An Explanation of the Apostle’s Creed – Eleventh Article of the Creed

“The resurrection of the body.”

All Men will Rise Again

But a short period of time is allotted for man to live on this earth. The hour comes speedily when his course is ended, and he is obliged to leave here and to appear before the judgment-seat of God, there to render an account of his stewardship and to hear his sentence. Man must die. Such is the curse that broods over us all, for in Adam all have sinned. “By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all.” (Romans 5:12)

When the solemn hour of departure arrives, the bonds that bound body and soul together through life are rent asunder; then will “the dust return into its earth, from whence it was, and the spirit return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) The body decomposes, the soul appears before its Judge. Man has hardly closed his eyes in death when his soul is either happy or unhappy.

But man is not to be a pure spirit like the angels; he is man, and as man is destined, with body and soul, to be either happy or damned. Hence at the end of all time, at the general resurrection, the soul will be reunited with the body, and then, for the first time, will he be, in his entirety, perfectly happy or completely unhappy. When Our Saviour says, “The hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that have done good things, shall come forth to the resurrection of life: but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28,29), He speaks only of the resurrection of the bodies, for the souls are not buried in the ground. This is plainly the resurrection of the flesh, a resurrection that is neither unnatural nor impossible. It is natural and reasonable that our bodies should be punished or rewarded, for the body is the agent of the soul for evil or for good. Saint Paul says emphatically, “We must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) As man has done right or wrong in the flesh he shall receive retribution in the same.

The resurrection of the body must take place, in order that Christ the Lord may make manifest His kingdom and dominion over all powers. He has taken away sin and crushed the head of the serpent; He has triumphed over the devil and conquered the forces of hell. In like manner must He conquer death, and as conqueror of death and of the grave, show on the last day that death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55,56)

These resurrected bodies will not be new bodies. No, they will be the same bodies in which we lived, worked, sinned, or strove against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and came off victorious. True, these bodies of ours fall to pieces and may be scattered in dust all over the earth, but they will not be annihilated entirely, for the Lord who created them will gather their parts together, and restore them again to individual existence and animation. Would this be a greater miracle for the almighty God – namely, to restore life – than to create it, as He did when He vivified and animated the “slime of the earth” at creation? Does He not, at every hour, at every instant, renew the great miracle of giving existence to countless bodies for which He creates as many immortal souls? The almighty God who takes away life can restore it again. He created man, and if He withdraw His divine breath man dies. Why, then, could He not restore that breath and that life? The last miracle is no greater than the first; with God all things are possible and nothing is impossible.

Only the Good shall Rise Glorious

So our bodies shall rise again, the bodies of the good as well as of the wicked. But there shall be as vast a difference in the condition of these bodies as in the condition of the souls. As every soul, at the very moment of its appearance before God in Particular Judgment after death, is at once justified and vindicated or condemned, so the body of that soul, at the moment of its resurrection from the grave for General Judgment, shall assume the signs and marks of its eternal destiny. The bodies of the godless will be indeed in a deplorable condition, while the bodies of the just will arise immortal and incorruptible, all beaming with supernatural beauty, capable of enjoying eternal happiness. The bodies of the wicked will arise immortal and indestructible indeed, but they will be branded with the stigma of sin and the sign of eternal perdition.

They will be dreadful to the sight, their external appearance forming a complete picture of the unhappy, lost, and damned soul. They will be handed over to the devil and to the pains of hell, while the glorified bodies of the saints will enter into the eternal glory of the Lord. In a word, the wicked, as far as their bodies are concerned, will resemble the devil. As to the bodies of the elect: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . will reform the body of our lowness made like to the body of His glory, according to the operation whereby also He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.” (Philippians 3:21) Such is the grand reward awaiting the children of God.

The human body, therefore, is a veritable sanctuary. Like the soul it is destined to share in God’s happiness. It has been sanctified in holy baptism, anointed with the consecrated oil, and even with the sacred chrism, and made the dwelling-place of the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Hence the Church treats our bodies with the greatest respect, wishing, with the Apostle, that we should honor God in these bodies. Hence it is a grievous sin to prostitute our members to the wickedness which shall certainly be made manifest at the resurrection. For the members that have sinned shall be deformed, having been the instruments of the devil.

The Church, too, shows respect to our bodies even after death. She sprinkles them with holy water in order to purify them from all stain of human infirmity. She consecrates the ground in which they are to rest, she blesses the grave-mound that covers them. Such is her tender solicitude for our bodies. Do not, then, become the destroyer of your body’s future happiness: the destiny of your soul is identical with that body of yours. Sanctify it, that both it and your soul may be prepared one day to enter into the ranks of God’s saints in heaven.

Difference between the Good and the Wicked at the Resurrection

“The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.” (Wisdom 3:7)

“And many of these that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some unto life everlasting and others unto reproach, to see it always. But they that are learned shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that instruct many to justice as stars to all eternity.” (Daniel 12:2,3)

“We shall all indeed rise again, but we shall not all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51)

The Glory of the Body after Death

In several instances the glorified and impassible bodies of God’s faithful servants were made manifest soon after death. This was the case with Saint Lidwina and Saint Francis Assisi.

Saint Lidwina was born in Schiedam, in Holland, on Palm Sunday, the 18th of March, 1380, at the very time that the Passion was being sung at High Mass in the church. This coincidence seemed significant of the afflictions she was to suffer throughout life. Her sufferings began in her infancy. She was trained up in a life of piety by her parents, to whose wishes she conformed constantly in all things. On account of her sweet disposition and extraordinary beauty her hand was sought in marriage when she was quite young. Rejecting all such offers she begged God to deprive her of her personal attractions. Her prayer was heard, for at the age of eighteen she slipped on the ice, and falling on a heap of frozen snow, broke one of her ribs, an accident that brought on a bodily infirmity which lasted all her life. For thirty-eight years the saint bore her excruciating pains with admirable patience, and even cheerfulness. In the beginning of her sickness an ulcer made its appearance that defied all the efforts of the physicians to heal it, and weakened her to such a degree that her death seemed imminent. She rallied somewhat, yet was powerless to move without help, and it was only by the most careful efforts that her friends could carry her to the church to receive holy communion. Three years later she became so debilitated that she could not leave her bed, and for the twenty-three years following she never put her feet on the ground. In the early part of her illness she was able to partake of a little bread and buttermilk, but for nineteen years afterward she took no food. For seventeen years she lay on her back with just strength enough to move her head and rest it for a few moments on her arm. She continued to lose much blood, while worms generated in her wounds. Nineteen years before her death she was attacked with dropsy, and during all that length of weary years she knew neither food, drink, nor sleep. Hemorrhages, headaches, toothaches and other distressing ailments became familiar to her. Poverty was added to her other misfortunes. She had to forego her poor straw mattress and lie on bare boards even in the coldest weather. At last, on the 14th of April, 1433, she yielded her patient soul into the hands of her Creator and, as she desired, utterly alone and neglected.

After her death, unbounded was the astonishment of the neighbors who approached her coffin. All traces of her disorders had disappeared; her countenance was fair and fresh as a lily; her whole body appeared young and strong, and emitted a peculiar brightness that fairly dazzled the spectators.

When Saint Francis of Assisi had died all his bodily defects disappeared. The wrinkles of age were smoothed out and in appearance he looked young and healthy. In fact it was hard to believe that he was really dead.