in the final scene of the movie "The unbearable lightness of being" Or when you watch your child sleeping. Or when making love, sometimes. Or in rare moments of intellectual intimacy in the exchange of ideas.  Or when a homily reveals the "unknown knowns", telling us things about ourselves that we never realized we knew but that, upon hearing him, we recognize immediately to be true, as if he were reading something already written in the hidden folds of our mind. Or when we watch the night sky, we silently thank God, and, as if on cue, he answers with a shooting star. Or when, after a few hours of toiling, we reach a snowy mountaintop at sunrise. Or sometimes there is just the deep contentment that comes from praying in church, as happened to me just this past Saturday evening, when after two hours I started feeling sleepy and remarked to myself how strange it was that in spite of my sleepiness I had no wish for it to end but was content to just sit there under the glow of the electric heater and enjoy the community prayer. There are so many moments in life that are so good that we wish we could stop time. Oh, and of course also Peter wanting to stop and set up tents on top of the mountain at the time of the Transfiguration.

In speaking of the Kingdom, Augustine often appealed to two NT texts: 1 Cor 2:9: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."  And 1 Jn 3:2: "We are God's children now; what we shall later be has not yet come to light. We know that when it comes to light, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." To which could be added 1 Cor 13:12: "Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. My knowledge is imperfect now; then I shall know even as I am known." 

Augustine thought that with regard to eternity, as with regard to God, it is far easier to say what it is not than what it is. In either case if we wait until we can say positively what God is, or what eternity is, of what Paul's "spiritual body" is before we say we believe, we have a long wait ahead of us.

What Augustine usually did was appeal to our sublimest desires and occasional joys of some fulfilment of them, and to God as the fulfilment of them. Who does not desire truth, for example, he might say; well eternity is boundless ecstatic insatiably beautiful joy in the Truth that is God. Or think of his phrase in my other post: insatiabilis pulchritudo--a beauty that never cloys. I think that Claire is on the right track by appealing to moments we wish could never end. 

I think that part of our problem is in imagining eternity as endless time, a never-ending succession of days. See the Lenten reflection on "Heaven's days."  No, it doesn't answer all questions, and it's not cited as some kind of proof. But it does try to do away with certain problems caused by our inability to transcend, even in hope, our present limitations.

I don't think that there is any question asked here that has not been asked by someone in the past, beginning with those to whom St. Paul addressed himself in 1 Corinthians 15.  So people have been discussing this and trying to meet objections for nearly 2,000 years ever since the disciples startled their world by this strange and difficult-to-believe claim about Christ and about the resurrection of the flesh. 

Anne C. --

I agree that "spiritual body" is thoroughly problematic.  A contradiction in terms, actually, even if it's The First Theologian saying it.  But St. Paul in his usual state of mind-boggled enthusiam didn't seem bothered by contradictions, especially when trying to explain the ultimately unexplainable. Aggravating :-)

" How do we know? We can't know, so then it is really a matter of faith. How does one get that faith how can one be sure of that faith? How does one quell the doubts, and banish the fear? Or maybe it's just a matter of making oneself believe, because to not believe is so dark and lonely."

Anne C, --

This was the first great question you raised on this thread, but we didn't get around to it.  I think it's the kind of question that dotCommonweal explores very well sometimes, though new questions always seem to arise.

Anyway, about faith.  True, we can never be sure about what we believe, in this life anyway.  If we're honest we have to admit that "I can always be wrong".  But just because we aren't sure of something that doesn't imply that belief is always unreasonable.  It's unreasonable only if we have no good reason(s) for belief.  And doesn't St. Peter tell us to always be prepared to give our reasons for our belief?  But what's a "good" reason?  Are good reasons in theology the same sorts of reasons that are good reasons in science -- facts revealed by sensations, for instancre?  I suspect that they arent', but I'd be hard-pressed to say just why that's what I think.  I'd really like to hear what others say about this --  *why* do you believe?  And *why* do you trust your beliefs??


" How do we know? We can't know, so then it is really a matter of faith. How does one get that faith how can one be sure of that faith? How does one quell the doubts, and banish the fear? Or maybe it's just a matter of making oneself believe, because to not believe is so dark and lonely."

Anne C, --

This was the first great question you raised on this thread, but we didn't get around to it.  I think it's the kind of question that dotCommonweal explores very well sometimes, though new questions always seem to arise.

Anyway, about faith.  True, we can never be sure about what we believe, in this life anyway.  If we're honest we have to admit that "I can always be wrong".  But just because we aren't sure of something that doesn't imply that belief is always unreasonable.  It's unreasonable only if we have no good reason(s) for belief.  And doesn't St. Peter tell us to always be prepared to give our reasons for our belief?  But what's a "good" reason?  Are good reasons in theology the same sorts of reasons that are good reasons in science -- facts revealed by sensations, for instancre?  I suspect that they arent', but I'd be hard-pressed to say just why that's what I think.  I'd really like to hear what others say about this --  *why* do you believe?  And *why* do you trust your beliefs??


I'm not sure that the resurrection of our bodies is any harder to believe than transubstantiation of the elements in the Eucharist, though the details are not revealed to us.

Is the Eucharist Christ resurrected in a spiritual body, albeit one made of bread, not flesh.

Is a saint a partial resurrection of Christ in the flesh? 

Thank you, Ann O - I would very much like to hear how others might answer your question - Why do you believe?  And why do you trust your beliefs?

Jean, my stumbling block is the incarnation - it seems to me, that if you can accept that, you can accept the resurrection, if not literally, at least accept that somehow Jesus lived on.  However, I'm not sure I can ever accept transubstantiation - sometimes it seems the church is overly dependent on Aquinas and perhaps there are better explanations out there.

Is this a bad time to admit I don't believe in transubstantiation?  ;)  Maybe we believe or don't believe in stuff we have some emotional investment in believing or disbelieving? At least the stuff that's not prove-able.  There's no way really to prove that God exists, but I want it to be true and I usually operate as if it's true.  It's kind of a choice.

Jean, trying to define "saint" would open a whole new can of worms!  There are many out there who don't think that at least one of the two men who will be called "saint" in a week or so really qualifies as "saintly" in their own minds!

Ann:  Why do you think Paul's phrase "spiritual body" is a contradiction-in-terms? What meanings do you assign to the two words that leads you to think that? Before you accuse the Apostle of such a linguistic and philosophical faux pas, don't you first have to ascertain if he used the two words with the same meanings you give them. Surely you don't mean that these words have the same meanings as used by all peoples of all times and cultures!

Above, you spoke of the relation between "mind" and "soul". Paul's contrast of the soma pneumatikon to the soma psychikon asks for a similar reflection on the relationship between spirit (pneuma) and soul (psyche), the two nouns that underlie the contrasted adjectives.

The video by N.T. Wright to which Crystal refers us above is a very short summary of his extensive discussion of the matter in his big book The Resurrection of the Son of God