My Particular Body and My Peculiar Soul – My Immortality

The soul is what animates the body, bringing it to life – and my soul, as a human being, is the breath of God.[1] If my soul is of God, is of spirit, then it has no beginning and no end. Eternal. Immortal. For spirit cannot be reduced to parts.[2] Spirit is not finite. However, I can neither say that I, as the human person that I am, had no beginning nor that I am infinite. This is because I am of flesh and spirit, body and soul united as one human person. My spiritual soul animates my material body – and my material body affects my spiritual soul.

What makes my soul my soul?

In contemplating the human body this month, thoughts have come to me that, although the gifts of intellect, memory/imagination, and freewill are “products”, if you will, of my spiritual soul, they only take on unique qualities peculiar to me through my bodily living.

I’m thinking that, maybe, it’s kind of like this: imagine Spirit (that which is nonmaterial, infinite, eternal, divine) as an endless substance that is absolutely everywhere. When I, as an individual member of the Homo sapiens species, first came into being (at the moment of my conception, when the genetic material from my mother and my father combined and began to live, cells multiplying, a singular organism developing and growing) I was immediately a combination of matter and spirit, a unique human person. My body was in zygotic, and later embryonic, then fetal, infantile, juvenile, adolescent, and adult, form and, no matter where my body was or is in geographical location, spirit animates my body.

God, who is Spirit Itself, does not change with the changes of my body – for God is immutable. But, somehow, someway, through the mysterious workings of God, the spirit that animates my body is affected by the life that I live through my body. My intellect is informed through my body and my freewill acts through my body and, mysteriously, my bodily experiences and choices give a unique kind of energy to the spirit that brings me to life: my soul.

The Afterlife

This affected kind of energy is not infinite like spirit, but rather finite, like flesh – that is, it is not always and everywhere. But, because this unique impression, coloring, flavor, or imprinted energy, if you will, is upon spirit, grounded in spirit, it will not die. When the body dies (and the body, being of matter, must die) this particular “shade” of spirit, my soul, will continue to live eternally. (What choices I make will determine how that eternal life is lived… but, more on that later.) As a Christian, I believe that, by the power, grace, and mercy of God, my soul will be allowed to reanimate my body in the Resurrection at the End of Days, through Christ my Savior – though it will no longer be my body as it is now, living materially on earth, but, rather, my body glorified… given immortality in the New Heavens and the New Earth, in the life of the world to come. A profound Mystery.

Well, these are my thoughts, anyway, rather roughly laid out. But, I wanted to share them, hoping that others may have further and/or better insight that they will share with me as I continue to explore. What do you think?

© 2014 Christina Chase

[1] Genesis 2:7

[2] as taught by St. Thomas Aquinas

In the Cloud of Glory a Portal Opens

Mary Series: Part 2 (continued from A Stranger Appears… )

        First troubled with wonder and puzzlement, then sincerely trusting and deeply curious, a young woman’s response to a strange visitor is about to change the world. Of all the human beings to be conceived in all of time, she is the single one chosen for the single most earth-shattering – and earth-redeeming – mission to be given to a creature born of woman and man. The divine message has been revealed to Mary, kneeling on the earthen floor of her childhood home, her hands lying still on her lap, bits of bread dough on her fingers, that she will conceive and bear a son whose kingdom will have no end: the Messiah, the Chosen One of God. Mary wants to know how she, as a virgin, will become pregnant – not because she is doubtful, but because she has faith in God’s word. She just wants to know, in simple and beautiful human curiosity, how it is going to happen. Mary’s angelic visitor, Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, does not punish Mary for asking such an honest and faithful question. Her innocence is rewarded with an answer.

        To Mary, the angel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Finished speaking, the angel waits for Mary’s response.

        Thoughts blow through Mary’s practical mind like clouds are borne across the May sky.  So, Joseph will not be the father – but, will he know? Will an angel tell him of the pregnancy so that he will not be alarmed and hurt when her body begins to swell with the child? Or will the origin of the child be kept as secret as it is mysterious and, so, she be accused of the adulterous betrayal of her betrothed, the punishment for which is death by stoning? …Son of God… And hear: Elizabeth’s long prayed for baby is given to her – wondrous news from Almighty God!  The thought vapors of Mary’s mind do not gather and darken in storm but, rather, are dissipated by the constant current of Mary’s will, enabling the light to shine clearly.

        For with God nothing will be impossible.

        Mary, ever faithful to first love purely given to her in the spark of her life, believes. She has been told that it is Divine Will for her to bear the Son of God, who shall be conceived in her womb by the power of God overshadowing her. Whatever human interference may try to thwart the plan of Providence, Mary is willing to place herself in God’s hands. No matter the earthly consequences, the cost or risk to her personal life, Mary wills not to be deceived. For, she knows that life itself is the gratuitous gift of Eternal Being – gift created by, with, and for, love. And she knows who she is – all that she has been and all she ever will be – the eternal servant of love. It is because of her great love that Mary will refuse God nothing. She is entirely willing to give all of herself away… to be the poorest of the poor, the lowest of the low, an empty vessel to be filled with God’s incarnate love.
Mary knows exactly who she is and she wills never to forget.

        Never has a human being been more free than Mary is in this moment. Unfettered, unchained, unbound is she by any self-centered concern that is but folly to one who experiences true freedom. Created in the divine image and likeness, Mary most perfectly reflects the divine power of freewill and intellect and imagination in the clarity of her mind, body, heart, and soul, here and now. God wills her total freedom. She must choose. All Creation, the natural and the supernatural, suspends.

        Holding back nothing, with clear eyes, light breath, tender mouth, and her palms upturned, Mary raises her heart to the messenger of Divinity, thus lifted up while still on her knees on the earthen floor. “Behold,” she says simply and wholeheartedly, spreading her arms open wide, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

        Thus, in pure, free abandonment, Mary completely gives over her person and her life to God, so that God may do with her whatsoever He wills. At the sounding of her last syllables, your word, the angel of the Lord bows down low before Mary and then departs from her, as a lamp light departs with the rising of the sun.

        In the sleepy village of Nazareth, a mist is forming, laden with the fragrance of lilies and roses. Some see it merely as steam rising from cooking pots and others as smoke from the trash burning fire. The mist is rolling sweetly and with greater intensity around the home of the virgin named Mary. Within, Mary quietly, with the utmost peace in all her mind, heart, and body, every limb, continues the making of the day’s bread. As the mist enters like a cloud through the open door, the woman presses her small hands deeply into the dough and exhales, hushed, consumed by love.

* * *

        All cruelty cease in this moment, all pride vanish on earth, for what has begun with the free assent of a human being to God – Restoration to Paradise begins its rush into the world! A modest child thinks not of herself, but only of the Holy Other and, purely giving herself away, allows a portal to be opened through which God Godself enters mortality by assuming human nature.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters “…the Power of the Most High will overshadow you…” “There I will meet with you… I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat” …the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. … And the Word became flesh… in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily….

        Glory to God in the Highest! Thy Shekinah glory…

        Yes, let there be, in this fraction of a moment in the Eternal Now, not one act of tyranny nor deception nor apathy among mortals – for Truth Itself, Love Itself, is willingly taking on human flesh in utter humility, and thereby sanctifying us all. Oh, glorious heartbeat across the blue and green earth that, in this moment when time was pierced and space was torn, beat with remembered purity and freedom, when human will was married with the will of the Divine and Divine Incarnate fruit takes form! …Yet… only for that gleam of a moment, only for one quick beat of the heart, and then, humans, unaware of the actual living presence of their Savior in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, unaware of the Kingdom of God quickening, return to their forgetfulness, neglectfulness, resuming their fallen, self-centered ways, all…

        …But for Mary…

   Christina Chase

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 Scripture quotes in italics  taken from John 1:1, Genesis 1:2, Luke 1:35, Exodus 25:22, Leviticus 16:2, Exodus 40:34, John 1:14, Philippians 2:7-8

Does God Damn?

If God is all-loving and all-merciful, then why does God condemn souls to Hell to burn for all eternity?  I mean, I can think of some really terrible people that I might like to see punished with hellfire – but, I’m not God.  And the Gospel says, “God is love.”  So, why does a place like Hell even exist?  Yes, I understand the concept of freewill – God gives us freewill and will not go against that gift.  This means that we can choose to turn away from love, turn away from goodness, turn away from God, and our choices inherently have consequences.  But wouldn’t a loving God make the consequence of turning deliberately and permanently away from Him a kind of nothingness place, just some sort of blah?  Wouldn’t that be more merciful?

I was reading the novel Crazy, by William Peter Blatty (writer of the exorcist) and I came across a thought that puts an interesting spin on our understanding of the afterlife – of Heaven and Hell.  These lines are addressed to the protagonist:

“Maybe heaven and hell are the same place, Joey.  If it were a restaurant and everything they served had lots of garlic, if you love the taste of garlic it’s heaven, but if garlic makes you vomit it’s hell.  Life is learning to develop a taste for what heaven’s got to offer, and then growing that taste to the max.  You know, ‘soul formation’?”

Odd, but I like it.  It’s an imaginative and vivid portrayal of the prayer, “Teach me to judge wisely the things of earth and to love the things of Heaven.”  In our daily earthly lives, we are preparing our souls to live completely and eternally in the pure presence of God.  When we do not judge wisely the things of earth and indulge in a steady diet of self-centeredness, greed, lust and pride, we fail to develop a taste for God’s love, for Heaven, and, so it could be said, we rather develop a taste for Hell.  If, however, we do judge wisely and we feed our souls a steady diet of God-centeredness, of love, compassion, forgiveness and generosity, feasting on goodness and the holy and terrible beauty of God’s Creation, then we develop a taste for Heaven.

Now, I suppose that God could have made the afterlife something palatable to everyone – but, even the smell of baking bread isn’t loved by all, because some people pick up the scent of yeast or the source of heat and turn their noses away.  So, the eternal aroma would have to be a bit bland and rather indistinct, not something that, upon entering, causes me to exclaim, “Oh, my God, that smells SOOOO good!!!  And the divine fragrance must be all-consuming, searing into me – transforming me.  The question is will I be delighted by the transformation… or find my eternal soul repugnant?

God lays out the Heavenly banquet before us, here and now.  God does not force-feed us, but rather invites us to the table.  So, if I believe in the afterlife, then I need to seriously consider what I am feeding my soul…

I’m interested in what other people think about Hell, as it’s something that I usually don’t think about.  What are your thoughts?  Does God do the damning or do we damn ourselves?  Does Hell even exist?

Christina Chase