Sunday, 24 April 2011
The Resurrection Body
He appeared to Mary and the other disciples, but at first they did not recognize him. He could come and go through closed doors, cook and eat fish, ascend into heaven. His body was marked by the wounds of the Cross. The powers we attribute to Superman and the other comic book heroes, the powers we would love to have – flight, X-ray vision, invulnerability, and the rest – are merely shadows of what we will experience in the resurrection, when we are joined to Christ and live in his world.
There is something dreamlike about the accounts of the resurrection, and yet also a kind of crisp realism, a dewy morning freshness. Resurrection is a bit like waking up, but it is also like having a vision or veridical dream. The world of the resurrection body, the resurrection earth, is closely related to the world of the Angels among whom we will then live, called in medieval writings the aevum or aeviternity, the “world without end”. It is in dreams that we come closest to it, especially in the dreams we call “visions” because they seem more real, looking back on them, than waking life.
St Paul tells us that our bodies will be changed, and indeed the matter of which we have been composed in this life can never be reassembled, since it changes from moment to moment and year to year. It will be converted into something new. The principle of continuity that makes us the same person is the soul which gives form to whatever matter lies at its disposal. The body that dies is like a seed – “a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat of some other grain”; “But God gives it a body as he has chosen,” “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body,” for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15: 37, 38, 44, 50).
That is why we venerate the relics of the saints – not out of some morbid fascination with skulls, or a belief in the magical properties of holy bones. The dead bodies of the saints are the seeds of the new heavens and the new earth. It is their bones that will be transformed first: this is the place where the resurrection will happen. Read Ezekiel 37: 1-6. “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”