Christ’s Resurrection is Our Resurrection
In the sixth chapter of Romans, St. Paul writes: …are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. (Rom 6:3-4)
Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection are the same event, much as a lightning bolt and a thunder clap are the same event. We are living in that space between the lightning flash and the thunder. Our baptism is akin to the lightning and at Christ’s return we will hear the thunder. In other words, resurrection is a “here and now” event as much as it a “there and then” occurrence. Such is the mystery of the Resurrection.
By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives forever, so all of us will rise at the last day. (CCC #1016)
There will be an individual judgment at the time of death. The soul is consigned to heaven, hell or purgatory. The physical body remains. The “last day” [or eschaton] will be a general event in which all will participate. At that time, the soul will reunite with the physical body, and together they will become the resurrected body. Those remaining who have not died will also be judged. And as we all stand before the Lord our final destiny will be determined.
Until that day, we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”
The phrase in the Lord’s Prayer which addresses our Father: “Who art in heaven” does not refer to a place but to God’s majesty and his presence in the hearts of the just. Heaven, the Father’s house, is the true homeland toward which we are heading and to which, already, we belong. (CCC#2802)
We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:
“Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.” [St. Teresa of Avila] (CCC#1821)
St. John Paul taught that in the beginning, God made humans “male and female” and the two became “one flesh.” This “complementarity” was expressed in marriage and procreation. Sin, especially in the form of lust and shame, damaged this original complementarity. But as we await the fullness of the resurrection we learn that in the world to come, there will be neither marriage nor procreation. However, Jesus does not say that people will lose their gender. There will be no androgyny in heaven.
The fundamental meaning of the body—its “nuptial significance”—is that human beings are created to form intimate communion. (Again, we think “we” instead of just “me.”)
This is the life of Resurrection. There will be perfect communion with the Triune God and with every other person. By participating in the life of the divine communion of persons, the Blessed Trinity, the resurrected body will fully express the image and likeness of God, mysteriously conveying individuality while manifesting the oneness of the Body of Christ. As St. Paul describes the Body of Christ, There are many parts, yet one body. (1 Cor. 12:20)
The fullness of the resurrection will be entirely new, different from Adam and Eve before the “Fall.” But it will not be disconnected from our earthly life, for it will be the fulfillment of the promises we now carry as Baptized Christians.
When our bodies are glorified, they will become what God intended them to be at the moment of creation. They will be visible and tangible signs of selfless love. All the encumbrances of the selfishness of sin will be destroyed.
It is impossible for us to imagine exactly what this heavenly life will be like. But we are offered glimpses. It is something that we take by “faith.” And as we read in “Hebrews,” Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)
Upon setting the stage for his views of the resurrected body, St. John Paul refers to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12 verse 18 and following:
18Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and put this question to him, 19saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 20Now there were seven brothers. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. 21So the second married her and died, leaving no descendants and the third likewise. 22And the seven left no descendants. Last of all the woman also died. 23At the resurrection [when they arise] whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.” 24Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God? 25When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. 26As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, [the] God of Isaac, and [the] God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.” (Mk. 12:18-27)
We note especially Jesus’ response to the to the Sadducees’ cynical question about the woman who married seven brothers. 23At the resurrection [when they arise] whose wife will she be?
Jesus emphasized that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. To refute their absurd example of seven husbands, Jesus asserted that humans neither marry nor are given in marriage in heaven. Since humans will no longer die, they will not have to replace themselves with offspring as they do now on earth. Note the obvious implication that without the prospect of reproduction, there is no rationale for sexual activity in the afterlife. Yet this does not mean that there will be no joy. The promise is that those resurrected persons in heaven will have what the Church calls The Beatific Vision.
The Beatific Vision
The Beatific Vision refers to the eternal union with God which will be found in heaven, remembering that “Beatific” means “total bliss.”
St. Paul put it this way: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
The original union of man and woman, in which they were “face to face,” naked and without shame, is only a dim foreshadowing of the beatific vision. In the beatific vision, God will give himself totally to his people and we will respond with the total gift of ourselves to him. If we offer this kind of response, we will be filled and completed with the love of Christ.
In the resurrection, we discover – in [a heavenly] perspective – the same…’spousal’ meaning of the body…in the encounter with the mystery of the living god…face-to-face. (TOB 67:5)
As a reminder, the “spousal” meaning of the body is in no way an exclusion of those who do not have spouses here on earth. It is only saying that chiseled into us is the call to Holy Communion with God and one another, in which everyone is called to participate, both incompletely now on earth and fully once in Heaven.
In the joys of their love [God gives spouses] here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb. (CCC #1642)
“The Church ‘longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of Heaven’ where she ‘will rejoice one day with [her] Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.’ (CCC #1821) Heaven is communal. Those in heaven participate fully in the communion of saints.
The Communion of Saints
The communion of saints is the definitive expression of the human call to communion. It is the unity in “one body” of all who respond to the wedding invitation of the Lamb.” (see Rev. 19)
We will see all and be seen by all. We will know all and be known by all. And God will be “all in all. (Eph. 1:23)
We should think of the reality of the ‘other world’ in the categories of the rediscovery of a new, perfect subjectivity of each person and at the same time of the “rediscovery of a new, perfect intersubjectivity” of all. [TOB 68:4]
This means the true and definitive fulfillment of the ‘spousal’ meaning of the body. In this way, the resurrected reality “will become the source of the perfect realization of the ‘trinitarian order’ in the created world of persons.” (Ibid)
Divinization, Deification, Theosis
For all this to happen, St. John Paul speaks of the spiritualization of the resurrected body in which there will be a “total permeation of the body” by the Holy Spirit. This is also known as divinization (aka deification or theosis.) He writes: the state of man in the other world will not only be a state of perfect spiritualization, but also of fundamental divinization of his humanity (TOB 241)
We are told in the Catechism that The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature“:”For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men [God.]”* (CCC #460) *[St. Thomas Aquinas among others.]
Divinization means ‘participation in the inner life of God himself.’ In this state ‘penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine will then reach its peak.’ Those who are united with Christ eternally will experience ‘God’s self-communication in his very divinity, not only to the soul, but to the whole of [one’s] psychosomatic subjectivity [soul-body personhood].’ (TOB 67:3)
In the resurrection, we will fully participate in the divine nature as redeemed people. In other words, we will become what the Triune God is by a sheer gift of grace.
What is this gift of Grace? It is the call to participate in God’s own eternal exchange of love. The nature of God is to give the gift of himself. The nature of human beings is to receive the gift. The nature of sin is to deny the gift. The nature of redemption is that the gift is revealed through the Body of Christ: “This is my body, given for you.” The nature of faith is to open humanity to the gift.
Here on earth, we participate in the divine life of Christ every time we consume the precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Eucharist. In so doing we become one with Him.
The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature. For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’” (ibid)
Divinization means in part, that our Resurrected bodies will not be limited by our fallen humanity. St. John Paul writes: When Christ speaks of the resurrection, he proves at the same time that the human body will also take part, in its way, in this eschatological experience of truth and love, united with the vision of God face to face. When Christ says that those who take part in the future resurrection “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mk 12:25), his words—as has already been pointed out—affirm not only the end of earthly history, bound up with marriage and procreation, but also seem to reveal the new meaning of the body. (TOB 63:3)
From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition. “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.” It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life? (CCC #996)
Spiritual Body vs. Natural Body
In the 15th Chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes the Resurrection:
36…What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. 37And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; 38 but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for human beings, another kind of flesh for animals, another kind of flesh for birds, and another for fish. 40There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another. 41The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. 43It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. 44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.
St. Paul’s point is that the resurrected body is not a resuscitated corpse. A major transformation takes place at the time of resurrection and it will be glorious.
Participation in the divine nature, that is participation in the interior life of God himself, is a result of God’s penetration and permeation of what is fully human. The resurrected body therefore will be the fruit of grace which is God’s very own divinity.
At the resurrection each one will be capable of seeing God face to face, in accordance with the union with God in his Trinitarian majesty and mystery. The result will be an intimacy with him in the perfect communion of persons. This in turn will provide perfect unity with all the others ‘saints of God.’ This intimacy—with all its subjective intensity—will not absorb the individual’s unique identity, but rather it will make it stand out to an incomparably greater and fuller extent.