Eternal Virginity: Sexuality in Heaven

There are three essential gospel passages whose analysis makes up the theology of the body.

Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed divorce, but in the beginning it was not so.     ~Matthew 19:8

Whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.     ~Matthew 5:28

We already analyzed these first two in great detail and learned about the experience of humanity “from the beginning,” and our experience in light of sin. Today we begin analyzing the third passage.

The Sadducees, who deny the resurrection, approached Jesus and said, “Moses taught that if a man dies childless, his brother shall marry his widow and raise descendants for the brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first married and died childless, leaving his wife to his brother. This happened again with the second and the third, through all seven brothers. Finally the woman died. At the resurrection, whose wife will she be? All were married to her.”

Jesus replied, “You are mistaken because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. At the resurrection they do not take wife or take husband, but are like the angels in heaven. Concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you read, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?” He is not the god of the dead, but of the living.
~Matthew 22

In Luke 20, this passage ends, “They can no longer die, for they are like the angels, and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

This passage clearly states that marriage will not be a part of our eternal happiness; it follows that there will not be procreation in heaven, either. But we will have our bodies in heaven – so what of the spousal meaning of the body?

We will be male and female in Heaven. This is implied by, “do not take wife or husband,” and has always been the Church’s understanding of the resurrection of the body. What will it mean to be a man in Heaven? To be a woman? It seems that these dimensions of human life will take on a new and different meaning in the resurrection. Heaven will not be like a return to the “beginning” described in Genesis, but will be an entirely new mode of human existence never seen before. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the heart of man what God has prepared.” But what can we say about our future life?

Body + Spirit

In the beginning, man’s spirit and body were properly united. His emotions were the physical manifestation of his thoughts and his will. His body did what he wanted it to do. His body perfectly expressed him as a person to the other person – namely, the woman. Imagine being able to express yourself perfectly all the time, and to be perfectly understood! This unity of body and spirit was broken by sin, but it will be restored in the resurrection. Better yet, there will be an even greater degree of “spiritualization” in the resurrected body, for “they will be like the angels.” (Note that we will not be angels, but will be like angels – similar by analogy in some respects. Your deceased relatives, however holy they were, are not now and will never be angels!)

Plato, as well as many eastern philosophers, believed that the real happiness of the soul would be to free itself from the confines of the body and be pure spirit. This is not correct! The true happiness of our soul is to be properly united to a body; a separated soul is missing something essential. I would say “like a person missing a leg,” but it is quite literally a person missing a leg and a head and everything else. Just can’t do much! And we are meant to do things – physical things – even in heaven.

Perhaps some of of us find the idea of shedding the body appealing because, like Saint Paul, “I see in my body another law at war with the law of my mind.” We discussed developing chastity and temperance and mastery over the various impulses, but even a virtuous and mature person cannot totally eliminate the possibility of unwanted thoughts, feelings and desires. Until Heaven. In heaven, this possibility is eliminated entirely. This is the nature of spiritualization of the body – all physical systems and powers, even the sexual, are completely permeated by the spirit.

Human + God

“They are the children of God.”

Our relationship with God will be of a completely different kind than any person, however holy and contemplative, is able to reach on earth. We will participate in the divine nature, although we will not cease being human. We will participate in the inner life of the Holy Trinity, in their eternal exchange of love. The human nature will be penetrated and permeated by the divine in a way utterly different from the “original” experience in the beginning. God, in his infinite grace, will communicate himself and his very divinity to us.

God communication, grace, gift, will reach the whole of man – not only the soul, but the body, the union of soul and body, the person as an individual person. My body will somehow become a divine human body, and will physically participate in knowing the truth, in the depth of divine love, in the vision of God “face to face.” My soul, a divine human soul. My person – my individuality as Rachel Meyer – will somehow become a divine Rachel Meyer. (God willing my final perseverance, of course!) I will still be Rachel Meyer – not less, as if my essence were absorbed into some kind of a pantheistic personal soup, but much, much more.

Eternal Virginity

The phrase “beatific vision” sounds kind of passive, doesn’t it? It correctly describes our eternal contemplation of God, enjoying his beauty, his goodness, his truth. But above all, our experience in heaven will be a relationship. A two-way, person to person, loving relationship between you and God. God will give himself in a profound way to you, and to me, and not just to some conglomerate mass of humanity.

In Heaven, we will experience the complete gift of self – God’s gift of himself personally to each of us, and our own reciprocal gift of ourselves, our even more personal, more spiritual, still physical and human but also somehow divine selves, back to God in a more loving relationship than any of us has ever imagined. So here we come to the meaning of our bodies in the resurrection. What is the spousal meaning of the body? That the body is a sign and a means of a gift of self, combined with the personal experience of the body as a gift. Well, in heaven your body will be a sign of and a means of your gift of yourself entirely to God, and you will personally experience that self-giving and the receiving of God’s gift.

When a man is really in love with a woman, his love is focused entirely on her; there is no room for being in love with two women. (The same reciprocally for a woman, of course.) And so we understand why, in heaven, they will take neither husband nor wife. We will be focused entirely on the love of God, responding to his gift with our own gift of ourselves to him. And this state will be a virginal state of the body.

Eternal Communion

Does this mean that in heaven, we won’t care about anyone except for God? We won’t love anyone but God? Of course not! If that were true, we couldn’t really speak of the communion of saints. In seeing and knowing God, and with His help, we will see and understand the entire universe in a new and complete way, its order and its relationships. We were created, as human people, for communion not only with God but with one another.

Each of us will be even more personal in heaven than we are now. We will have, then, more personal relationships with one another in heaven than we have with our closest friends on earth. John Paul compares our relationships with one another even to a human realization of the trinitarian order – our love of one another will be as the love of the trinity.

Then and Now

In the beginning, God created them male and female. The meaning of sex, of masculinity and femininity, is found in the gift of self. After their creation as male and female, God gave the man and the woman to one another in marriage and procreation, but this procreative meaning was only one type of fulfillment of the gift of self and of masculinity and femininity. While being a husband and a wife, being a father and a mother are tied to the meaning of masculinity and femininity on earth, these states are not the absolute or final meaning of sex. In heaven, masculinity and femininity will be the means of a gift of self to God and to one another that has nothing to do with marriage or procreation, but everything to do with the communion of persons.

Sexuality as we know it now will not be completely foreign to our heavenly experience. Heaven will bring the fulfillment of sexuality, albeit in a different way. The human body – the glorified human body – “will then be revealed again and will be revealed at once in such simplicity and splendor that everyone who shares in “the other world” will find in his glorified body the fountain of the freedom of the gift.” The maleness or femaleness of your glorified body will be the means of a new and perfect communion with God and with all of the saints.

This knowledge about the future meaning of our bodies gives us a new way of thinking about the earthly meaning of our bodies. We can think again about our creation, about marriage, about human sexuality. That will be the subject of the next few posts.

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