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Resurrection as return

There is a major theme in Augustine's thought that sin means alienation not only from God but from oneself, too. Grace, then, is conceived as returning the sinner to his real self, where he also discovers the God who is "more inward than my inmost self."

When God raises a body, he returns it to the world; when he raises a soul, he returns it to itself (Augustine, EnPs 70/2, 4; PL 36, 893).

 

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There is a whole controversy that I am amazed to have only recently discovered about the focus of Christian interest for many being what happens after death and in heaven, when it is more appropriately (according to N. T. Wright and others) about the resurrection of the dead. People my age will remember is Baltimore Catechism question and answer

Q. Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.

But unless the resurrected dead are to be in heaven (which I presume is not how the resurrection of the body is understood), then we will not be with God "for ever in heaven."Augustine seems to be talking about the raising of the soul and the body as happening at the same time. What would Augustine make of our understanding of dying, being judged at the moment of death, going either to hell or to purgatory and then heaven, mingling with other souls in heaven, receiving prayers from the living and interceding on their behalf, and passing the time as disembodied souls awaiting the resurrection of the body? Is this something that was consistent with thought in the early Church?

David N. --I was taught that body and soul will be reunited, and that the body will be "glorified", meaning it will be in a superior state of existence, but that we might even continue to exist on Earth. In other words, the Kingdom of God might be here with all creation being changed for the better.As as child I even envisioned being able to just *think* myself moving bodily to another place if I so chose:-)

David: here are a few paragraphs from the Catechism that deal with this:How do the dead rise?997 What is "rising"? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.998 Who will rise? All the dead will rise, "those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."550999 How? Christ is raised with his own body: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself";551 but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, "all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear," but Christ "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body," into a "spiritual body":552But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. and what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel ....What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.... the dead will be raised imperishable.... For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.5531000 This "how" exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ's transfiguration of our bodies:Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God's blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.5541001 When? Definitively "at the last day," "at the end of the world."555 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ's Parousia:For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. and the dead in Christ will rise first.556

I don't believe that this snippet says that God raises body and soul at the same time. I think he was talking about the resurrection/resuscitation described in three cases in the Gospels, where the deceased person was returned to the world, family, etc. In contrast, when God by grace brings a dead soul back to life by conversion, he returns the person to his true, real self. It's not about life after death.If N.T. Wright's work is in mind, he certainly doesn't deny the resurrection of the body--quite the contrary. His whole book is a vindication of it. And why would we not expect that the resurrected dead will be in heaven? Jesus proved the resurrection of the body on the grounds that God is a God of the living not of the dead. Aquinas's comment: "Abraham's soul is not Abraham." To have Abraham, a human person, you need both body and soul.

This is confusing. What's the context of that sentence?

If N.T. Wrights work is in mind, he certainly doesnt deny the resurrection of the bodyquite the contrary. Fr. Komonchak,My understanding is the N. T. Wright heavily emphasizes the resurrection of the body and considers as quite secondary or peripheral everything imagined in between death and resurrection. As for where the resurrected dead will be, Wright several times mentions the realm of "space, time, and matter." My conception of heaven (no doubt heavily influenced by grade school religion) is that it is definitely not in the realm of "space, time, and matter." I think most people, when they think of "life after death," think of "going to heaven," meeting loved ones who died earlier, and experiencing the rapture of the "beatific vision," entranced for all eternity. But as I read Wright, he's saying that is not at all scriptural. The New Testament sees life after death as bodily life, beginning with the resurrection of the body. Aquinass comment: Abrahams soul is not Abraham. To have Abraham, a human person, you need both body and soul.Let's talk about John Paul II instead of Abraham. It seems to me the accepted Catholic idea is that when JPII died, his soul separated from his body. His soul went to heaven. People now pray to JPII expecting him to intercede for them so that a miracle can occur attributed to him, and that will be used for the purposes of his canonization. That seems to me to imply that it's considered that JPII is aware and active in some sense without a body. If JPII's soul is not his body, can it nevertheless be aware of prayers and intercede to cause a miracle? I have a very difficult time with the idea of a soul separated from a body at all. I think if you asked most Catholics, they would say JPII is in heaven. Like Ann, I remember being taught about "glorified bodies," but so little was said about the resurrection of the body that I am not sure I would think to mention it if somebody asked me what Catholics believe happens after death.

I think I've asked this question once before, but I have forgotten the answer: what does "EnPs 70/2, 4; PL 36, 893" mean? (So that I can find the answer to my previous question)

David N. ==I suspect there is a problem witht he word "Heaven". We say the saints are "in Heaven", but obviously they don't have bodies there --yet. (But even the word "yet" gets to be problematic when we talk about the "time" that is eternity or aeveternity. As I remember, Thomas thought that the thoughts of the dead occur miraculously -- that is, they are not part of the natural order but require some special creative choices by God. But, agai, the word "choice" when applied to God is somewhat problematic, and used only analogously to ordinary choice.It's all sounds very science-fictionish to me, but somehow true.

I wonder if that sentence parallels Lk 15:32, "your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found".

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.