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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

The Resurrection of the Body


“The Resurrection of the Body”

The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas

Not only does the Holy Spirit sanctify the Church as regards the souls of its members, but also our bodies shall rise again by His power: “We believe in Him that raised up Jesus Christ, Our Lord, from the dead.”[1] And: “By a man came death: and by a Man the resurrection of the dead.”[2] In this there occur four considerations:

(1) the benefits which proceed from our faith in the resurrection;

(2) the qualities of those who shall rise, taken all in general;

(3) the condition of the blessed;

(4) the condition of the damned.


Concerning the first, our faith and hope in the resurrection is beneficial in four ways. Firstly, it takes away the sorrow which we feel for the departed. It is impossible for one not to grieve over the death of a relative or friend; but the hope that such a one will rise again greatly tempers the pain of parting: “And we will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others who have no hope.”[3]

Secondly, it takes away the fear of death. If one does not hope in another and better life after death, then without doubt one is greatly in fear of death and would willingly commit any crime rather than suffer death. But because we believe in another life which will be ours after death, we do not fear death, nor would we do anything wrong through fear of it: “That, through death He might destroy him who had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil. And might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject of servitude.”[4]

Thirdly, it makes us watchful and careful to live uprightly. If, however, this life in which we live were all, we would not have this great incentive to live well, for whatever we do would be of little importance, since it would be regulated not by eternity, but by brief, determined time. But we believe that we shall receive eternal rewards in the resurrection for whatsoever we do here. Hence, we are anxious to do good: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”[5]

Finally, it withdraws us from evil. Just as the hope of reward urges us to do good, so also the fear of punishment, which we believe is reserved for wicked deeds, keeps us from evil: “But they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.”[6]


There is a fourfold condition of all those who shall take part in the resurrection.

(a) The Identity of the Bodies of the Risen.–It will be the same body as it is now, both as regards its flesh and its bones. Some, indeed, have said that it will not be this same body which is corrupted that shall be raised up; but such view is contrary to the Apostle: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption.”[7] And likewise the Sacred Scripture says that by the power of God this same body shall rise to life: “And I shall be clothed again with my skin; and in my flesh I shall see my God.”[8]

(b) The Incorruptibility of the Risen Bodies.–The bodies of the risen shall be of a different quality from that of the mortal body, because they shall be incorruptible, both of the blessed, who shall be ever in glory, and of the damned, who shall be ever in punishments: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality.”[9] And since the body will be incorruptible and immortal, there will no longer be the use of food or of the marriage relations: “For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married, but shall be as the Angels of God in heaven.”[10] This is directly against the Jews and Mohammedans: “Nor shall he return any more into his house.”[11]

(c) The Integrity of the Risen Bodies.–Both the good and the wicked shall rise with all soundness of body which is natural to man. He will not be blind or deaf or bear any kind of physical defect: “The dead shall rise again incorruptible,”[12] this is to mean, wholly free from the defects of the present life.[13]

(d) The Age of the Risen Bodies.–All will rise in the condition of perfect age, which is of thirty-two or thirty-three years. This is because all who were not yet arrived at this age, did not possess this perfect age, and the old had already lost it. Hence, youths and children will be given what they lack, and what the aged once had will be restored to them: “Until we all attain the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ.”[14]


It must be known that the good will enjoy a special glory because the blessed will have glorified bodies which will be endowed with four gifts.

(a) Brilliance.–“Then shall the just shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”[15]

(b) Impassibility (i.e., Incapability of Receiving Action).–“It is sown in dishonor; it shall rise in glory.” 16 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and death shall be no more. Nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be anymore, for the former things are passed away.”[17]

(c) Agility.–“The just shall shine and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.”[18]

(d) Subtility.–“It is sown a natural body; it shall rise a spiritual body.”[19] This is in the sense of not being altogether a spirit, but that the body will be wholly subject to the spirit.


It must also be known that the condition of the damned will be the exact contrary to that of the blessed. Theirs is the state of eternal punishment, which has a fourfold evil condition. The bodies of the damned will not be brilliant: “Their countenances shall be as faces burnt.” [20] Likewise they shall be passible, because they shall never deteriorate and, although burning eternally in fire, they shall never be consumed: “Their worm shall not die and their fire shall not be quenched.”[21] They will be weighed down, and the soul of the damned will be as it were chained therein: “To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron.”[22] Finally, they will be in a certain manner fleshly both in soul and body: “The beasts have rotted in their dung.”[23]


1. Rom., iv. 24.

2. I Cor., xv. 21. “In this Article the resurrection of mankind is called ‘the resurrection of the body.’ The Apostles had for object thus to convey an important truth, the immortality of the soul. Lest, therefore, contrary to the Sacred Scripturess, which in many places clearly teach the soul to be immortal, any one may imagine that it dies with the body, and denies that both are to be raised up, the Creed speaks only of ‘the resurrection of the body’ ” (“Roman Catechism,” Eleventh Article, 2).

3. I Thess., iv. 12.

4. Heb., ii. 14.

5. I Cor., xv. 19.

6. John, v. 29

7. I Cor., xv. 53.

8. Job, xix. 26. “The identical body which belongs to each one of us during life shall, though corrupt, and dissolved into its original dust, be raised up again to life. . . . Man is, therefore, to rise again in the same body with which he served God, or was a slave to the devil that in the same body he may experience rewards and a crown of victory, or endure the severest punishments and everlasting torments” (“Roman Catechism,” “loc. cit.,” 7).

9. I Cor., xv. 53

10. Matt., xxii. 30.

11. Job. vii. 10. “To omit many other points, the chief difference between the state of all bodies when risen from the dead, and what they had previously been, is that before the resurrection they were subject to dissolution; but when reanimated they shall all, without distinction of good and bad, be invested with immortality. This marvellous restoration of nature is the result of the glorious victory of Christ over death” (“Roman Catechism,” “loc. cit.,” 12).

12. I Cor., xv. 52.

13. “Not only will the body rise, but it will rise endowed with whatever constitutes the reality of its nature and adorns and ornaments man. . . . The members, because essential to the integrity of human nature, shall all be restored. . . . For the resurrection like the creation, is clearly to be accounted among the chief works of God. And as at the creation all things came

perfect from the hand of God, so at the resurrection all things shall be perfectly restored by the same omnipotent hand” (“Roman Catechism,” “loc. cit.,” 9).

14. Eph., iv. 13.

15. Matt., xiii. 43. “This brightness is a sort of refulgence reflected from the supreme happiness of the soul; it is an emanation of the beatitude which it enjoys and which shines through the body. Its communication is like to the manner in which the soul itself is made happy, by a participation of the happiness of God” (“Roman Catechism,” “loc. cit.,” 13).

16. I Cor., xv. 43

17. Apoc., xxi. 4. “The first is ‘impassibility,’ which shall place them beyond the reach of pain or inconvenience of any sort. . . . This quality the Scholastics called ‘impassibility,’ not incorruption, in order to distinguish it as a property peculiar to a glorified body. The bodies of the damned shall not be impassible, though incorruptible; they shall be capable of experiencing heat and cold and of feeling pain.” (“Roman Catechism,” “ibid.”).

18. Wis., iii. 7. “Agility, as it is called, is a quality by which the body shall be freed from the heaviness that now presses it down; and shall acquire a capability of moving with the utmost ease and quickness wheresoever the soul pleases” (“Roman Catechism,” “ibid.”).

19. I Cor., xv. 44. “Another quality is that of subtility, a quality which subjects the body to the absolute dominion of the soul, and to an entire obedience to her control” (“Roman Catechism,” “ibid.”).

20. Isa., xiii. 8.

21. “Ibid., lxvi. 24.

22. Ps. cxlix. 8.

23. Joel, i. 17.


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