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Τετάρτη, 23 Μαΐου 2018

THE NATURE OF THE RESUR-RECTED STATE:



THE NATURE OF THE RESUR-RECTED STATE:
Source: “Marriage and Virginity according to St. John Chrysostom, ” by Archpriest Josiah B. Trenham, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (2013), pp. 233-242



The Continuity of the Resurrected State


If the Resurrection of Christ Himself is the main clue to discerning the nature of glorified humanity, what conclusion about that future state can we draw from Christ’s Resurrection? Much of St. John’s teaching on the future resurrected body occurs in his commentary on chapter 15 of St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. St. John devoted five extended homilies to expounding the Holy Apostle’s teaching in this chapter. In these homilies St. John labored to emphasize the reality that the resurrected body maintains both a  continuity with our present fallen bodies and a discontinuity. The Resurrection is a transfiguration of our earthly and mortal bodies, not an  eradication thereof nor an entirely new creation.


St. John’s whole approach to explaining the nature of the resurrected body is a careful theological exposition designed to avoid two heretical poles that plagued the early Christian communities. On the one hand, Chrysostom sought to distance himself from a Gnostic conception of the resurrected state. It was widely believed that the influential Origen had taught that the spiritual body vouchsafed to mankind in the coming Kingdom was entirely immaterial and was not the continuation of the earthly body in a transfigured state. Origen taught that the original embodiment of man took place as a result of the fall of pure souls. The body is thus thought to be given for the perfection of the soul. Once the body has accomplished its purpose and the soul is perfected, there no longer remains a need for this material body at all. What Origen actually taught concerning this matter is not at all clear.





This theology of Origen is expressed in his interpretation of the “garments of skin” given to Adam and Eve as bodies themselves. This interpretation was not accepted by the Fathers of the Church and Origen found a vigorous opponent and instrument of censure in St. Methodius of Olympus. In his On the Resurrection, St. Methodius attacked many aspects of the original Origenism. The hierarch of Olympus opens his discourse on the Resurrection by stating: “Now the question has already been raised, and answered that the ‘garments of skin’ are not bodies. Nevertheless, let us speak of it again, for it is not enough to have mentioned it once.” Chrysostom demonstrates in his homilies his profound awareness of the diverse heretical teachings surrounding notions of the resurrected body. Commenting on St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, where is found the verse For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan ... not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would lie clothed upon (2 Cor 5:4), Chrysostom says: “Here again he has utterly and manifestly stopped the mouths of the heretics, showing that he is not speaking absolutely of a body differing in identity, but of corruption and incorruption.”


In articulating an Orthodox position on the subject, Chrysostom relied heavily upon St. Methodius of Olympus. In a number of homilies touching on the Resurrection, St. John frequently quotes verbatim or near verbatim from St. Methodius. The human essence remains the same in the Resurrection, but the attributes are changed. Human nature remains human nature in the Resurrection.


On the other hand, Chrysostom in his teaching on the future resurrected state labored against a Jewish conception, which conceived of a sensual heaven and Resurrection. For Chrysostom, the next life is not simply a continuation of this life without its unfortunate negatives such as sickness, pain, and sorrow. Instead, it will encompass another mode of life altogether: “In the kingdom there will be no more marriage, no more labor pains, or pleasure or intercourse, or plenty of money, or management of possessions, food or clothing, or agriculture and sailing, or arts and architecture, or cities or houses, but some other condition and way of life. All these things will pass away.”


The continuity of the resurrected body with the earthly body is demonstrated in the Resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ. In these appearances Jesus clearly bears the nail prints from His Crucifixion. This reality served to prove that the resurrected body of Jesus was the very same body that was crucified.



Chrysostom notes that the heretical teaching of radical discontinuity between the resurrected body and the fallen earthly body is also untenable since St. Paul says we want not to take off the body but to put on the heavenly body and to have the mortal swallowed up by life (cf. 2 Cor 5:4). If God leaves the original body in the grave and creates another new body, then corruption is not swallowed up by life, but remains with the old body. In this case there would be no victory over death. And again, in another place (in his Homilies on First Corinthians, no. 39), St. John says: “The nature that was cast down must itself also gain the victory.



The Discontinuity of the Resurrected State


While St. John labors the importance of the continuin' of the resurrected body with our present fallen bodies, he does not fail to elucidate the great transformation  that shall take place. Our future bodies are the same an 1 not the Com¬menting on 1 Cor 15:37-38 (...and that which thou sourr. thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain it may  chance of wheat, or of some other grain; but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body...), Chrysostom teaches that the sameness is a sameness of essence, but that essence will be more glorious, beautiful, and improved. God would not destroy and raise our bodies if He did not intend to raise them better and more glorious. The future body possesses a great superiority over our present one. That body is as superior to this one as the heavenly is to the earthly, and as a permanent house is to a temporary tabernacle. The habitation which is from heaven (2 Cor. 5:2) is the incorruptible body. At the heart of this discontinuity and greater glory is the body’s reception of imperishability and immortality.


In this glorified condition, resurrected man will throw off earthly gifts such as prophecy and tongues, gifts given by God for earthly effect, and the atmosphere of mankind in the next life will be one of intense love comparable to nothing on this earth. “For here, there are many things that weaken our love; wealth, business, passions of the body, disorders of the soul; but there, none of these." Again commenting on the next life, 


St. John states that grief, concern, desire, stumbling, anger, lust for possessions, poverty, wealth, and dishonor will not exist, but “everything will be joy, everything peace, everything love, everything happiness, everything that is true, unalloyed and stable."
When he speaks about man’s knowledge, Chrysostom speaks of resurrected man in a manner reminiscent of Adam in the Garden. 


Commenting on the teaching of St. Paul that, when that which is perfect is come... knowledge shall vanish away (1 Cor 13:10, 8), St John explains: “What then? Are we to live in ignorance? Far from it. Nay, then especially it is probable that our knowledge is made intense. Wherefore also he said, Then shall I know, even as I also am known (1 Cor 13:12) ... It is not therefore knowledge that is done away with, but the circumstance that our knowledge is in part. For we shall know not only as much, but even a great deal mote.”


Contrary to the teaching of the Anomoean heretics, who filled Chrysostom’s church when he began his public preaching as a priest, this passage does not teach that man can or will ever see and know God’s essence. [The Anomoeans were a sect that upheld an extreme form of Arianism, that Jesus Christ was not of the same nature (consubstantial) as God the Father nor was of like nature [homoiousian), Ed.].


“Where are those who say they have attained and possess the fullness of knowledge? The fact is that they have really fallen into the deepest ignorance... I urge you, then, to flee from the madness of these men. They are obstinately striving to know what God is in His essence ... the prophets know neither His essence nor His wisdom, and His wisdom comes from His essence... Let us, therefore, listen to the angels so that you may know—and know abundantly—that  not even in heaven does any created power know God in His essence.”


Glorified man will perceive God as do the angels, who have to cover their eyes and who behold not the essence of God itself but a fitting condescension. When St. John the Theologian writes that no one has ever seen God, this means that no one has ever had or ever will have an exact grasp  or perfect comprehension of God.


To illustrate the fundamental ontological distance between God and man, Chrysostom puts before his listeners the question: “For what distance do you suppose there is be-tween God and man? As great as between men and worms? Or as great as between angels and worms? But when 1 have mentioned a distance even thus great, I have not at all ex-pressed it.”


To express the real distance between God and man is, in fact, impossible. Driving home his point, Chrysostom asks his hearers if they would be at all interested in having a great reputation among worms! If humans, who love glory in their pride, are not interested in the praise of worms, how much less is God, Who is far above the passion of pride, in need of or interested in any human praise. Only in His great condescension toward man does God say that He desires man’s praise, and this is solely to promote man’s salvation. This teaching on the unknowability of God’s essence should not disturb any reasonable person, for it is clear that we humans do not even know our own essences, let alone God’s!...


Though not seeing God’s essence, resurrected man will perceive all things with greater clarity  and perspicuity . So great will be the advancement and transformation of human perception that it can only be compared to the difference between a child and an adult, or between seeing darkly through a glass versus seeing face to face. To illustrate the nature of this immersing clarity, St. John uses the development of sacred rites in redemptive history. Examining the Holy Passover, Chrysostom shows that the Jews celebrated their rite “as in a mirror and darkly They could not see Christ clearly in the slaughtered lamb, in the Sprinkled blood, and in the door posts.



These Old Testament sacramental types became clear when the antitype appeared. The same will occur at the Resurrection. In this light the future state of man, as radical an alteration as it is, is nevertheless a natural process of increasing clarity. Not being capable of beholding the essence of God does not mean that glorified man will not see God. Glorified man will not only see God, but he will gaze intently upon Him and in perfect silence will continually commune with Him. These realities, in fact, are what constitute the unspeakable pleasure of heaven.

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