"God looks neither at long nor beautiful prayers, but at those that come from the heart."

The Cure D'Ars

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"Let persons in the world sanctify themselves in their own houses, for neither the court, professions, or labour, are any hindrance to the service of God."

St Philip Neri

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"It is not God's will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will."

Blessed Henry Suso

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 St Augustine   (354-430A.D.)   Father and Doctor of the Church
Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II

 
  ENCHIRIDION ON FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE
   

By St Augustine

 

Ch 23. The Reality of the Resurrection

   

84. Now, with respect to the resurrection of the body--and by this I do not mean the cases of resuscitation after which people died again, but a resurrection to eternal life after the fashion of Christ's own body--I have not found a way to discuss it briefly and still give satisfactory answers to all the questions usually raised about it. Yet no Christian should have the slightest doubt as to the fact that the bodies of all men, whether already or yet to be born, whether dead or still to die, will be resurrected.

85. Once this fact is established, then, first of all, comes the question about abortive fetuses, which are indeed "born" in the mother's womb, but are never so that they could be "reborn." For, if we say that there is a resurrection for them, then we can agree that at least as much is true of fetuses that are fully formed. But, with regard to undeveloped fetuses, who would not more readily think that they perish, like seeds that did not germinate?(192)

But who, then, would dare to deny--though he would not dare to affirm it either--that in the resurrection day what is lacking in the forms of things will be filled out? Thus, the perfection which time would have accomplished will not be lacking, any more than the blemishes wrought by time will still be present. Nature, then, will be cheated of nothing apt and fitting which time's passage would have brought, nor will anything remain disfigured by anything adverse and contrary which time has wrought. But what is not yet a whole will become whole, just as what has been disfigured will be restored to its full figure.

86. On this score, a corollary question may be most carefully discussed by the most learned men, and still I do not know that any man can answer it, namely: When does a human being begin to live in the womb? Is there some form of hidden life, not yet apparent in the motions of a living thing? To deny, for example, that those fetuses ever lived at all which are cut away limb by limb and cast out of the wombs of pregnant women, lest the mothers die also if the fetuses were left there dead, would seem much too rash. But, in any case, once a man begins to live, it is thereafter possible for him to die. And, once dead, wheresoever death overtook him, I cannot find the basis on which he would not have a share in the resurrection of the dead.

87. By the same token, the resurrection is not to be denied in the cases of monsters which are born and live, even if they quickly die, nor should we believe that they will be raised as they were, but rather in an amended nature and free from faults. Far be it from us to say of that double-limbed man recently born in the Orient--about whom most reliable brethren have given eyewitness reports and the presbyter Jerome, of holy memory, has left a written account(193) --far be it from us, I say, to suppose that at the resurrection there will be one double man, and not rather two men, as there would have been if they had actually been born twins. So also in other cases, which, because of some excess or defect or gross deformity, are called monsters: at the resurrection they will be restored to the normal human physiognomy, so that every soul will have its own body and not two bodies joined together, even though they were born this way. Every soul will have, as its own, all that is required to complete a whole human body.

88. Moreover, with God, the earthly substance from which the flesh of mortal man is produced does not perish. Instead, whether it be dissolved into dust or ashes, or dispersed into vapors and the winds, or converted into the substance of other bodies (or even back into the basic elements themselves), or has served as food for beasts or even men and been turned into their flesh--in an instant of time this matter returns to the soul that first animated it, and that caused it to become a man, to live and to grow.

89. This earthly matter which becomes a corpse upon the soul's departure will not, at the resurrection, be so restored that the parts into which it was separated and which have become parts of other things must necessarily return to the same parts of the body in which they were situated--though they do return to the body from which they were separated. Otherwise, to suppose that the hair recovers what frequent clippings have taken off, or the nails get back what trimming has pared off, makes for a wild and wholly unbecoming image in the minds of those who speculate this way and leads them thus to disbelieve in the resurrection.

But take the example of a statue made of fusible metal: if it were melted by heat or pounded into dust, or reduced to a shapeless mass, and an artist wished to restore it again from the mass of the same material, it would make no difference to the wholeness of the restored statue which part of it was remade of what part of the metal, so long as the statue, as restored, had been given all the material of which it was originally composed.

Just so, God--an artist who works in marvelous and mysterious ways--will restore our bodies, with marvelous and mysterious celerity, out of the whole of the matter of which it was originally composed. And it will make no difference, in the restoration, whether hair returns to hair and nails to nails, or whether the part of this original matter that had perished is turned back into flesh and restored to other parts of the body. The main thing is that the providence of the [divine] Artist takes care that nothing unbecoming will result.

90. Nor does it follow that the stature of each person will be different when brought to life anew because there were differences in stature when first alive, nor that the lean will be raised lean or the fat come back to life in their former obesity. But if this is in the Creator's plan, that each shall retain his special features and the proper and recognizable likeness of his former self--while an equality of physical endowment will be preserved--then the matter of which each resurrection body is composed will be so disposed that none shall be lost, and any defect will be supplied by Him who can create out of nothing as he wills.

But if in the bodies of those rising again there is to be an intelligible inequality, such as between voices that fill out a chorus, this will be managed by disposing the matter of each body so to bring men into their place in the angelic band and impose nothing on their senses that is inharmonious. For surely nothing unseemly will be there, and whatever is there will be fitting, and this because the unfitting will simply not be.

91. The bodies of the saints, then, shall rise again free from blemish and deformity, just as they will be also free from corruption, encumbrance, or handicap. Their facility [facilitas] will be as complete as their felicity [felicitas]. This is why their bodies are called "spiritual," though undoubtedly they will be bodies and not spirits. For just as now the body is called "animate" [animale], though it is a body and not a "spirit" [anima], so then it will be a "spiritual body," but still a body and not a spirit.

Accordingly, then, as far as the corruption which weighs down the soul and the vices through which "the flesh lusts against the spirit"(194) are concerned, there will be no "flesh," but only body, since there are bodies that are called "heavenly bodies."(195) This is why it is said, "Flesh and blood shall not inherit the Kingdom of God," and then, as if to expound what was said, it adds, "Neither shall corruption inherit incorruption."(196) What the writer first called "flesh and blood" he later called "corruption," and what he first called "the Kingdom of God" he then later called "incorruption."

But, as far as the substance of the resurrection body is concerned, it will even then still be "flesh." This is why the body of Christ is called "flesh" even after the resurrection. Wherefore the apostle also says, "What is sown a natural body [corpus animale] rises as a spiritual body [corpus spirituale]."(197) For there will then be such a concord between flesh and spirit--the spirit quickening the servant flesh without any need of sustenance therefrom--that there will be no further conflict within ourselves. And just as there will be no more external enemies to bear with, so neither shall we have to bear with ourselves as enemies within.

92. But whoever are not liberated from that mass of perdition (brought to pass through the first man) by the one Mediator between God and man, they will also rise again, each in his own flesh, but only that they may be punished together with the devil and his angels. Whether these men will rise again with all their faults and deformities, with their diseased and deformed members--is there any reason for us to labor such a question? For obviously the uncertainty about their bodily form and beauty need not weary us, since their damnation is certain and eternal. And let us not be moved to inquire how their body can be incorruptible if it can suffer--or corruptible if it cannot die. For there is no true life unless it be lived in happiness; no true incorruptibility save where health is unscathed by pain. But where an unhappy being is not allowed to die, then death itself, so to say, dies not; and where pain perpetually afflicts but never destroys, corruption goes on endlessly. This state is called, in the Scripture, "the second death."(198)

93. Yet neither the first death, in which the soul is compelled to leave its body, nor the second death, in which it is not allowed to leave the body undergoing punishment, would have befallen man if no one had sinned. Surely, the lightest of all punishments will be laid on those who have added no further sin to that originally contracted. Among the rest, who have added further Sins to that one, they will suffer a damnation somewhat more tolerable in proportion to the lesser degree of their iniquity.

 

   
 
192. Sicut semina quae concepta non fuerint.
193. Jerome, Epistle to Vitalis, Ep. LXXII, 2; PL, 22, 674. Augustine also refers to similar phenomena in The City of God, XVI. viii, 2.
194. Gal. 5:17.
195. I Cor. 15:40.
196. I Cor. 15:50.
197. I Cor. 15:44.
198. Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14.