Matter and resurrection

If the question is What difference does the life and death of Christ make to your life? the overwhelming response of believing Christians is now we can go to heaven. The response is true up to a point, but one hits that point as soon as he raises the question of the resurrection. Christ could “open the gates of heaven” just fine while remaining dead – After all, the saints don’t need to resurrect to go to heaven, and if some saint came back to life we’d take it as proof that he wasn’t there.

So why was it never possible to center Christianity around the bones of Christ? As a Catholic I’m as sure that St. Thomas is in heaven as that I’ve kissed the relic of his femur at Sopra Minerva, but this could never have been a devotion to Christ. Why not?

As animated by the human soul and making the human species, matter is not just a source of repeated generations but of history. History is the plurality and procession of different eras and so no single species other than humans is a history. Lion behavior now is what it has ever been and ever will be until they go extinct, but because human behavior realizes the transcendental and infinite good within finite limits it must diversify both in time through different eras and through space in different cultures, nations, empires and tribes.

The Christian story begins with a catastrophe that renders us unable to realize the transcendental good within time or space in a way that preserves its purity. What later gets called original sin is this wound within the matter precisely as animated by soul and therefore as giving rise not just to time but to history. We continue attempting to realize the transcendental good in diverse ways – this is the definition of “free will” – but the realizations culminate in funhouse-mirror distortions of the face of God. This is the problem that Christ comes to correct, and so it requires a redemption of matter as subject to the human soul. Being “without original sin” belongs first to Christ, but  Christ has this characteristic as generated, and so from the same foundation that gives rise to the natural piety by which he extends this gift to Mary.

It is therefore through the matter of Christ and his Mother that humanity has a second history simultaneously within the history of material affected by original sin while in another sense outside of it. As affected by sin material is destined to extinction, and the corpses we leave by death are, even now, citizens of that extinct species.  The resurrection of Christ and the dormition of his mother are the first fruits of a new citizenship and the fount of a second history, and the power of Christ necessarily extends to and is lived out by the salvation of matter, i.e. by sacramental presence.

From this perspective even the relics of the saints can’t be viewed simply as corpses but as somehow charged with the energy that overcomes death. Saintly action literally redeems the time by the action of soul transferring resurrection power to sin-affected matter: not just to the body of the saint (the “first class relic”) but to all that enters the aura of his life.

 

 

 

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