Whenever we say the Creed, we profess our belief in two resurrections. First we affirm our conviction that “on the third day He rose again”. Then, at the end of the Creed, we declare that “we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”.
The first resurrection is, of course, that universe-transforming event celebrated by the Church with resounding jubilation on Easter Sunday. The second resurrection is a mysterious development yet to come: the raising of our own bodies from the grave on the Day of Judgment, to be reunited with our souls in eternity.
Death was not a part of Almighty God’s original plan for mankind. Adam’s act of rebellion, however, was a calamity that sent fault lines ripping through the whole of creation. Having created Adam from the dust of the ground and having breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, God decreed that the most fitting punishment for sin would be that Adam’s soul should be separated from his body in death. His body would go the way of all flesh and disintegrate in the earth. This return to the humus from which we were created would serve to remind humanity of the crucial importance of humility.
Thank God, for us death was not to be the end of the story. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity united Himself with our human nature precisely to reverse the consequences of Original Sin. In an act of love beyond all human comprehension, the Creator of the Universe came in frail human flesh to teach us by His own perfect example what it is to be truly humble, and obedient unto death.
But while it seemed to the disciples on Good Friday that He who had declared Himself to be the way, the truth and the life had in fact been swallowed and consumed by calumny and death, the empty tomb on Easter morning is the proof that death could not hold Life Himself. On that first Easter morning His soul and body were reunited, never to be parted again.
This physical side of the Resurrection assures us of the intrinsic value of the human body, and of the material world, as a part of God’s creation. Our Risen Lord’s Ascension after 40 days indicates that heaven is not merely some disembodied state of spiritual bliss but a real place where bodies exist.
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