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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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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.