Easter

From the perspective of naturalism into which most moderns – including Christians – have been from birth inculcated, the Resurrection can make no sense. It’s not just that the naturalist thinks the notion is false, he cannot but think it incoherent with the principles of reality as they are plainly manifest to him, as plainly as the nose on his face. From his perspective, the Resurrection, and for that matter the whole religious impulse and rigmarole, arise from a grotesque misprision that is “not even wrong.” The whole thing looks to him like a willfully insane mistake.

Once begin however to take seriously the fact that Nature Cannot Explain Itself, and the Resurrection becomes just as plausible as chickens. Because Nature is insufficient to itself, some Supernature or other is required, upon whose order the regularities of Nature supervene. That Supernatural Order – or Logos, as it has long been called in Greek – is not governed by the order of this world, but vice versa.

If there is a Supernature – as there must be – then the Resurrection can be real, and there should be no more difficulty about our taking it on board and reckoning its meaning for our lives than we suffer in contemplating the American Revolution or this morning’s breakfast.

If this world is all there is, then we’re all as good as dead already, and it doesn’t matter in the end what we do, really. In that case, our ethics must begin and end with “whatever.”

If on the other hand this world has a supernatural environment, then it is to that environment that it is and must be more or less conformed, as we too therefore ought to be. If this world has an environment, then it can matter, e.g., whether we have and raise children rightly in this world, or whether we treat our neighbours justly. It can matter whether we live or die, and it can matter how well we live and die. If this world is environed, then life is an enchanted quest, magical, fitted for heroes; and, too, we are well fitted to it, able if we wish to become as gods – or demons. There’s the rub, alas; and the danger, the excitement, the life and thrill of the hunt, hooray!

Suppose for a moment that the Resurrection was real, as real as hammers and nails. I don’t mean to suggest that you should consider the idea the way you might contemplate an abstract thesis in philosophy, but that you should visualize as vividly as possible the risen Christ, Jesus whom you know, standing before you solid, meaty and strong, and your fingers coming away bloody from the wound in his side. Think of it as real. He was dead – you saw his body – and now you can hear his breathing. He is smiling at you, and waiting.

Take it, all, as real, just for a moment. Take it, and chew on it, and swallow. Is it real indeed, do you find? What ought you then to do? What now shall you do?

Go in peace, to love and serve the LORD. Thanks be to God.

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10 thoughts on “Easter

  1. Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia!

    Would His wounds still be bloody? If God will do away with the stomach (which I understand in terms of resurrected bodies), then will He not also do away with the blood?

    • I was trying to put the reader in the position of St. Thomas, for whom on Easter the wounds would still be fresh. The wounds could still be bloody even now. The stigmata of the saints bleed without clotting. I forget which one of them said that it was a huge hassle, but worth it for the great merit earned by the constant pain. The Fisher King’s wound bled without ceasing. So does the breast of the “soft, self-wounding Pelican.” So it seems to me we are likely still to have blood in Paradise.

      As for stomachs in resurrection bodies, I think we’ll still have them. At least, we’ll still be able to eat, as our Lord did at Emmaus and Mamre with his.

      • About stomachs, I was referring to 1 Corinthians 6:13: “Food is meant for our animal nature, and our animal nature claims its food; true enough, but then, God will bring both one and the other to an end.”

        You make a very good point about Our Lord breaking bread with the early Christians, but does the Church not teach that after the consummation of the world we will no longer have need of the Mass and hence the banquet of eternity will be something entirely spiritual?

        Yes, I understood that you were referencing Doubting Thomas, but I never imagined Christ’s wounds as still being bloody; honestly, I don’t see why they necessarily would be. (Although there are obviously important differences, I might see the “unbloody” manner of the Mass’s sacrifice as sharing in similarity with His Body after death; this reminds me of how the Orthodox (I think) have more of an understanding of the Eucharist as a partaking in Christ’s resurrected body, so I wonder if this is meaningful?) His present wounds point to His sacrifice to glorify His triumph over death in His resurrected body, whereas for the saints who received stigmata they were joining themselves (in the primary sense) to the once-suffering Christ (and, okay, I know that in a sense Calvary is eternal, but surely I can assert He is no longer suffering). So does the comparison actually work, since the latter are still in the mortal flesh?

      • Okay, I started to retract once I saw multiple medieval paintings with the Resurrected Christ’s wounds as bloody. Then I happened upon St. Thomas (Aquinas)!

        As stated above (Article 2), Christ’s body in the Resurrection was ‘of the same nature, but differed in glory.’ Accordingly, whatever goes with the nature of a human body, was entirely in the body of Christ when He rose again. Now it is clear that flesh, bones, blood, and other such things, are of the very nature of the human body. Consequently, all these things were in Christ’s body when He rose again; and this also integrally, without any diminution; otherwise it would not have been a complete resurrection, if whatever was lost by death had not been restored. Hence our Lord assured His faithful ones by saying (Matthew 10:30): ‘The very hairs of your head are all numbered': and (Luke 21:18): ‘A hair of your head shall not perish.’

        But to say that Christ’s body had neither flesh, nor bones, nor the other natural parts of a human body, belongs to the error of Eutyches, Bishop of Constantinople, who maintained that ‘our body in that glory of the resurrection will be impalpable, and more subtle than wind and air: and that our Lord, after the hearts of the disciples who handled Him were confirmed, brought back to subtlety whatever could be handled in Him’ [St. Gregory, Moral. in Job 14:56]. Now Gregory condemns this in the same book, because Christ’s body was not changed after the Resurrection, according to Romans 6:9: ‘Christ rising from the dead, dieth now no more.’ Accordingly, the very man who had said these things, himself retracted them at his death. For, if it be unbecoming for Christ to take a body of another nature in His conception, a heavenly one for instance, as Valentine asserted, it is much more unbecoming for Him at His Resurrection to resume a body of another nature, because in His Resurrection He resumed unto an everlasting life, the body which in His conception He had assumed to a mortal life.

        Fascinatingly, he also responds to an objection that Christ’s body could not have been glorified since He ate and drank, showing that His body was still animal:

        As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiii): ‘After the Resurrection, our Saviour in spiritual but true flesh partook of meat with the disciples, not from need of food, but because it lay in His power.’ For as Bede says on Luke 24:41: ‘The thirsty earth sucks in the water, and the sun’s burning ray absorbs it; the former from need, the latter by its power.’ Hence after the Resurrection He ate, ‘not as needing food, but in order thus to show the nature of His risen body.’ Nor does it follow that His was an animal body that stands in need of food.

      • Perfect! Every time we travel down these roads, we eventually meet up with the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who traveled them long ago.

  2. For your and your readers’ pleasure, from the Mystical City of God:

    In the same moment the most holy soul reunited with the body, giving it immortal life and glory. Instead of the winding-sheets and the ointments, in which it had been buried, it was clothed with the four gifts of glory, namely: with clearness, impassibility, agility and subtility (John 19, 40). These gifts overflowed from the immense glory of the soul of Christ into the sacred body. Although these gifts were due to it as a natural inheritance and participation from the instant of its conception, because from that very moment his soul was glorified and his whole humanity was united to the Divinity; yet they had been suspended in their effects upon the purest body, in order to permit it to remain passable and capable of meriting for us our own glory. In the Resurrection these gifts were justly called into activity in the proper degree corresponding to the glory of his soul and to his union with the Divinity. As the glory of the most holy soul of Christ our Savior is incomprehensible and ineffable to man, it is also impossible entirely to describe in our words or by our examples the glorious gifts of his deified body; for in comparison to its purity, crystal would be obscure. The light inherent and shining forth from his body so far exceeds that of the others, as the day does the night, or as many suns the light of one star; and all the beauty of creatures, if it were joined, would appear ugliness in comparison with his, nothing else being comparable to It in all creation.

    The excellence of these gifts in the Resurrection were far beyond the glory of his Transfiguration or that manifested on other occasions of the kind men mentioned in this history. For on these occasions He received it transitorily and for special purposes, while now He received it in plenitude and forever. Through impassibility his body became invincible to all created power, since no power can ever move or change Him. By subtility the gross and earthly matter was so purified, that it could now penetrate other matter like a pure spirit. Accordingly He penetrated through the rocks of the sepulchre without removing or displacing them, as He had issued forth from the womb of his most blessed Mother. Agility so freed Him from the weight and slowness of matter, that it exceeded the agility of the immaterial angels, while He himself could move about more quickly than they, as shown in his apparitions to the Apostles and on other occasions. The sacred wounds, which had disfigured his body, now shone forth from his hands and feet and side so refulgent and brilliant, that they added a most entrancing beauty and charm. In all this glory and heavenly adornment the Savior now arose from the grave. . . .”

  3. “If there is a Supernature – as there must be – then the Resurrection can be real”

    Why is the resurrection different from a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, or a meteorite falling from the sky, or pretty much anything that people couldn’t at some point or can’t fathom?

    It’s simply *odd* to people – strange. It doesn’t fit the categories of what there are or how things work, as far as they can tell.

    The Resurrection could, in some sense, be real whether or not there was a Supernatural order of the kind you are positing. Just as some technology could be unfathomable to certain people, but still be natural.

    Put another way, a Resurrection in the sense of what was observed could, as far as we can tell, fit both a natural or a supernatural explanation. It isn’t the natural or supernatural cause which is the problem, but rather the sheer oddness of it, combined with a gradual undermining of various beliefs of this sort by the natural sciences.

    • Why is the Resurrection different from a caterpillar’s metamorphosis? As a sheer datum of natural history, a phenomenon we encounter, and which we should like to understand, it isn’t. It is a real event in history that, as such, has just as much claim to run of the mill facticity as any other – chickens, breakfast, etc.

      But it wasn’t just a natural phenomenon that is difficult to understand, or rare, or spooky (like quantum non-locality) or even miraculous. I mean, it was all those things, too. But it was more. It was an irruption of supernature into nature, an event that cannot be comprehended naturally, even in principle.

      But then, we should remember that nature herself cannot be comprehended naturally, even in principle. The super-reality of the Resurrection should not then mislead us into thinking that this world, as sub-real, and destined to die and be transcended, is anywise to be denigrated. After all, only if there is a Supernature can Nature be real; so that the natural is revealed to be a sort or subdomain of the supernatural.

      • The Resurrection is not simply an event of this world. It is that, to be sure, or it could never have happened here. But it is more: it is the first event of a new world. As 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26 & 51-54 make clear, the Resurrection is the beginning of the eschaton, and of a new creation.

        If Paul is right about that, then there is no way that the order of this world can suffice to account for the Resurrection, which is informed not just by the order of this world, but by the order of the next.

        But, again, we must remember that no part of this world can be explained by reference only to this world. The only way to get a Nature in the first place is to start with Supernature. This was the main thrust of the post. If you are thinking logically about Nature, you have to admit the necessity of Supernature. Naturalism in toto is then seen to be a logical error. Once you see that, the naturalist objections to the Resurrection vanish.

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