33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday (Year II)
Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise (Luke 20:34-36).
Where there is no death, there is no birth, and therefore no marriage and procreation. Many patristic commentators drew this connection based on Jesus’ response to the query of the Sadducees who denied the resurrection of the dead.
St. Augustine: “For marriages are for the sake of children, children for succession, succession because of death. Where then there is no death, there are no marriages.”1
St. Clement of Alexandria: “This process of birth is balanced by a process of decay and is no longer in store for the person who has once been cut off from life here.”2
St. Gregory of Nyssa: “The physical bringing of children into the world—I speak without wishing to offend—is as much a starting-point of death as of life; because from the moment of birth the process of dying commences.”3
St. Maximus the Confessor: “After the transgression pleasure naturally preconditioned the births of all human beings, and no one at all was by nature free from birth subject to the passion associated with this pleasure; rather everyone was requited with sufferings, and subsequent death, as the natural punishment.”4
The resurrected life is virginal and passionless, and takes its prototype from the Most Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
St. Gregory of Nyssa develops this idea in his work, On Virginity:
“It is comprehended in the idea of the Father incorrupt; and here at the outset is a paradox, viz. that virginity is found in Him, Who has a Son and yet without passion has begotten Him. It is included too in the nature of this Only-begotten God, Who struck the first note of all this moral innocence; it shines forth equally in His pure and passionless generation. Again a paradox; that the Son should be known to us by virginity. It is seen, too, in the inherent and incorruptible purity of the Holy Spirit; for when you have named the pure and incorruptible you have named virginity… This, I think, was the reason why our Master, Jesus Christ Himself, the Fountain of all innocence, did not come into the world by wedlock. It was, to divulge by the manner of His Incarnation this great secret; that purity is the only complete indication of the presence of God and of His coming, and that no one can in reality secure this for himself, unless he has altogether estranged himself from the passions of the flesh. What happened in the stainless Mary when the fullness of the Godhead which was in Christ shone out through her, that happens in every soul that leads by rule the virgin life.”5
Mary who was assumed into heaven body and soul is simultaneously Virgin, Bride, and Mother. Her fruitfulness is the result of the power of the Holy Spirit and not the fertility cycle of birth and death. She is the icon of the bridal Church, in whose womb the marriage of divinity and humanity was consummated. The children of the Blessed Virgin Mary and God the Father are the brethren of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and coheirs with him of an imperishable inheritance (Hebrews 2:11-12; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Ephesians 3:6).
“Truly a joyful mother is the virgin mother who by the operation of the Spirit conceives the deathless children… If, then, death cannot pass beyond virginity, but finds his power checked and shattered there, it is demonstrated that virginity is a stronger thing than death.”6
The saints in communion with the Blessed Trinity are fully alive, in a virginal existence no longer subject to birth and death.
That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Luke 20:37-38).
Related post: Mary, Mother of a New Genealogy
1 St. Augustine, De Quæst. Ev. l. ii. cap. 49, Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas, Luke 20:27-40.
2 St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 3.87.2-3.
3 St. Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity, chapter 13.
4 St. Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 61, in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St. Maximus the Confessor, trans. Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 2003, p. 131.
5 St. Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity, chapter 2.
6 Ibid., chapter 13.