Piercing the Veil: Ascension, Heaven, Eucharist

“Two affirmations,” writes Paul J. Griffiths, “are required of Christians about Jesus’ ascended flesh” (Christian Flesh, p. 49):

  1. The ascended flesh is now located at the right hand of the Father.
  2. The ascended flesh is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, albeit in a veiled mode.

On the basis of these affirmations, we surmise that the risen Christ presently enjoys a dual presence, eschatological and sacramental:

The first is eschatological. Jesus’s ascended flesh is present somewhere and somewhen, in intimate relation to the Father, but inaccessible to humans by touch, and therefore inaccessible as flesh, because they aren’t where and when it is. It’ll be haptically available, available as flesh, only to human resurrected flesh, which will be before its face. That won’t happen until the general resurrection, which is the immediate prelude to the last things proper. That’s why Jesus’s ascended flesh at the Father’s right hand has an eschatological presence only. It cannot be touched now, even if, in dream and vision, it might sometimes be seen. The second mode of the ascended flesh’s presence is, by contrast, fully tactile: it’s edible; it can be caressed with the tongue and ingested. It’s also available for fleshly exchange in many different timespaces at once because it is definitively and completely freed from the unities of metronomic times­pace. That is because it occupies the fold of eucharistic time that is identically and at once available to every moment measured by the metronome, and every place located by map grid. The principle mode of tactile availability of the ascended flesh is, then, as the eucharist. (pp. 49-50)

The above passage raises pressing questions, but before addressing them, Griffiths segues to the the Apostle Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ. In Galatians and 1 Corinthians, Paul insists that the Lord appeared to him in the same way that he appeared to St Peter and the Apostles during the days and weeks after his resurrection (“Am not I an apostle? Have not I seen Christ Jesus our Lord?” [1 Cor 9:1]), the only difference being one of timing: “And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:8). Scholars typically take Paul’s testimony at face value and assimilate his road-to-Damascus experience to the Paschal experiences recorded in the Gospels; but Griffiths, following the accounts given in the Book of Acts, affirms that Jesus’ appearance to Paul was different in kind, precisely because it occurred after the Lord’s ascent to the Father. Whereas the disciples encountered Jesus in his resurrected flesh, Paul encounters him in the mode of ascension. He hears the dominical voice but does not see anything, except “light from heaven” (Acts 9 & 22):

Saul sees light and hears the voice of the ascended Jesus; he hears Jesus, but sees only radiance. The light that visually signals Jesus’s presence is too radiant for human eyes, and so Saul is blinded—an ordinary response to the approach of the ascended flesh, inseparable as it now is from the Father at whose right hand it is located. The ascended flesh will be visible to the eyes of the risen flesh, but until then it’s visible—even to Saul about to become Paul—only as in a glass, darkly. The trans-local and trans-temporal eucharistic presence of the ascended flesh requires the absence to our senses of the human ascended flesh, and this is a point underscored by the particulars of the scriptural account of the event in which this comes closest to not being so. The veil is not removed, even for Paul. (pp. 50-51)

Orthodox Christians will immediately think of the deifying experiences of St Symeon the New Theologian, St Seraphim of Sarov, St Silouan the Athonite. Was the light which Paul saw the uncreated Light of God? Griffiths does not address the question, but the hesychastic tradition certainly believes that it was (see Maximos Constas, “Paul the Hesychast“). Why was the Apostle blinded and the saints were not? Perhaps, we might conjecture, because the latter were already baptized into Christ and had prepared themselves for theoria through ascetic discipline and labor. Paul’s encounter with the risen Lord, on the other hand, occurs when he was still an unbeliever and enemy of the gospel. He was constitutionally unprepared for the explosion of Christic glory.

The entrance of the risen Son into heaven is the precondition for Holy Eucharist. Neither the natal nor resurrected flesh of Christ can be eaten—the former because of cannibalism; the latter because of haptic unavailability. At the Last Supper the disciples ingest Christ only proleptically ( how proleptic is proleptic?). “But after the ascension,” continues Griffiths, “his flesh, veiled as bread, and his blood, veiled as wine, can be touched and tasted everywhere and at once, without constraint by the metronome of time or the map grid of space” (p. 31). The ascension makes possible the fulfillment of Christ’s words to his disciples:

Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. (John 6:54-57)

“What was visible of our Redeemer passed over into the sacraments,” declared St Leo the Great in his sermon on the Ascension (Hom. 74). The gift of ascended flesh entails veiling—necessarily so in the Devastation—because it is eschatologically transfigured and transfigur­ing flesh. To eat this flesh is to eat immortality. “That—being edible without the constraints of timespace—is the work of the ascended flesh, and it’s only in being ascended, in being unavailable to our senses in locatable human form, that the ascended flesh can do this work” (p. 53). The baptized eat the sacred Body and drink the precious Blood and so become “Christian flesh.”

Where is Jesus? In heaven, we confess. This becomes a bit confusing. Jesus is the eternally begotten Word, and so transcends the universe he has made; yet because he is embodied, he is also dwells in a timespace. We call his place heaven—eschatological reality consti­tuted by the ascended flesh of Christ. We might even be tempted to say, with qualification and nuance, that heaven was created when the Father raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him as “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). “The LORD and heaven, on this view, cannot be discriminated easily,” explains Griffiths, “and this means that when we find ourselves in heaven we find ourselves in him”; more precisely, “the LORD is the timespace in which the resurrected saints find themselves” (Decreation, pp. 215-216):

The LORD’s presence, we might say, constitutes heaven; he is its timespace­ness; its location, temporal and spatial, just is his presence; and the location of creatures in and at it just is their spatio-temporal relation to him, and to one another as related to him. This is a relation more intimate than which there is none. If there were greater intimacy yet to come, heaven would not be a novissimum, which is no more than to say that it would not be heaven. The LORD’s presence in heaven has, necessarily, a double modality. One mode is fleshly presence: the flesh of Christ is there, resurrected and ascended. That, like all fleshly presences, is a spatio-temporal presence, folded most tightly into the eternal pattern of inter­personal love that is the Trinity. Another mode is nonbodily, which is to say presence as the eternal economy of the Trinity. Recall that … the LORD is differentiated from all creatures, severally and collectively, in being nonbodily, which in turn means eternal and also without spatio-temporal location. Creatures are creatures exactly in not being these things; he is the LORD precisely in being them. Restricting our attention for the moment to human creatures, and to resurrected fleshly human creatures at that, this double mode of the LORD’s presence is heaven-for-us; it is the timespace in which we have the life of the world to come, and in which, therefore, we find the quies, the rest, which is promised to us as a possibility … Heaven’s timespace is the LORD in his double mode of presence to us, and it is a timespace characterizable for humans above all as pax and quies … A traditional Christian word for this is beatitude: heaven, the LORD is our timespace, is our beatitude, which is our glorious last thing, the novissimum for which we were made. (p. 216)

But where is heaven in relationship to our world? Modern cosmology no longer allows us to think of it as existing so many miles above us, whether close or far. There is no heaven up there—only galaxies and more galaxies, as far as our instru­ments permit us to see. (Astronomers presently estimate the edge of the observable universe to be 46.5 billion light years away!) Hence there is no longer any place in which to place the risen body of Jesus. The demytholo­gization initiated by Martin Luther and Johannes Brenz in the 16th century and so vigorously advanced by Rudolf Bultmann in the 20th has run its full and neces­sary course (see Robert W. Jenson, “You Wonder Where the Body Went,” Essays in Theology of Culture, pp. 216-224). Where then is the ascended flesh of Jesus? If in heaven, where is heaven? Griffiths argues that the question is unanswer­able, not because of modern cosmology but because the cosmos suffers from the damage caused by the double fall (i.e., of angels and human beings). The timespace we know, the timespace we can study, measure, and explore, is devastated and deformed, physically out-of-joint, awry. It does not work as divinely intended and therefore cannot enjoy a spatio-temporal relationship to the heaven of the transfigured flesh of God:

Heaven is not a timespace according to the metronome or the map grid. It can’t be arrived at by timespace movement so understood, and the upward metaphor (ascendere) of scriptural and traditional discussions of the ascension isn’t a metaphor of that kind; it signals, rather, a definitive mode of absence, which is to say a mode of presence that is in no respect under the sign of the metronome and the map grid. None of this is a contingent matter, either; heaven is by definition not spatiotemporally locatable, and that’s because healed (redeemed) timespace is what heaven is, and timespace in that mode is not locatable in those ways. In positive mode: heaven is where/when the ascended flesh of Jesus is; it’s the timespace in which fleshly creatures keep closely intimate company with the ascended flesh, the lingual (and, sometimes, manual) caress under which intimacy with Jesus’s ascended flesh occurs here below, in the metronomic time­space, is supple­mented by interaction with all the other senses. There and then Jesus’s human flesh will be visible, audible, and smellable, just as here and now it can be taste-touched. Haptic relations to that ascended and human-formed flesh will then also be complete in ways that exceed the imagination. (CF, pp. 54-55)

At the moment only the Theotokos enjoys, with and in her son, the blessing of glorified flesh; nonetheless she is not alone in heaven. With her and Jesus are the angels and discarnate souls. When Christ returns and rolls up the devastated universe, the discarnate souls will be reunited with their resurrected bodies, while the righteous still alive in their mortal flesh will be instantaneously glorified. As the Apostle declares: “For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:15-16). Heaven will be the cosmos healed and deified, without remainder. All creatureliness will be in it, remarks Griffiths, “because there is nowhere and nowhen else to be” (Decreation, p. 238).

What of the plants and animals? What of our beloved dogs and cats (and guinea pigs and hamsters) that have been so important to our happiness in the Devastation? We may reasonably expect that they too will be included in the cosmic transfiguration:

If heaven is the world healed, the world made beautiful as cosmos, Eden transfigured by the presence of the flesh of Christ and of Mary, as well as by the resurrected flesh of the saints, and if excess is a mark not of the double fall but rather of the LORD’s delight, then all plant and animal kinds, with all their individual members, should be present there, transfigured as inhabitants of the peaceable kingdom. (p. 293)

A new heaven and a new earth. With transfigured bodies we will see and know and caress—and be caressed by— the incarnate God. Deified flesh will commune with deified flesh, with full and unmediated intimacy. The time for eucharistic veiling will be over.

(Go to “Tactual Salvation”)

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26 Responses to Piercing the Veil: Ascension, Heaven, Eucharist

  1. David says:

    Great piece. I’m unclear where the intermediate state fits into the picture, and would be interested to see whether and how Griffiths addresses this explicitly – especially questions like ‘in what sense does the ascended Jesus (and Mary) co-exist with discarnate souls in heaven? Mostly it sounds like Griffiths is equating ‘heaven’ with ‘the resurrection world’

    For example, Griffiths suggests that heaven is by definition ‘healed/redeemed’ timespace – but if redemption/healing is not complete until the new creation, that would imply heaven does not exist until the general resurrection. Okay, that might be arguable, but Griffiths also states that Jesus’ ascended flesh has ‘an eschatological presence only’ – almost as if Jesus is immediately transported to the world of the new creation.

    Griffiths also argues that ‘if there were greater intimacy yet to come’, it would not be heaven. What then of the discarnate souls you mention – if the saints are in heaven, but not yet embodied, then surely they are awaiting and looking forward to being embodied *precisely because* the body will allow for a greater intimacy and communion with the risen incarnate Lord (and if not, what is the point of being embodied?)

    If Jesus’ ascended flesh has ‘an eschatological presence only’, but there are discarnate souls in heaven that have not yet reached the eschaton – then what does it mean to say that those souls co-exist with Jesus (and Mary)? If time passes for discarnate souls, and time passes for Jesus and Mary alongside them, then it would seem that Jesus is not really ‘in heaven’ in the sense of having ‘an eschatological presence’ only, but rather waits with the rest of the discarnate souls for the Father for the general resurrection. Whereas if Jesus and Mary in some sense is taken to the world of the eschatological future, but discarnate souls are not, in what sense can we say that Jesus is in the same place as those discarnate souls, and what sense can we make of Paul’s wish to die and ‘be with the Lord’ ahead of the general resurrection?

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    • David says:

      (poking around Griffith’s work a bit, I see that he conceives of the intermediate state as involving ‘metronomic’ time – the same time as the fallen world – rather than eschatological ‘systolic’ time. If Jesus no longer experiences fallen metronomic time, does that not mean that he is not bodily/spatiotemporally ‘in’ the heaven of the intermediate state after all? Or perhaps he is in that heaven only in the same sense that he is in in the Eucharist, i.e. in a hidden and somewhat one-sided way? Is that a problem? And does that mean prayers to Mary are radically different to prayers to the other saints, if the other saints continue to live in ‘metronomic’ time while Mary is assumed immediately into the futurely ‘systolic’ time?)

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  2. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Hi, David. Thanks for engaging my article. Griffiths devotes a chapter to the intermediate period in Decreation. Given how stimulating this book is, you won’t be wasting your money by buying it. It’s that good.

    Griffiths acknowledges right off that his philosophical job would be easier if the Magisterium did not definitively teach discarnate souls and the intermediate state; but it does, so he gives it his best shot.

    A comment on your remark that it sounds like Jesus is transported to the new creation. I think it would be more accurate to say that Christ is the New Creation. In this sense we might say that by his resurrection, Christ creates heaven. I can’t recall if Griffiths says this explicitly, but Karl Rahner saying something like this in the entry on heaven in Sacramentum Mundi. It’s not as if Christ ascends to a pre-existing place; he is the place.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Griffiths does speak of the discarnate souls as awaiting the general resurrection and their “reincarnation.” In that sense, they exist in the same tension as we do: the kingdom has come and is not yet. On the other hand, they “see,” by way of intellectual vision, the ascended Christ. They are in heaven with the Lord, in the same way that the angels may be said to be in heaven. Perhaps our problem is that we keep trying to bring heaven into spatio-temporal alignment with our fallen universe. Griffiths is clear this can’t be done.

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      • David says:

        Thanks for this Father. One point I’d make is that while heaven ‘proper’, the heaven of the eschaton, may be out of spatio-temporal alignment with the world, I believe thatGriffiths sees the intermediate state – including the heavenly state of those cleansed of sin but still awaiting the general resurrection – as still being part of ‘metronomic’ time. In which case it sure sounds like there is continuity between the time of the heavenly intermediate state and our own world – they are both metronomic, while only echatological heaven is systolic. In which case it sounds like the (pre general resurrection) saints do not inhabit the same place as Jesus.

        I like your language of Christ as in some sense being the New Creation, rather than simply entering it. Could we perhaps say then that, for the saints in ‘intermediate state’ heaven, the heaven of the New Creation is present *to* them (in a similar way to the Eucharist being an inbreaking of the new creation etc.) but that they are not yet present *in* the New Creation – still awaiting their bodies so that they can be physically grafted into the body of Christ that is the futurely New Creation? So the saints are granted an ‘intellectual vision’ of Jesus, of the new creation, but they do not occupy the same spatio-temporal world as him quite yet – so the Lord is indeed present to the saints, but only ‘intellectually’ and not yet physically?

        I am still confused about how Mary fits into this if we want to hold that she received her resurrection body at death. Does that not mean that occupies a different spatiotemporal world than St Joseph (and the other saints) – i.e. she operates within the futurely systolic time of the New Creation with Jesus, whereas the other saints still operate with metronomic time awaiting the general resurrection. Or does Mary still live in the same tension as us, awaiting the future general resurrection – but in that case isn’t her resurrection body still subject to the passing of metronomic time and spatiotemporally aligned with our world after all? And if that’s possible for Mary, why not for Jesus?

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          David, I’m sitting on my deck at the moment enjoying a cigar and cannot walk inside to get my copy of Decreation—that would expend just way too much energy at the moment. 😉 Can you provide me a quote or page number where Griffiths says that the discarnate souls are subject to metronomic time. That doesn’t sound right.

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          • David says:

            Sorry – I’m afraid I misread some secondary literature (The Judgement of Love, James M Matarazzo) which was suggesting that for Griffith’s the intermediate state is metronomic *until* entering heaven – i.e. purgatory or any other place of corrective (or otherwise) punishment is metronomic.

            Still… I thought that for Griffith’s ‘systolic’ time is basically eschatological time, filled with internal complexity but without future novelty. But if the ‘intermediate state heaven’ is just that – an intermediate state, filled with waiting and longing for the future final renewal – then surely there is novelty and future, there is ‘something better’ yet to come?

            How can we speak of what heaven ‘presently’ is if there is no spatiotemporal continuity? Basically, does Jesus experience subjective time in intermediate state heaven, watching over the existing souls in heaven, watching new souls pop into heaven overtime, and awaiting the future consummation? If he does, then surely heaven is fairly aligned with our time after all? If he does not – e.g. if we say Jesus has entered final eschatological future, and simply makes himself present at different spatiotemporal times, as if projecting himself back into the world, including the intermediate state of heaven – then again I find myself wondering in what sense we can say the souls in intermediate state heaven co-exist with Jesus, and also what is going on with Mary (is she literally *in* the final future with Jesus as well, ahead of the other saints, but still somehow made present in intermediate state heaven via the Spirit or whatnot? Or does she sit in intermediate state heaven along with discarnate souls, even though she has a body, while Jesus stays in the final future?)

            In identifying heaven with systolic time, I wonder if Griffiths ends up effectively implying that is there basically no heavenly intermediate state after all, with soul souls skipping to the eschaton upon the completion of purgatory?

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            “But if the ‘intermediate state heaven’ is just that – an intermediate state, filled with waiting and longing for the future final renewal – then surely there is novelty and future, there is ‘something better’ yet to come?”

            Yes, Griffiths would agree. The intermediate state is not a last thing but prelude to the last thing, which is the general resurrection and the beatific-haptic communion.

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          • David says:

            I am a little confused. Above you quote Griffiths as stating that ‘if there were greater intimacy yet to come, heaven would not be a novissimum, which is no more than to say that it would not be heaven.’ So it seems that Griffiths is saying here that if there is greater intimacy yet to come, it is *not* heaven.

            Then how could he agree that there can be ‘something better’ and ‘yet to come’ from the perspective of those in heaven? Surely one has to either deny that ‘intermediate state heaven’ is really heaven, or one has to conclude that, as I suggested above, the intermediate state is limited to purgatory and souls ‘skip ahead’ to the eschaton after this point.

            I am not sure if the second possibility is orthodox, therefore let’s go with the first – perhaps we could think of this ‘intermediate state heaven’ as simply paradise, and the eschatological future as heaven proper.

            I am interested in whether Griffiths (and you!) would confirm or deny that Jesus and Mary, along with the souls of the saints, sits in this paradise and endure the passing of time, awaiting the future eschaton. And if so, would that not mean that ‘new’ souls appear in paradise from time to time? Do the souls of the saints, and Jesus and Mary, ‘acquire new information’ when we pray i.e. do they become aware that something has occured on earth, and respond in some way to it? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then surely the time of paradise is aligned with our world after all? And does it not mean that we cannot really say that Jesus has gone to the ‘absolute future’ – because he in fact currently only lives in the paradise of the intermediate state, but not yet true eschatological heaven? (okay, you could argue that his body and form of life as the resurrected one may in some sense embody the final future, but it does not seem correct to say he is literally living in the final future if Jesus has to sit and kill time along with the rest of the saints waiting for the general resurrection.

            If the answer is no – i.e. if all the souls that ever have or will exist are just in paradise all at once – then surely there is an effective ‘time gap’ between the time of paradise and the time of earth… but in that case, it is hard to say how it makes sense to say that the saints are interceding for us ‘now’. Also, it seems to remove the underlying logical for positing a heavenly intermediate state in the first place… i.e. we normally want to say that the souls must be waiting in heaven because, so far as our own timestream is concerned, the eschaton has not yet occurred. But if heavenly things occupy a different timestream altogether, then there is no obvious need for any waiting. Why are Jesus and Mary waiting – killing time – for something to happen, if from the perspective of heaven they are out of sync with the world? (or if they aren’t killing time, if they literally live in the final future of the general resurrection and new creation, then aren’t they in a different place to the souls of the saints? Or do the souls live with them in that future too, in which case haven’t we abolished the intermediate paradise state?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      When Griffiths speaks of heaven, he thinks principally of heaven as it will be after the general resurrection. On the other hand, the general resurrection is not yet (certainly not for us), so he also speaks of heaven as it presently is. This can get confusing, but I suspect Griffiths would tell us to blame it on Jesus. He’s the one who rose from the dead. 🙂

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  3. John H says:

    Hi Father,
    Glad to hear that you are enjoying the Holiday on your deck with a fine cigar. I recently brought back some great puros Cubanos after a trip to Havana. So will there be cigars, beer, wine and single malt scotch in heaven?

    On a more serious note, I am fascinated by Griffith’s notion of the three bodies of Christ. That very idea is analogous to the Buddhist belief in the three bodies of the Buddha, which are the nirmanakaya, the Buddha’s actual physical body; the samboghakaya, the glorified body which is capable of appearing to devotees throughout various points in history, and the Dharmakaya, the pure Buddha Nature which is manifested as an uncreated light that bestows knowledge and compassion upon those who experience it. The Tibetan Buddhists believe that the light of the Dharmakaya appears to every human being at or shortly after the time of death so as to give them an opportunity to recognize that they have an eternal Buddha Nature within. And so St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish saint canonized by John Paul II, also believed that the light of Christ appears to every person shortly after death, to give them an opportunity to accept God’s merciful grace of salvation.

    It is truly amazing that so many analogous notions are present throughout the diverse religious traditions that human experience of the divine has generated throughout history. Does orthodoxy have a belief or theologoumenon that each individual experiences what Griffiths would call the ascended flesh of Jesus Christ at the time of death, must like Paul did on the road to Damascus?

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  4. I take “right hand of the father” to mean “eschaton”, which is to say that the resurrected Jesus is located at the final future of history; the final moment after an eternal and everlasting forever has elapsed. As you have mentioned previously on this blog: Christ comes to us from the final future.

    The crazy thing for me is that if Saint Origen was correct, the eschaton is not only our final destination, but also our most primordial beginnings. “I am the Alpha and the Omega” says Christ, “The beginning and the end”. What is the end, if not the eschaton? and if the eschaton be the end then it must also be the beginning. We all descended from heaven in a holy kenosis, and we will all return to heaven, where we will fully comprehend the ultimate truth: that I am you and you are me. Just as we descend in kenosis, so too we ascend back to glory via theosis; back into the divine dimplicity from which we initially sprung forth.

    The resurrected Christ was not merely Jesus of Nazareth: He was each and every one of us, come to us as our eschatalogical self. To look into the face of the resurrected Christ is to stare deep into the mirror of your own soul. But a perfect version of your own soul – And this is the judgement. You mentioned in your series on Sergius Bulgakov how according to his eschatology, the final judgement *just is* the encounter with Christ. As we come into contact with the risen lord, we see ourselves as we should be, and inevitably it is Hell and torture for us as we witness how we have failed to be perfect and live up to our own potential for love, glory and greatness: “A man cannot fail to love Christ revealed in him, and he cannot fail to love Christ revealed in himself” – but it is just in that act of love that the tortures of Hell lie. Christ is our innermost self – the soul behind the soul – and just as he judges us, we are judged by ourselves.

    I confess that I am uncomfortable about your statement that the last supper was a different sort of Eucharist to our Eucharists after the resurrection. There has to be identity and continuity in my view, otherwise things seem to fall apart, although I struggle to articulate why. I suppose it’s just the inelegance of it. My gut disagrees.

    Fascinating stuff and very thought provoking. I’ve enjoyed this series tremendously.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      TIK, regarding the Last Supper, St Augustine would probably agree with you:

      And was carried in His Own Hands. How was He ‘carried in His Own Hands’? Because when He commended His own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know, and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, ‘This is My Body.’

      Augustine, On the Psalms 33:1, 10.

      Now Griffiths is a deep reader of Augustine. I wonder how he might reply.

      P.S. I am extremely impressed that you remember stuff that I wrote years ago (e.g., the series on Bulgakov)! I don’t even remember what I wrote even six months ago. 🙂

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      The language of the “final future” is straight Jenson, as you no doubt recognize. Personally, I do not see a significant difference between saying “Christ ascended into heaven” and “Christ ascended into the final future.” Both, I think, are true statements.

      When I read Decreation, I was immediately struck by similarities between Jens and Griffiths, though don’t ask me what they are, as I doubt I could put my finger on them (except one, regarding the logos asarkos. I wonder if Griffiths has read Jenson. He does not cite him in his bibliography.

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  5. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    As EO readers know, I like to search the images on the net that will illuminate in some way the theme of a particular blog-post. I originally titled (in draft from) this article as “Where’s Jesus?” and the image I had in mind was this:

    I thought it might make readers chuckle. But as the article came into final form, I realized that the image was inappropriate to the tone of the piece, so I went searching again. And I came upon Giotto’s painting on the Ascension. I’m think I may have used it sometime in the past, but this time it really jumped out at me. Here’s the ascending Christ reaching out through and past the frame of the painting! What a wonderful image for Griffiths’s understanding of heaven!

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  6. Grant says:

    Perhaps because Christ as and in Whom the New Creation is, and in ascending is and located in the eschatological future, while also being available in a hidden manner in the Eucharist, might perhaps mean that the souls of those asleep are only disincarnate from our perspective.

    As Christ has summed up, freed and renewed all things already within Himself and is located in that future Age (in terms of His Body) the New Creation, and the Ressurection and renewal of all things also sums up in Him all things, including all interactions, events and times from (in terms of our experience) creation’s beginning to and beyond into the Age to come, where in that future God is already all in all, including all times and moments, which are healed. And if all time is also being summed up and transcended in Christ through the full resurrection and fullness of the New Creation, then maybe for all there raised a fuller sense of interaction that transcends through and in Christ and full partipation in Him, transcend the limits of our sense oc movement and dimished experience of time, with all moments themselves being summed up and present. So then, maybe all the interactions we have with those asleep, with the Saints and such are part of that full communion in that future which is also present because all of our time and moments are present and being renewed, healed and brought into a fuller and eternal reality.

    And so Christ is present in hidden manner in the Eucharist within the context of our still limited and current fallen experience,and perceived so visions otherwise, and from our perspective it seems that saints are disincarnate but from the perspective of the eschatological future where Christ is bodily located, all this and every moment is all present and part of the fuller, deeper reality and communion.

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    • David says:

      I am sympathetic to the idea that Christ’s body is located in the eschatological future, but I would not assume this. If the saints are also relocated to the future, is that not essentially a doctrine of ‘soul sleep’? This is coherent enough but I do think it introduces difficulties into our Mariology – if the saints are really only ‘disincarnate’ from our perspective, and are in reality transported and incarnated into the eschatological future, what does it mean to say that Mary is now in her body while the other saints are disincarnate?

      Perhaps worth comparing with the musings of Robin Parry, aka the Evangelical Universalist, who sees the ascended Jesus as literally travelling to the future. Unclear how he relates this to the intermediate state though. http://theologicalscribbles.blogspot.com/2008/10/not-where-is-jesus-but-when-is-jesus.html

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      • Grant says:

        My mussing here are that in Christ and the Resurrection, in the New Creation, where God is all in all, that means that ‘all’ is also all moments in time, including this moment with us communicating in Father Aiden’s blog 🙂 , all of it is summed up, healed and drawn into the fuller and deeper reality in Christ, which transcends our limited, and as Griffiths puts it, metronomic experience of time. All our moments, and all relationships and moments of communion, all events and all time also drawn into the fullness of the New Creation, made whole, which in (to us future) general resurrection all these communications are fully a part of it. In Christ it transcends our limited experience of time as moving from one moment to the next, with the past moments seemingly lost, but is part of a deeper, fully and vibrant reality.

        This therefore would mean this future is fully present, or more accurately we are fully present in that eschatological future,part of a fuller and deeper reality and communion, transcending our limited sense of time, which we viewing it and interacting with it in a fallen and diminished perspective, still in the experience of metronomic time, we perceive it through a ‘glass darkly’ only engaging in the partial and hidden aspects of that communion that is part of the larger whole, and therefore to us is yet future, until we are fully there raised and as He is, we will perceive the fuller reality in which all these moments are part, and experience that fuller reality. That all this is already part of that full reality, which is to us currently perceived as future but as all things are drawn into Him, including all time, and all moments, all this is fully present in that eschatological future, and part of that communion. So from our perspective those asleep seem disincarnate, and in a manner for us they are (since in these broken moments, they are yet asleep) yet as these moments are part of the deeper whole summed up, part of and healed in New Creation, and fully part of that reality that are also yet alive and fully present, and all our prayers for, to, with, our veneration to saints are part of that fuller Communion. We are all drawn up in that future and so it is fully present but for us yet in a hidden and bit manner, as it is also from our perspective the future. for us yet to be taken up, yet not so from that future which transcends our current experience of reality.

        Within this quite wild speculation of mine (for that is all it is 🙂 ) the Theotokos is a possible fatal flaw in my beautiful hypothesis 😉 , though perhaps her Assumption and entering into the Resurrection would be that she fully and immediately was raised and entered the fullness of that reality, of that future which is also fully present since all our moments are full drawn into and present and yet more complete in that future which transcends our current sense of and experience with past, present and future. I guess it’s a part of my reflection on all time being part of God being ‘all in all’ in Christ, which means of the time of this Age being summed up and part of and present in the Age to Come, and therefore all our Communion now is part of that eschatological future, but we experiences it currently ‘though a glass darkly’ in an incomplete and hidden manner. And that would include with those asleep, who are also therefore yet not, and so it’s not quite soul sleep at all that I’m think off, but the resurrection transcending those limitations, and so for us in (and under the experience of) metronomic time, they are yet disincarnate to us yet in our limited experience (in a manner that by being raised neither Our Lord or Mary is. having steeped fully into that reality which to us is future but transcends the limits of future and all we are is ever present and so present to us, but experienced incompletely and in a limited manner, until we are raised as He is, and shall experience then, but all these moments in a fuller. complete and healed reality).

        But all this is just speculation, not something I’m either sure about, nor even fully arguing for, and not without problems, but I hope I’ve indicated why I would not think it’s soul sleep , as they are present to be communicated with, and in our perspective would be disincarnate in this communion moments, as we experiencing only limited parts of the fuller whole that for us is yet future, in which they like us await resurrection, but which is also yet part of, present and part of that future. It is both future and it is present, and by it’s nature under this line of thought, transcends all such limitations.

        But as I said, it’s all just some speculation, and should definitely be taken with a grain of salt, and I’m not fully committed to these ideas by any means, more just some thoughts from the above that I found intriguing to think about 🙂 .

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          I know that reading one of my articles can often seem like an eternity … 😎

          Like

        • David says:

          I am open to past moments being in some sense being recapitulated, redeemed, and held in being across our eschatological existence. But I would tend to resist notions that exclude novelty and genuine succession from the eschatological future. This is for a couple of reasons: for one, it iseems to contradict the Pauline vision that we move ‘from glory to glory’, as well as the Orthodox concept of ‘epektasis’ – the endless evolution and spiritual growth of the soul even in the resurrection world. But more fundamentally I am not sure whether it is ultimately coherent to imagine that we will remain temporal creatures while yet experiencing all our temporal moments at once. I don’t think that our experience of time is “limited” by the fact we experience one moment successively after another, in fact I would say that it is that experience that constitutes time, and is the hallmark of creaturely existence. I feel like bodily existence implies spatiotemporal locatedness, which implies movement and change across time and space – the form of existence for the creature inherently involves succession. Perhaps.

          Still, I agree that we should not seek to locate ‘heaven’ (either in intermediate or final form!) within this spacetime universe. Although regardless of whether the ‘final state’ of human beings if the quasi-timeless/multitemporal state you describe or not, I can see room for regular successive temporal experience in advance of the eschatological judgement – purgatory/hell, to show the soul the true consequences of its actions and to cleanse it of sin, followed by paradise (intermediate state heaven) where the soul, although perhaps broken from the bonds of any propensity to sin at this point, still needs some additional ‘healing’ from the sounds of past sins committed and received to to achieve full happiness in final heaven. This ‘healing’ could well involve visions of life on earth and the opportunity to intercede on our behalf, although it may not.

          A point worth considering here I think is ‘what this feels like’ for the souls of those in the intermediate state is not. Perhaps it feels like a certain period of time (say, 10 days) subjectively, but is actually stretched out across the whole of time (e.g. maybe 10 years pass on earth and the saints only get a minute of subjective experience)? Or maybe it really does take 10 days, but these 10 days occur at the end of the spatiotemporal universe, with the soul transported to that point after death. Or maybe it takes place immediately after death, and then the soul is transported into the eschatological future once it’s done. Maybe it is but a mere moment – a twinkling of an eye – stretched out across time, or maybe it takes place now, or tomorrow, or in a million years.

          I guess the point I’m making there is that, arguably, there is no actual difference between any of those scenarios. It feels like whatever it feels like, and there is no need for X amount of time as subjectively experienced within the intermediate state to line up exactly, or at all, with any of our time.

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          • Grant says:

            I would say it’s not so much either/or both a little bit of both/and in my speculation on this. God being God, we must always ever be becoming in our partipation in Him, giving the infinite gulf between Him and all creation, no matter how alike to Him we are ever graced and gifted. His infinite plenitude and our finite reception must it seems to me mean an ever movement of becoming, of deeper and closer joining and union and growth, inlcuding experitial growth. St Gregory’s epektasis is surely right it seems to me, however I think that our category of understanding and moving in time now is limited and will be radically different (and therefore is perhaps in this specuation radically different as we are perhaps enfolded in that future, which therefore transcends concepts of future as now understood). The movements between, in and through moments might be far more deeper, richer and dynamic, with the past not being some lost moment known only to memory or story, but fully present and part of that ever becoming. And therefore this whole age, including all that is before humanity is both enfolded in Christ and ever-present, and both completed and then bursting forth in ever greater renewal (so dinosaurs, pterosaurs, trilobites and so only might be raised and brought to true form and there ever more glory.

            Movement from glory to glory might and perhaps does retain all moments of prior glory and is part of that glory it moves into yet, as in Christ and so partipating in the dynmaic relationship of the Trinity those full moments and far more are both fully transcended and go infinitely beyond. Movement is for us, not God. not because He is static, but because He exceeds finite limitations of movement, in Him that reality is more concrete and real then our finite need of movement, as is His timelessness, because His infinite Being is more real than our time, space and movement experience, more full, infinitely so, these are needs of that which is creation, in or to be creation and other.

            In this, perhaps our movement and becoming is far more, and ever becomes more fuller and dynamic then any of our current understanding and perceptions of timed movement in terms of past, present and future, and so all our interactions between each other might yet be part of that fuller but ever more, ever deeper dynamic relationship and reality. But even so, we must always be also ever becoming, yet how we will experience this movement, and our temporal and spacial existence will in anycase I think be radically, and perhaps now incomprehensible different, and might not involve perception and movement in time as we understand it now.

            Or perhaps not, this is all just very specualtive but quite fun hypothesising 🙂 . I do agree that I think that whatever the nature of disincarnate souls is, that I think they experience a relationship towards time and space here very differently, I also wonder if the moment of meeting Christ and seeing Him as He is might possibly during that resurrection lead to very different sense of progress of movements that would perhaps involve a purgatorial and healing encounter as all enter fully and see Christ who is also their own life, which might be a shorter sense of movement and release to one who as more fully entered into and participated in the grace of God and the dynamic love of God in Christ Jesus, founded in those around them, others requiring more opening up.

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        • David says:

          Just to further speculate re: the temporal locatedness of the ascended Jesus vs. those in the intermediate state…. well, I do tend to want to preserve some kind of intermediate existence of Christ here too – I’m not sure what we do about notions of the heavenly session and the parousia, if we think the ascension is essentially Jesus just ‘skipping ahead’ to the eschaton – although I suppose we could see as Jesus interceding on our behalf from the future, and the parousia as being just a matter of human perspective. In which case, I might propose as follows:

          Perhaps the ‘first moment’ of the new creation is basically Jesus appearing to everyone – with that appearance itself being ‘the judgement’ – as well as reaching across the entire spacetime of the ‘old creation’ to heal and redeem it. Now perhaps from Jesus’ subjective experience, this ‘appearing’ to everyone could feel instantaneous. But perhaps the clocks tick differently for those on the receiving end of this judgement. So from Jesus’ perspective, at his ascension he enters the New Creation we are immediately transfigured and renewed – although from our perspective, we subjectively drag and kick out heels, passing through purgatory, and then take time to grow in paradise. So from our perspective, the individual judgement and the final judgment are distinct moments, but from the perspective of Jesus they were are simply the first moment – the boundary condition, the big bang – of the new creation. In a way we were always in heaven, we just never realised it.

          Alternatively, maybe Jesus and Mary get a moment alone together before the rest of us come piling in. God knows they could do with a break from us 🙂

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  7. Wow………just…………….wow!

    Smoke is coming out of both ears!

    Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

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