Brookline Carmel Bulletin
August 14, 1960
For the eager longing of creation awaits the revelation of the sons of God. …for creation itself also will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. For we know that all creation groans and travails in pain until now. And not only it, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit – we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:19)
There are several reasons why we yearn for the day our bodies will be reunited to our souls in glory. First, our bodies and our souls were made for each other; they were not created to exist independently, but to form together one single entity (for substance, as philosophers say). Second, our bodies are part of the material world, and with the rest of material creation, long for release from the law of corruption and decay. Third, we see that Jesus, Our Father and Mary, Our Mother are both in Heaven in their glorified bodies, and we want to be there with them.
But besides being eager to enjoy the glorification of our body, we also find ourselves wishing that we didn’t have to die. We are perpetually in search of a ‘fountain of youth’. Although by our very nature we are liable to death – since our material bodies are subject to physical laws, and thus are quite capable of sustaining damage that puts an end to vital processes – we know that at one time God intended to preserve us from ever receiving such an injury, and that He had also suspended the law of deterioration (aging) that the physical world is subject to. That we are now obliged sometime to die is due to original sin, for the wages of sin is death.
The Feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, however, reminds us that the wages of virtue is resurrection of the body in glory. It is the just reward meted out to the bodies of the blessed. Holiness and virtue are the factors which reintegrate human nature, restoring it, as says Our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross, to the state of original justice which Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall (without, however, restoring the special prerogatives of immunity from death). It is fitting, therefore, that the body shares in the glory of the soul.
We cannot over emphasize the dependence of the soul upon the body. The body depends upon the soul for its life, but likewise, the soul depends upon the body for its ‘life’. Were it not for the body, a soul would never come into contact with reality, nor would the soul be able to communicate with its surroundings and exert an influence upon the worlds of matter and spirit. Whatever is in our minds has come to it through the senses of the body. Not only the concepts that come already formed through hearing, but those, which the mind itself fashions out of its sense impressions. The soul, in turn, makes known its own ideas and concepts to others and also gives evidence of its conformity (or non-conformity) to reality through the instrumentality of the body. Particularly, knowledge of God must come to the soul through the body (fides ex auditu – faith is from hearing), and the soul needs the cooperation of the body in order to love and serve God in full measure. The soul, then when it enjoys the Beatific Vision, will, after the day of general judgment, impart to the body a commensurate degree of its essential glory. It gives God to the body in so far as the body is able to receive Him (His attributes). Thus theologians speak of the gifts of clarity (a shining splendor), impassibility (immunity from pain and physical harm), agility (move with the speed of thought), and subtlety (it will have many of the properties of a spirit), which a glorified body will possess.
But it is true, too, that the body can lead the soul astray. Because of the division in human nature due to original sin, the sense appetites of the body are not subject (when we awaken to the use of reason) to the intellect and will. They follow their own separate course, pursuing pleasure. If the soul does not labor to tame the sense appetites, and make them subject to the control of its higher nature, then it becomes the slave of the senses, the slave of sin, and reaps its reward, everlasting death. On the other hand if broken and trained, the sense appetites can be made to pursue what will contribute to the perfection of our soul. Then the soul finds it does what is right quasi-automatically, making the exercise of virtue easy and delightful. (Worth struggling for, eh, wot!)
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