A woman in childbirth

More than half humanity has no idea what it feels like to give birth to a child. They can only try to imagine. But even that half can enter into what it must be like when the suffering is over and there is ‘joy that a human being has been born into the world’ (John 16:21).

The new life is centred in a new body and that little being becomes the focus of the family for days and months to come. The mother is preoccupied with caring for this new life, and it is the new body that she has to deal with. She is not too much bothered about the spirit or soul of this new baby, although she knows he or she is spirit and ‘has’ a soul as well as body. What we see in a new person – or any person – is first of all their body. The Olympics should remind us of that. And yet many philosophers and religions have down played the body, holding that what is really important is the spirit or the soul. Well, we would look a bit funny if we were just soul. Christianity has held from the beginning that when we rise we will rise ‘in the body.’ While many at the time were dismissing the body as a piece of unfortunate debris, one of the earliest statements of the faith, the Apostles’ Creed, insisted on ‘the resurrection of the body.’

My diary, besides mentioning Mothers’ Day and Independence Day, has for August 15th Assumption Day. It recalls the day in the fifth century when a church was built in Jerusalem in honour of the ‘Assumption of the glorious Mother of God.’ It had taken four centuries to accept this amazing title: since Mary was the mother of Jesus and Jesus had been solemnly declared by the Council of Nicea (325) as ‘of one being’ with the Father, that is, God, then Mary was quite simply the ‘Mother of God.’ The assumption logically followed. It stated that her body, which had literally been the physical dwelling place of the divine for nine months, shared in the dignity of who she was and when she rose after her death she rose ‘in the body.’

This is not just some crazy belief of the church. This is an optimistic statement about the destiny of humanity. All that we are, all that we have done so far, will be taken up (assumed) into the new humanity that we aspire to. We may be spirit and soul, but it is through the body that we act and relate. What is more, we will need our bodies in the new life we will enter sooner or later. It will, of course, be a resurrected body and Paul tells us we haven’t a clue what this means (I Cor.2:9). But it will be a body, my body.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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