“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. . . .”
As my friend Mary was dying I had an image of her spirit self standing impatiently by her bed waiting for the tenuous hold of her physical self to end. She had had a massive stroke and was in a coma, her bodily functions slowly shutting down. She didn’t seem at all distressed, simply out of sorts because of the wait. She longed to be off, to make the journey into new life that is the resurrection of the dead.
Mary would be like that. Her faith was steadfast and matter-of-fact, and she never had a doubt of her acceptance into the kingdom of heaven. She knew that she was headed for bliss in complete union with God.
It is my way to muse and wonder. I want to know the particulars. Does resurrection bring the end of our sense of individuality? Are we merged? Or do we have faces of some sort, and a way of thinking about ourselves as ‘me’ in relationship with an Other who is God? Do we influence the world of the living in any way? Do we ever visit here?
Paul describes the resurrection of the dead in this passage from Corinthians. Our physical nature is like a seed, he says, sown perishable, dishonored and weak. What is raised is a full plant, a spiritual body that is imperishable, glorious and powerful. He compares us to sun and moon and stars in their glory. He is saying there is something in store for us that is even better than being alive on this planet. Our spiritual natures are more complex than we can imagine, as unknowable to the physical nature as a plant is to a seed. And we will grow into them.
To my surprise I find that this description is as much as I need to know right now. It is a hope and a promise; it brings me happiness. It allows me to, once again, embrace the larger understanding: death has no power over us. And if we do not need to fear death, we do not need to fear life either.
Not fearing life, I can live a risky existence. I can speak truth to power, go out on a limb. I can embrace the dream God has for me, living into my deepest joy and my strongest passion for the world. I can do what makes sense from God’s point of view.
For most of her long life this is how Mary lived. She was fearless. I hope I can do the same in the years that remain to me. And then I hope to await my reception into the afterlife with impatient expectation.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.