His, Body and Soul - Volume 1

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As theologians, then, and equally as scientists, let us be circumspect in what we assert about ourselves, for all our statements are no more than provisional. In the second place, the words that we customarily use to describe our human personhood have almost always altered their meaning, in subtle yet significant ways, since the era of the New Testament and the Early Church. Almost certainly we cannot. To assess the meaning of such terms, we have to analyse carefully the way in which they are employed on specific occasions.

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When I was working on the English translation of The Philokalia with my friends, the late Gerald Palmer and the late Philip Sherrard, we regularly found that the most problematic Greek words were those referring to human nature, and we were often dissatisfied with the English equivalents that we proposed. So also, in many instances, were the critics who reviewed our translation; but, if they proposed alternatives -which usually they did not- these raised further difficulties, perhaps as serious as those involved in our own renderings.

What T. Eliot says in East Coker about words in general applies particularly to words about human personhood:. Thirdly, while acknowledging the great benefits to either side that may be gained through a dialogue between science and theology, we have to recognize the profound difference in scope and method between the two. Whereas science relies upon observation and experiment, theology starts from the data of revelation. And whereas science is limited to the present fallen condition of our human nature, theology embraces within its scope -albeit only tentatively and with a constant apophatic reserve- the unfallen as well as the fallen state of the created world.

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It has to be kept in mind that in our present experience we know only the situation of the body in its fallen state; and it is of this alone that science speaks. But the body as we now know it is not at all the same as the body in the state in which God intends it to be. It lies largely beyond our present imagination to envisage the transparency and radiance, the lightness and sensitivity that our material bodies -along with the rest of the material creation- will possess in the surpassing glory of the Age to come.

We have spoken a little time ago about the human person as mystery and about the need for apophatic reserve. In this connection it is noteworthy how few are the definitions concerning human nature in the Creed and in the dogmatic decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Our Orthodox teaching concerning human personhood belongs for the most part to the realm of theologoumena rather than dogmata it should of course be remembered and theologoumena stand on a far higher level than the private opinions of individual theologians.

Only on two occasions, so far as I am aware, do the Creeds and the Ecumenical Councils speak directly and in authoritative terms about human nature; and significantly on both occasions they are concerned with the unity of our personhood. Body and soul, that is to say, are separated at the moment of our physical death, but this separation is only temporary. We look forward, beyond physical death, to the Last Day when the two will once more be reunited. As Christians we believe, not simply in the immortality of the soul, but in the ultimate survival of the entire person, soul and body together.

Soul and body, in other words, come into existence at the same time, as a single unity, and they grow to maturity together. They are strictly interdependent. Although many of the Greek Fathers were profoundly influenced by Platonism, the anathema against Origen clearly indicates that there were limits to this Platonic influence. According to the Christian view the human person is not a soul temporarily enclosed in a body, but an integral unity of soul and body together. The body is not a transient dwelling-place or tomb, not a piece of clothing that we shall in due course discard, but it is from the first beginnings of our human existence an indispensable and enduring expression of our total personhood.

These two ecumenical affirmations, then, underline the unity of our personhood, both at its initial coming-into-being -there is no pre-existence of the soul- and at its final end, when soul and body, divided at death in a manner profoundly contrary to nature, will be forever restored to their primal oneness in the Age to come. Alike in the sphere of human personhood and in the cosmos as a whole, spirit and matter are not opposed, not mutually exclusive, but complementary and interdependent.

They interpenetrate.

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Let us briefly review the outstanding examples of such interpenetration, first as expressed in Scripture, and second as affirmed in the Tradition of the Church At His Incarnation, Christ the divine Logos assumes into Himself the totality of our human nature; He has a genuinely human body and a genuinely human soul for the soul of Christ, see above all Matthew 26and Mark His divine glory permeates both aspects of his humanness -not only His soul but equally His body- as can be seen supremely at His Transfiguration upon Mount Tabor Matthew —8; Mark —8; Luke — When the three disciples behold Christ's face shine as the sun and His vesture become dazzling white, what they see is human nature, our physical nature, rendered godlike and deified.

What is more, it is not only Christ's face but His body foreshadows the transformation of all material things at the Last Day The interaction between spirit and matter, revealed by the Saviour on Tabor, is evident also in His appearances after the Resurrection. Christ has still a physical body, bearing the wounds of His Passion John —28 ; returning from the dead. He has the same material body as he had when He suffered on the Cross The risen Lord is not a ghost, not a disembodied phantom, but He has flesh and bones, and He eats and drinks in the presence of His disciples Luke — Yet at the same time His body has changed.

In the forty days between His Resurrection and His Ascension, Jesus is not continuously present in a visible manner to His followers, but from time to time He appears suddenly and then once more withdraws.

His Body and Soul Series

His resurrection body continues to be genuinely physical, but it has been released from the limitations of materiality as we normally experience it, dwelling as we do in a fallen world. It has become a spiritual body — spiritual, yet still material. The condition of Christ's body after His resurrection helps us to understand what will be the condition of the bodies of the redeemed at the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day.

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What has already happened to Him -and to the Mother of God- will happen by God's grace and mercy so we pray to all of us at the Second Coming. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory.

It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. There are, needless to say, many questions about the resurrection body which in the present state of our knowledge we cannot answer.

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We have to admit frankly that we do not understand the exact connection between the human body as it now is and the human body as it will be in the Age to come. What will happen, we are often asked, to those who are born with defective bodies or minds , or who die before they have grown to maturity? With what kind of body will they rise from the dead? But concerning two things we may be confident. First, like the risen Christ, we shall have what is in some sense the same physical body -the same and yet different: for it will be transformed and glorified 1Corinthians — Second, in the Age to Come all our pain will be healed, all our defects made good, all our brokenness repaired; every tear will be wiped from our eyes, and there will be no more mourning and crying and pain, for Christ will make all things new Revelation 4—5 The interpenetration of spirit and matter -and likewise the transfiguration of our physical bodies and of all material things by the uncreated energies of God- are clearly affirmed not only in Scripture but in the continuing experience of the Church.

Sacraments are thus precisely an example of matter rendered spiritual, and in each of them the saving power of the Spirit is transmitted to us in and through our physical bodies. The Christian East continues to resist any diminution in the materiality of these sacramental signs. Baptism is conferred by immersion, except in case of emergency; leavened bread is used at the Eucharist, not wafers; the wine at Holy Communion is always red, and its material character is emphasised by the addition of hot water. The body, with its sexuality that is expressed at many different levels, is blessed by God in its entirety and made holy.

The Holy Icons, although on a different level from the consecrated elements at the Eucharist, are also an instance of matter rendered spiritual. In his defence of the icons, what St John of Damascus ca. I do not worship matter, but I worship the Creator of matter, Who has been pleased to enter matter and has through matter effected my salvation.

I shall not cease to venerate matter, for it was through matter that my salvation came to pass. Do not insult matter, for it is in no way despicable; nothing that God has made is to be despised. Matter is filled with divine grace A further example of the interaction between matter and spirit is provided by the discipline of fasting. Ascetic fasting does not signify a repudiation of the goodness of material objects; on the contrary, food and drink are a gift from God, to be received with joy and thanksgiving.

We fast, not in order to express our disdain for material things, but so as to raise those things to the level of the Spirit. Through fasting, our food and drink -instead of being merely a way of satisfying physical hunger- become a means of communion with God. Eating and drinking are through fasting rendered personal.

If fasting brings about the spiritualization of the body, so also in another way does the gift of tears. Through grace-given weeping the bodily senses are made spiritual, and our human physicality is purged and refined, although not rejected. Tears signify not the mortification of the body but its transfiguration.

The interplay and reciprocity of spirit and matter, of soul and body, are evident also in the physical technique employed by the Hesychasts in combination with the recitation of the Jesus Prayer. By adopting a particular bodily posture and by regulating the rhythm of their breathing, the monks of 14th century Athos were seeking in a positive manner to harness their physical energies to the task of prayer. There are obvious dangers here, but St Gregory Palamas rightly defends the physical technique by appealing to a holistic view of human personhood.

The spiritualization of the body is evident above all in the vision of the divine Light granted to the saints in prayer. Here once more we may take St Gregory Palamas as our sure guide. At the Transfiguration of Christ on Tabor, the light which shone from His face was not a created light of the senses but the uncreated energies of God; yet the three disciples saw this uncreated Ligth through their bodily eyes. The influence of the Cartesian dualism of body and mind or soul led to a distinction between non-material, spiritual experiences i.

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The contributors here present research in novel empirical contexts, the benefits and limits of the old dichotomy are discussed, and new theoretical strategies proposed. Anna Fedele explores in her work the intersections of gender and religion, the importance of corporeality in religious contexts, and ritual creativity.

She has done extensive fieldwork on alternative pilgrimages to French shrines and is the author of Looking for Mary Magdalene forthcoming, Oxford University Press. He has specialized in the anthropology of religion, having worked on Pentecostal movements in southern Europe. Currently, he is working with African prophetic movements, discussing issues of leadership, charisma, memory, transmission, knowledge and rationalism. Chapter 1. Chapter 2. Miracles and exchange in Apiao, southern Chile Giovanna Bacchiddu.

Chapter 3. Embodying devotion, embodying passion. Chapter 4. Chapter 5. Chapter 6.