‘How are the dead raised…?’
[This is the sixth of the 11 Resurrectional Gospels of Matins]
‘But someone will ask, How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ St. Paul raised this question with the Corinthians (I Cor. 15:35), and it occurs again in this resurrectional account by St. Luke.
The Gospel accounts of the Risen Lord show that there was a gap between Christ’s appearance to His disciples and their ultimate comprehension of it. The vision of the Risen Lord was first marked by fear, confusion and disbelief. Then came misunderstanding about the nature of Christ’s body and its relationship to the Jesus they had known before. Their ultimate understanding of the true significance of the resurrection, however, is essential to the faith of the disciples — and our own.
Had they seen a ghost, or a phantom? (v. 37) Many good Christians believe that at the death of the body what remains is but an immortal soul, a sort of disembodied spirit. For all that, to disparage the body can lead us to the type of vague, inward ‘spirituality’ that severs the connection between the God of Genesis and the God of the Gospels. As St. Gregory the Theologian makes clear, salvation is not from the world, but the recreation of the world.
The problem is that we equate body with ‘flesh and blood.’ As St. Paul explains, there are different kinds of body. We are created like the first man, Adam, an animated body ‘from the earth, a man of dust.’ But the Resurrected Christ, the new and final Adam, is an embodied and live-giving spirit. He has the ‘spiritual body’ that awaits all believers at the resurrection of the dead that He inaugurated at Pascha.
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (I Cor 15:52-53)
The Risen Lord arose as a body, on one hand like his earthly body. It bore the marks of the nails, and makes clear that Easter Sunday can never be separated from Good Friday. Yet, although the disciples could touch Him, and see Him eat, nonetheless the Lord had been transformed. Like a blossoming plant from a tiny seed, or a shining butterfly from a crawling caterpillar.
Resurrection does not mean either the resuscitation of our earthly bodies, or the release of our immortal souls from our bodies. Christian life is transfigured life — body, soul and spirit (I Thess. 5:23).