Thomas Aquinas on our First and Second Resurrections

Thomas Aquinas surprises us when he teaches that there are two resurrections: The first is Waking Up in this lifetime.  And he implies that if we do this correctly, we don’t have to worry about the second.

Time to wake up! Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Aquinas explains the “first resurrection” this way: “Try to rise spiritually from the soul’s death, brought on by our sins, to that life of justice obtained through penitence: ‘Rise, you who sleep, and rise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten you’ (Eph.5:14).  This is the first resurrection: ‘blessed and holy is one who has part in the first resurrection’ (John 20:6).’”

The first resurrection is about Waking Up.  Being asleep is a kind of death from which we need to rise up and resurrect.  He cites Paul in Romans: “’As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also must walk in newness of life’ (Rom. 6:4).  The new life is the life of justice renewing the soul and leading it to the life of glory.”  

Nurse tending a coronavirus patient, Thailand. Photo by Public Services International on Flickr

A life of justice would be a risen life of awareness of the suffering of the world, of those with coronavirus but also the suffering occurring and soon to be occurring regarding climate change and extinction of species (our own not excluded).  Aquinas invokes the apostle Paul with an image found in Isaiah 60 (1): ‘Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem; for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.  ‘Rise from a neglect of good works, you who sleep.  ‘How long will you sleep, O sluggard?’  (Prov. 6:9)  ‘Shall he that sleep rise again no more?’ (Ps 41:9).” 

We are asleep if we “neglect good works.”  We come awake and resurrect when we participate in good work. 

Giving comfort to the helpless. Photo by Modi Robson on Unsplash.

Says Aquinas: “There is a double resurrection, one of the body, when the soul rejoins body, the other spiritual, when soul reunited to God.  Christ’s bodily resurrection produces both in us—though he himself never rose again spiritually, for he had never been separated from God.”

Our being asleep is being separated from God.  It is also succumbing to acedia, the capital sin we often translate as sloth but that has a far richer meaning that includes depression, despair, passivity, boredom–in short couchpotato-itis.  Aquinas defines acedia as “the lack of energy to begin new things.”  We find it everywhere today, it is a “sign of our times,” and that is why we created a new word for it, namely couchpotato-itis.

Its cure is Waking Up.  When we fall in love with life we live this life fully both as mystics and as prophets.  Then we are awake and risen and have undergone our first Resurrection.  Upon dying, the second resurrection takes care of itself.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, 167-169.

Banner image: Waking up with the sun. Photo by Jan Kaluza on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Aquinas that Waking Up and Resurrection are the same thing?  How are you becoming more awakened in this time of coronavirus and beyond?

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Resurrection Logic: How Jesus’ First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead

Bruce Chilton investigates the Easter event of Jesus in Resurrection Logic. He undertakes his close reading of the New Testament texts without privileging the exact nature of the resurrection, but rather begins by situating his study of the resurrection in the context of Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, and Syrian conceptions of the afterlife. He then identifies Jewish monotheistic affirmations of bodily resurrection in the Second Temple period as the most immediate context for early Christian claims. Chilton surveys first-generation accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and finds a pluriform–and even at times seemingly contradictory–range of testimony from Jesus’ first followers. This diversity, as Chilton demonstrates, prompted early Christianity to interpret the resurrection traditions by means of prophecy and coordinated narrative.

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10 thoughts on “Thomas Aquinas on our First and Second Resurrections”

  1. Avatar

    Love every part of this meditation. Just a caution about the photo of the young woman carrying the child. It could imply that the dominant culture is that which does the caring and the serving.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Maureen,
      Thank you for cautioning us about depicting the dominant culture as the caretaker when we know caretaking is a universal instinct. When I saw the photo, I felt two things. First, I felt gratitude to the young woman for giving of herself to restore the balance of regard and care between our dominating culture and the people of other cultures. Secondly, the babe in her arms reminded me of my granddaughter with a love that easily crossed the cultural divide. I know from experiences, that any balance of regard and care came as artfully from the little one as from the young adult. I could swear these babies know that we need to pure love they have to offer.

      There are so many layers to all of this. Thank you for introducing this conversations to the Daily Meditations Comment community.

      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar

    I can’t find this verse in John Chapter 20: “blessed and holy is one who has part in the first resurrection.” Is it just the chapter and verse that’s wrong? I do find it in Revelation 20:6.

    1. Avatar

      You are right, Michele. Thank you for making that correction. The citation is from Revel. 20:6, not from John. Perhaps there was a mix up twixt John’s gospel and John the supposed author of Revelations.

  3. Avatar

    i wonder at times what our world would look like if we focused on the ascension more as a christian symbol…..rather than the death and the cross

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      You raise an interesting point, Paul. The traditional sign, is the sign of the cross. Matthew has suggested the sign of the spiral to signify the open tomb. Another commenter says she uses a circle to represent unity with the Cosmos. I wonder what gesture you might suggest for the Ascension. Your point is well taken that the ascension signifies a spiritual crossing over to continued life and could well be considered the point of resurrection, depending on whether we believe we are resurrected to this earthly life, or to life in the spiritual realm?
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  4. Avatar

    Being a mystic is waking up, and being a prophet is showing up as spiritual maturity proceeds beyond cleaning up and growing up. Richard Rohr often quotes this progression, but I cannot recall the original author.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Sue,
      Thank you for this clever and clear description of this progression of ”ups”. Waking up. Showing up. Cleaning up. Growing up. I find it right on and easy to remember. Thanks for sharing.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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