THE HAPPINESS OF HEAVEN.
BY REV. F. J. BOUDREAUX, S. J.
CHAPTER VII. THE IMPASSIBILITY AND IMMORTALITY OF THE RISEN BODY.
BESIDES the attributes which im mediately flow from the fact that our animal bodies will rise spiritualized, there are two more qualities, which we shall now consider ; namely, the impassibility and immortality of our risen bodies.
1. Impassibility implies the total loss of the power of suffering. What an enormous capacity we have for suffering ! The power of receiving pleasure through our senses is only as a drop in the ocean,when compared with our manifold capacities for suffering, in every faculty of the soul, in every organ, member, and nerve of our frame. Every one of them is susceptible of tortures, which, while endured, make the enjoyment of life and its pleasures impossible. A violent headache or a burning fever drives a man almost to distraction, and destroys any pleasure he might otherwise experience. What consolation, therefore, to think that this body of suffering shall rise impassible ! No more disease ; no more pain or pang ; no more suffering either of mind or body; for we shall enter a new world from which suffering is for ever banished. St. John had a glimpse of this new world, when he said : “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
For the first heaven and the first earth were gone. . . . And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying : Behold, the tabernacle of God with men, and He shall dwell with them. . . . And
God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes : and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.” (Apoc. xxi)
It was the thought of rising in glory, with a body free from suffering, that gave comfort to the holy man Job when the storm of adversity had burst upon him. Listen to his beautiful words :
“I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day, I shall rise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God. Whom I myself shall see, and not another. This my hope is laid up in my bosom.” (Job xix. 25.) Lay up that hope in your bosom as he did, and when the storm of adversity bursts upon you, the thought of rising in a glorified, impassible body, and in a new world, will give you patience and resignation.
But rising with the gift of impassibility does not mean that our bodies will be unfeeling as marble statues. It only means that they shall be free from the power of suffering; but that does not exclude the power of receiving pleasure. Glory does not destroy nature, but perfects it. The bodies of the blessed will remain sensible to impressions from suitable objects, and, according to St. Thomas, the Blessed will use their senses for enjoyment in all that is not repugnant to a state of incorruption:
“. . . . Et corpus igitur perfectum per animam proportionabiliter animse, immune erit ab omni malo, et quantum ad actum, et quantum ad potentiam : quantum ad actum quidem, quia nulla erit in eis corruptio, nulla deformitas, nullus defectus: quantum ad potentiam vero, quia non poterunt aliquid pati quod sit eis molestum, et propter hoc impassibilia erunt; quae tamen impassibilitas non excludit ab eis passionem quae est de ratione sensus ; utentur enim sensibus ad delectationem secundum ilia quae statui incorruptionir non repugnant. ”
S. Thom., Cont. gent., lib. 4. c, 86.
2. We now come to consider the crowning glory of all the glorious supernatural attributes wherewith God will clothe our bodies on the last day. I say it is the crowning glory. For the splendor of form, the vigor of youth, and the complete perfection of our human nature which are all included in the promise of rising comformable to the glorified body of Jesus Christ would scarcely be worth work ing for or possessing, unless they were accompanied with the promise of incorruptibility. Indeed, of what use would be the rising with the bloom of youth and health on our cheek, and in perfect beauty of form, if time could again destroy them as in this world! But there is no danger that the destroyer will ever enter our heavenly home. Listen to St. Paul. Speaking again of the body, he says : ” It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption.” (1 Cor. xv. 42)
Our bodies, as now constituted, are corruptible by their very nature. The elements of matter which compose them are held together by the laws of life, and not by their natural affinities. Hence, from the very first moment of our existence to our death, there is a continual struggle between the laws of life and those that govern inorganic matter. For a time, vigorous young life claims the supremacy, and the body grows to its degree of beauty and strength attainable in this world. But full soon the laws of decay and corruption begin to assert their empire. Beauty of feature and form gradually fade away; elasticity of limb gives way to the decrepitude of old age, and finally the whole frame becomes a burden under which nature groans and totters, until it falls into the gloomy grave, where corruption destroys every remaining vestige of beauty, and even of the human form. On the resurrection day, we not only shall rise in splendor and perfection of form, but we shall also be transferred to another world, whose laws are in perfect harmony with the laws of life, and into which corruption shall never enter.
In the present world, we already see things which, as far as we know nature’s laws, are incorruptible. The diamond, for instance, is the most incorruptible of all known substances; and unless the now existing laws of nature should change, the splendid Koh-i-noor and other diamonds will glitter as brilliantly as they now do, when the angel sounds the trumpet to announce to the world that time shall be no more. These beautiful gems are therefore a faint image of our glorified bodies, which shall not only rise in perfection of form, but shall also be totally incorruptible. They shall for ever be beyond the reach of death, decay, or corruption, resplendent in themselves, and increasing the very beauty of heaven, as sparkling gems enhance the beauty of a royal crown.
Yes, this vile and corruptible body must be changed into an incorruptible one. It must rise like the body of Jesus Christ, who, ” rising again from the dead, dieth no more ; death shall no more have dominion over Him.” (Rom. vi. 9.) According to the beautiful and forcible words of the Apostle : ” This corruptible must put on incorruption ; and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on im mortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written : Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory ? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor. xv. 63.)
These, then, are some of the supernatural gifts wherewith God will clothe the bodies of the just on the last day. They are so great in themselves, that it would almost seem they should be worth working for, even if there were no Beatific Vision. Yet, if taken separately, they are, so to speak, the mere external ornaments and finish of the happiness which heart of man cannot
conceive. These glorious attributes of the risen body perfect and complete the happiness of man. As the soul and body reunited in glory form one human creature, so the happiness of the soul and body is one. After the resurrection, the beatitude of heaven can no longer be divided into the happiness of the soul in the Beatific Vision, and then the pleasures of the body through the glorified senses, as if there were two distinct beatitudes, or as if the soul and body were two distinct individuals. Whatever happiness comes from the union of the soul with God in the Beatific Vision, and whatever pleasures may reach the soul through the glorified senses, or from our communion with the saints, or the contemplation of the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other saints, it is all one happiness enjoyed by our human nature, which is one.