I only recently discovered a treasure from St. Thomas Aquinas called the Compendium of Theology. I first wrote a commentary on his book here a month ago. St. Thomas continues the richness of his teaching today on the resurrection of the body in chapters 151-168. I was going to comment on it like last time, but the teaching of the Angelic Doctor will stand alone today. This is what you and I have to look forward to in both body and soul if we make it to heaven:
REUNION WITH THE BODY REQUISITE FOR THE SOUL’S PERFECT HAPPINESS
We should note that the disquiet of the will cannot be wholely overcome unless natural desire is completely satisfied. Elements that are by nature destined for union, naturally desire to be united to each other; for any being seeks what is suited to it by nature. Since, therefore, the natural condition of the human soul is to be united to the body, as was pointed out above,lrl it has a natural desire for union with the body. Hence the will cannot be perfectly at rest until the soul is again joined to the body. When this takes place, man rises from the dead.
Besides, final perfection requires possession of a being’s original perfection. But the first perfection of anything requires that it be perfect in its nature, and final perfection consists in attainment of the last end. In order, therefore, that the human soul may be brought to complete perfection with regard to its end, it must be perfect in its nature. This is impossible unless the soul is united to the body. For by nature the soul is a part of man as his form. But no part is perfect in its nature unless it exists in its whole. Therefore man’s final happiness requires the soul to be again united to the body.
Moreover, the accidental and all that is contrary to nature cannot be everlasting. But a state wherein the soul is separated from the body is surely per accidens and contrary to nature, if naturally and per se the soul has a longing for union with the body. Therefore the soul will not be forever separated from the body. Accordingly, since the soul’s substance is incorruptible, as was shown above, we conclude that the soul is to be reunited to the body.
SEPARATION OF THE BODY FROM THE SOUL BOTH NATURAL AND CONTRARY TO NATURE
We may have a suspicion that separation of the soul from the body is not per accidens but is in accord with nature. For man’s body is made up of contrary elements. Everything of this sort is naturally corruptible. Therefore the human body is naturally corruptible. But when the body corrupts the soul must survive as a separate entity if the soul is immortal, as in fact it is. Apparently, then, separation of the soul from the body is in accord with nature.
In view of these considerations, we must take up the question, how this separation is according to nature, and how it is opposed to nature. We showed above that the rational soul exceeds the capacity of all corporeal matter in a measure impossible to other forms. This is demonstrated by its intellectual activity, which it exercises without the body. To the end that corporeal matter might be fittingly adapted to the soul, there had to be added to the body some disposition that would make it suitable matter for such a form. And in the same way that this form itself receives existence from God alone through creation, that disposition, transcending as it does corporeal nature, was conferred on the human body by God alone, for the purpose of preserving the body itself in a state of incorruption, so that it might match the soul’s perpetual existence. This disposition remained in man’s body as long as man’s soul cleaved to God.
But when man’s soul turned from God by sin, the human body deservedly lost that supernatural disposition whereby it was unrebelliously subservient to the soul. And hence man incurred the necessity of dying.
Accordingly, if we regard the nature of the body, death is natural. But if we regard the nature of the soul and the disposition with which the human body was supernaturally endowed in the beginning for the sake of the soul, death is per accidens and contrary to nature, inasmuch as union with the body is natural for the soul.
THE SOUL’S RESUMPTION OF THE SAME BODY
Since the soul is united to the body as its form, and since each form has the right matter corresponding to it, the body to which the soul will be reunited must be of the same nature and species as was the body laid down by the soul at death. At the resurrection the soul will not resume a celestial or ethereal body, or the body of some animal, as certain people fancifully prattle [Origen, Peri Archon, III, 6]. No, it will resume a human body made up of flesh and bones, and equipped with the same organs it now possesses.
Furthermore, just as the same specific form ought to have the same specific matter, so the same numerical form ought to have the same numerical matter. The soul of an ox cannot be the soul of a horse’s body, nor can the soul of this ox be the soul of any other ox. Therefore, since the rational soul, that survives remains numerically the same, at the resurrection it must be reunited to numerically the same body.
MIRACULOUS NATURE OF THE RESURRECTION
When substances corrupt, the survival of the species, but not the restoration of the individual, is effected by the action of nature. The cloud from which rain is produced and the cloud which is again formed by evaporation from the fallen rain water, are not numerically the same. Accordingly, since the human body substantially dissolves in death, it cannot be restored to numerical identity by the action of nature. But the concept of resurrection requires such identity, as we have just shown. Consequently the resurrection of man will not be brought about by the action of nature, as some philosophers [Empedocles] have held in their theory that, when all bodies return to the position formerly occupied after untold cycles of years, then also men will return to life in the same numerical identity. No, the restoration of all who rise will be effected solely by divine power.
Moreover, it is clear that senses once destroyed, and anything possessed as a result of generation, cannot be restored by the activity of nature, for the simple reason that the same numerical being cannot be generated several times. If any such perfection is restored to anyone, for example, an eye that has been torn out or a hand that has been cut off, it will be through divine power which operates beyond the order of nature, as we said above. Therefore, since all the senses and all the members of man corrupt in death, a dead man cannot be brought back to life except by divine action.
The fact that, as we hold, the resurrection will be effected by divine power, enables us to perceive readily how the same numerical body will be revived. Since all things, even the very least, are included under divine providence, as we showed above, the matter composing this human body of ours, whatever form it may take after man’s death, evidently does not elude the power or the knowledge of God. Such matter remains numerically the same, in the sense that it exists under quantitative dimensions, by reason of which it can be said to be this particular matter, and is the principle of individuation. If then, this matter remains the same, and if the human body is again fashioned from it by divine power, and if also the rational soul which remains the same in its incorruptibility is united to the same body, the result is that identically the same man is restored to life.
Numerical identity cannot be impeded, as some object, by the consideration that the humanity is not numerically the same as before. In the view of some philosophers, humanity, which is said to be the form of the whole, is nothing else than the form of a part, namely, the soul, and they admit that humanity is the form of the body also, in the sense that it confers species on the whole. If this is true, evidently the humanity remains numerically the same, since the rational soul remains numerically the same.
Humanity, however, is that which is signified by the definition of man, as the essence of anything whatever is that which is signified by its definition. But the definition of man signifies not form alone but also matter, since matter must be comprised in the definition of material things. Hence we shall do better to say, with others, that both soul and body are included in the notion of humanity, although otherwise than in the definition of man. The notion of humanity embraces only the essential principles of man, prescinding from all other factors. For, since humanity is understood to be that whereby man is man, whatever cannot truly be said to constitute man as man, is evidently cut off from the notion of humanity. But when we speak of man, who has humanity, the fact that he has humanity does not exclude the possession of other attributes, for instance, whiteness, and the like. The term “man” signifies man’s essential principles, but not to the exclusion of other factors, even though these other factors are not actually, but only potentially, contained in the notion of man. Hence “man” signifies as a whole, per modum totius, whereas “humanity” signifies as a part, per modum partis, and is not predicated of man. In Socrates, then, or in Plato, this determinate matter and this particular form are included. just as the notion of man implies composition of matter and form, so if Socrates were to be defined, the notion of him would imply that he is composed of this flesh and these bones and this soul. Consequently, since humanity is not some third form in addition to soul and body, but is composed of both, we see clearly that, if the same body is restored and if the same soul remains, the humanity will be numerically [genetically] the same.
The numerical identity in question is not frustrated on the ground that the corporeity recovered is not numerically the same, for the reason that it corrupts when the body corrupts. If by corporeity is meant the substantial form by which a thing is classified in the genus of corporeal substance, such corporeity is nothing else than the soul, seeing that there is but one substantial form for each thing. In virtue of this particular soul, this animal is not only animal, but is animated body, and body, and also this thing existing in the genus of substance. Otherwise the soul would come to a body already existing in act, and so would be an accidental form. The subject of a substantial form is something existing only in potency, not in act. When it receives the substantial form it is not said to be generated merely in this or that respect, as is the case with accidental forms, but is said to be generated simply, as simply receiving existence. And therefore the corporeity that is received remains numerically [genetically] the same, since the same rational soul continues to exist.
If, however, the word “corporeity” is taken to mean a form designating body (corpus), which is placed in the genus of quantity, such a form is accidental, since it signifies nothing else than three-dimensional existence. Even though the same numerical form, thus understood, is not recovered, the identity of the subject is not thereby impeded, for unity of the essential principles suffices for this. The same reasoning holds for all the accidents, the diversity among which does not destroy numerical identity. Consequently, since union is a kind of relation, and therefore an accident, its numerical diversity does not prevent the numerical identity of the subject; nor, for that matter, does numerical diversity among the powers of the sensitive and vegetative soul, if they are supposed to have corrupted. For the natural powers existing in the human composite are in the genus of accident; and what we call “sensible” is derived, not from the senses according as sense is the specific difference constituting animal, but from the very substance of the sensitive soul, which in man is essentially identical with the rational soul.
RESURRECTION TO NEW LIFE
Although men will rise as the same individuals, they will not have the same kind of life as before. Now their life is corruptible; then it will be incorruptible. If nature aims at. perpetual existence in the generation of man, much more so does God in the restoration of man. Nature’s tendency toward never-ending existence comes from an impulse implanted by God. The perpetual existence of the species is not in question in the restoration of risen man, for this could be procured by repeated generation. Therefore what is intended is the perpetual existence of the individual. Accordingly risen men will live forever.
Besides, if men once risen were to die, the souls separated from their bodies would not remain forever deprived of the body, for this would be against the nature of the soul, as we said above. Therefore they would have to rise again; and the same thing would happen if they were to die again after the second resurrection. Thus death and life would revolve around each man in cycles of infinite succession; which seems futile. Surely a halt is better called at the initial stage, so that men might rise to immortal life at the first resurrection.
However, the conquest of mortality will not induce any diversity either in species or in number. The idea of mortality contains nothing that could make it a specific difference of man, since it signifies no more than a passion. It is used to serve as a specific difference of man in the sense that the nature of man is designated by calling him mortal, to bring out the fact that he is composed of contrary elements, just as his proper form is desionated by the predicate “rational”; material things cannot be defined without including matter. However, mortality is not overcome by taking away man’s proper matter. For the soul will not resume a celestial or ethereal body, as was mentioned above; it will resume a human body made up of contrary elements. Incorruptibility will come as an effect of divine power, whereby the soul will gain dominion over the body to the point that the body cannot corrupt. For a thing continues in being as long as form has dominion over matter.
CESSATION OF NUTRITION AND REPRODUCTION AFTER THE RESURRECTION
When an end is removed, the means leading to that end must also be removed. Therefore, after mortality is done away with in those who have risen, the means serving the condition of mortal life must cease to have any function. Such are food and drink, which are necessary for the sustenance of mortal life, during which what is dissolved by natural heat has to be restored by food. Consequently there will be no consumption of food or drink after the resurrection.
Nor will there be any need of clothing. Clothes are necessary for man so that the body may not suffer harm from heat or cold, which beset him from outside. Likewise, exercise of the reproductive functions, which is designed for the generation of animals, must cease. Generation serves the ends of mortal life, so that what cannot be preserved in the individual may be preserved at least in the species. Since the same individual men will continue in eternal existence, generation will have no place among them; nor, consequently, will the exercise of reproductive power.
Again, since semen is the superfluous part of nourishment, cessation of the use of food necessarily entails cessation of the exercise of the reproductive functions. On the other hand, we cannot maintain with propriety that the use of food, drink, and the reproductive powers will remain solely for the sake of pleasure. Nothing inordinate will occur in that final state, because then all things will receive their perfect consummation, each in its own way. But de-ordination is opposed to perfection. Also, since the restoration of man through resurrection will be effected directly by God, no de-ordination will be able to find its way into that state; whatever is from God is well ordered. But desire for the use of food and the exercise of the reproductive powers for pleasure alone, would be inordinate; indeed, even during our present life people regard such conduct as vicious. Among the risen, consequently, the use of food, drink, and the reproductive functions for mere pleasure, can have no place.
RESURRECTION OF ALL THE BODILY MEMBERS
Although risen men will not occupy themselves with activities of this sort, they will not lack the organs requisite for such functions. Without the organs in question the risen body would not be complete. But it is fitting that nature should be completely restored at the renovation of risen man, for such renovation will be accomplished directly by God, whose works are perfect. Therefore all the members of the body will have their place in the risen, for the preservation of nature in its entirety rather than for the exercise of their normal functions.
Moreover, as we shall bring out later, men will receive punishment or reward in that future state for the acts they perform now. This being the case, it is no more than right that men should keep the organs with which they served the reign of sin or of justice during the present life, so that they may be punished or rewarded in the members they employed for sin or for merit.
ABSENCE OF DEFECTS IN THE RESURRECTION
In like manner, it is fitting that all natural defects should be corrected in the risen body. Any defect of this sort is prejudicial to the integrity of nature. And so, if human nature is to be completely renewed by God at the resurrection, such defects must be rectified.
Besides, these defects arose from a deficiency in the natural power which is the principle of human generation. But in the resurrection there will be no active causality other than the divine, which does not admit of deficiency. Therefore such defects as are found in men naturally begotten, will have no place in men restored by the resurrection.
RESURRECTION RESTRICTED TO WHAT IS NECESSARY FOR TRUE HUMAN NATURE
These remarks about the integrity of risen men should be understood as referring to whatever pertains to the true state of human nature. What is not required for the reality of human nature, will not be resumed by risen man. Thus, if all the accretion of matter from the food that has been changed into flesh and blood were to be resumed, the size of risen man would exceed all bounds. The proper condition of any nature is regulated by its species and form. Accordingly all the parts that are consonant with the human species and form will be integrally present in risen man: not only organic parts, but other parts of like nature, such as flesh and sinews, which enter into the composition of the various organs. Of course, not all the matter that was ever contained in those parts during man’s natural life will again be taken up, but only so much as will be enough to constitute the species of the parts in integrity.
Even though not all the material elements ever possessed by man will arise, we cannot say on this account that man will not be the same individual, or that he will not be complete. During the course of the present life, man evidently remains numerically the same from birth to death. Nevertheless the material composition of his parts does not remain the same, but undergoes gradual flux and reflux, in somewhat the way that the same fire is kept up although some logs are consumed and others are fed to the blaze. Man is whole when his species and the quantity due to his species are preserved intact.
GOD’S ACTION IN SUPPLYING WHAT IS LACKING IN THE BODY
For the same reason that God, in restoring the risen body, does not reclaim all the material elements once possessed by man’s body, He will supply whatever is wanting to the proper amount of matter. Nature itself has such power. In infancy we do not as yet possess our full quantity; but by assimilating food and drink we receive enough matter from outside sources to round out our perfect quantity; nor on this account does a man cease to be the same individual he was before. Surely, then, divine power can do the same thing much more easily, so that those who do not have sufficient quantity may be supplied from outside matter with whatever was lacking to them in this life as regards integrity of natural members or suitable size. Consequently, although some may have lacked certain of their members during this life, or may not have attained to perfect size, the amount of quantity possessed at the moment of death makes no difference; at the resurrection they will receive, through God’s power, the due complement of members and quantity.
SOLUTION OF POSSIBLE OBJECTIONS
This enables us to answer the objections that some raise against the resurrection. For instance, they say that a cannibal may have eaten human flesh, and later, thus nourished, may beget a son, who eats the same kind of food. If what is eaten is changed into the substance of the eater’s flesh, it seems impossible for both to rise in their full integrity, for the flesh of one has been changed into the flesh of the other. The difficulty apparently grows if semen is the product of surplus food, as the philosophers teach [Aristotle, De generatione animalium, I, 18, 726 a 26] for the semen whereby the son is begotten would then be derived from the flesh of another person. And so it seems impossible for a boy begotten from such seed to rise, if the men whose flesh the father and the son himself devoured rise intact.
But this state of affairs is not incompatible with a general resurrection. As was pointed out above, not all the material elements ever present in any man need be resumed when he rises; only so much matter is required as suffices to keep up the amount of quantity he ought to have. We also pointed out that if anyone is lacking in the matter required for perfect quantity, divine power will supply what is needed.
We should note, moreover, that the material elements existing in man’s body are found to pertain to true human nature in various degrees. First and foremost, what is received from one’s parents, is brought to perfection within the reality of the human species, as its purest element ‘ by the parents’ formative causality. Secondly, what is contributed by food, is necessary for the proper quantity of the body’s members and lastly, since the introduction of a foreign substance always weakens a thing’s energy, growth must eventually cease and the body must become old and decay, just as wine eventually becomes watery if water is mixed in with it.
Furthermore, certain superfluities are engendered in man’s body from food. Some of these are required for special purposes, for instance, semen for reproduction and hair for covering and adornment. But other superfluities serve no useful end, and these are expelled through perspiration and other eliminating processes, or else are retained in the body, not without inconvenience to nature.
At the general resurrection all this will be adjusted in accord with divine providence. If the same matter existed in different men, it will rise in that one in whom it fulfilled the higher function. If it existed in two men in exactly the same way, it will rise in him who had it first; in the other, the lack will be made up by divine power. And so we can see that the flesh of a man that was devoured by another, will rise not in the cannibal, but in him to whom it belonged originally. But as regards the nutritive fluid present in it, it will rise in the son begotten of semen formed from that flesh. The rest of it will rise in the first man in this series, and God will supply what is wanting to each of the three.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD AS AN ARTICLE OF FAITH
That we may give expression to our faith in the resurrection, we are instructed to say in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe… in the resurrection of the body.” The word “body” was inserted not without reason: even in the age of the Apostles there were some who denied the resurrection of the body, and admitted no more than a spiritual resurrection, whereby a man rises from the death of sin. Therefore the Apostle, in 2 Timothy 2:18, has occasion to refer to certain individuals: “Who have erred from the truth, saying that the resurrection is past already, and have subverted the faith of some.” To abolish this error, so that belief in the future resurrection may be professed, the Creed of the Fathers proclaims: “I look for the resurrection of the dead.”
NATURE OF RISEN MAN’S ACTIVITY
We go on to consider the nature of the activity exercised by risen men. Each living being must have some activity that mainly engrosses its attention, and its life is said to consist in this occupation. Thus those who cultivate pleasure more than anything else, are said to lead a voluptuous life; those who give their time to contemplation, are said to lead a contemplative life; and those who devote their energies to civil government, are said to lead a political life. We have shown that risen men will have no occasion to use food or the reproductive functions, although all bodily activity seems to tend in the direction of such use. But, even if the exercise of bodily functions ceases, there remain spiritual activities, in which man’s ultimate end consists, as we have said; and the risen are in a position to achieve this end once they are freed from their former condition of corruption and changeableness. Of course, man’s last end consists, not in spiritual acts of any sort whatever, but in the vision of God according to His essence, as was stated above. And God is eternal; hence the intellect must be in contact with eternity. Accordingly, just as those who give their time to pleasure are said to lead a voluptuous life, so those who enjoy the vision of God possess eternal life, as is indicated in John 17:3: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.”
THE VISION OF GOD IN HIS ESSENCE
The created intellect will see God in His essence, and not in any mere likeness. In the latter kind of vision, the object understood may be at a distance from the present intellect; for example, a stone is present to the eye by its likeness, but is absent in substance. But, as was shown above, God’s very essence is in some mysterious way united to the created intellect, so that God may be seen just as He is. Thus, when we arrive at our last end, what was formerly believed about God will be seen, and what was hoped for as absent will be closely embraced as present. This is called comprehension, according to the expression used by the Apostle in Philippians 3:12: “I press on, that I may grasp it.” This is not to be understood in the sense that comprehension implies all-inclusive knowledge, but in the sense that it denotes the presence and a certain clasping of what is said to be comprehended.
SUPREME PERFECTION AND HAPPINESS IN THE VISION OF GOD
We should further understand that delight is engendered by the apprehension of a suitable good. Thus sight rejoices in beautiful colors, and taste in sweet savors. But this delight of the senses can be prevented if the organ is indisposed; the same light that is charming to healthy eyes is annoying to sore eyes. However, since the intellect does not understand by employing a bodily organ, as we showed above, no sorrow mars the delight that consists in the contemplation of truth. Of course, sadness can indirectly attend the mind’s contemplation, when the object of truth is apprehended as harmful. Thus knowledge of truth may cause pleasure in ‘the intellect, while at the same time the object known may engender sorrow in the will, not precisely because the object is known, but because its action is pernicious. God, however, by the very fact that He exists, is truth. Therefore the intellect that sees God cannot but rejoice in the vision of Him.
Besides, God is goodness itself, and goodness is the cause of love. Hence God’s goodness must necessarily be loved by all who apprehend it. Although an object that is good may fail to call forth love, or may even be hated, the reason is not that it is apprehended as good, but that it is apprehended as harmful. Consequently in the vision of God, who is goodness and truth itself, there must be love or joyous fruition, no less than comprehension. This accords with Isaiah 66:14: “You shall see and your heart shall rejoice.”
CONFIRMATION IN GOOD IN THE BEATIFIC VISION
This enables us to understand that the soul which sees God—and the same is true of any other spiritual creature—has its will firmly fixed in Him, so that it can never turn to what is opposed to Him. For, since the object of the will is the good, the will cannot incline to anything whatever unless it exhibits some aspect of good. Any particular good may be wanting in some perfection, which the knower is then free to seek in another quarter. Therefore the will of him who beholds some particular good need not rest content with its possession, but may search farther afield beyond its orbit. But God, who is universal good and very goodness itself, is not lacking in any good that may be sought elsewhere, as was shown above. And so those who enjoy the vision of God’s essence cannot turn their will from Him, but must rather desire all things in subordination to Him.
Something similar is observed in the process of understanding. Our mind, when in doubt, can turn this way and that, until it reaches a first principle; then the intellect must come to a halt. Since the end has the same function in the field of desire that a principle has in the matter of understanding, the will can veer in opposite directions until it comes to the knowledge or fruition of the last end, in which it must rest. The nature of perfect happiness would be contradicted if man, after achieving it, could turn to what is opposed to it. For then fear of losing happiness would not be wholly excluded, and so desire would not be completely satisfied. Hence the Apocalypse 3:12 says of the blessed person, that “he shall go out no more.”
COMPLETE SUBJECTION OF THE BODY TO THE SOUL
The body is for the soul, as matter is for form and a tool for the craftsman. At the resurrection, therefore, when the life we have been speaking of is attained, God will join to the soul a body such as befits the beatitude of the soul; for whatever exists for the sake of an end, must be duly disposed in accord with the demands of the end. A soul that has arrived at the peak of intellectual activity cannot appropriately have a body that would in any way prove an impediment or a burden to it. But the human body, by reason of its corruptibility, does obstruct and slow down the soul, so that the soul can neither devote itself to uninterrupted contemplation nor reach the heights of contemplation.
This is why men are able to grasp divine truths more readily when they rise above the bodily senses. And so prophetic revelations are made to men when asleep, or when they are lost in mental ecstasy, as we read in Numbers 12:6: “If there be among you a prophet of the Lord, I will appear to him in a vision, or I will speak to him in a dream.” Therefore the bodies of risen saints will not be corruptible and will not burden down the soul, as they do now. On the contrary, they will be incorruptible and will be wholly obedient to the soul, so as not to resist it in any way whatever.
QUALITIES OF THE GLORIFIED BODY
This doctrine gives us an insight into the condition of the bodies of the blessed. The soul is both the form and the motive force of the body. In its function as form, the soul is the principle of the body, not only as regards the body’s substantial being, but also as regards its proper accidents, which arise in the subject from the union of form with matter. The more dominant the form is, the less can any outside cause interfere with the impression made by the form on matter. We see this verified in the case of fire, whose form, generally accounted the noblest of all elementary forms, confers on fire the power of not being easily diverted from its natural disposition by the influence emanating from any cause.
Since the blessed soul, owing to its union with the first principle of all things, will be raised to the pinnacle of nobility and power, it will communicate substantial existence in the most perfect degree to the body that has been joined to it by divine action. And thus, holding the body completely under its sway, the soul will render the body subtle and spiritual. The soul will also bestow on the body a most,noble quality, namely, the radiant beauty of clarity. Further, because of the influence emanating from the soul, the body’s stability will not be subject to alteration by any cause; which means that the body will be impassible. Lastly, since the body will be wholly submissive to the soul, as a tool is to him who plies it, it will be endowed with agility. Hence the properties of the bodies belonging to the blessed will be these four: subtlety, clarity, impassibility, and agility.
This is the sense of the Apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:42 ff. In death the body “is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption;” this refers to impassibility. “It is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory;” this refers to clarity. “It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power,” and hence will have agility. “It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body;” in other words, it will be endowed with subtlety.