Editor’s Note: The Catholic Church has made provision for cremation under certain circumstances in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a somewhat striking departure from her earlier view on the matter. For an explanation of this modified view, see here. The following essay does not treat of the Church’s current provision, but rather examines the traditional rejection of cremation and the reasons why. Even after the revision of the code, the Church still “earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.” (Can. 1176.3)
In modern times, the occult societies have worked hard to reinstitute the pagan practice of cremation as a replacement of Christian burial. A circular issued by French Freemasons said, “The Roman Church has defied us by condemning the cremation of the body which our society has propagated with such excellent results. The brethren of the lodge should therefore employ all means to spread the use of cremation. The Church is merely seeking to preserve amongst the people the old beliefs concerning the immortality of the soul, and a future life; beliefs overthrown today by the light of science.” The dogma that all men, both saved and damned, will receive their bodies back on the last day is deserving of serious meditation.
Scripture and Tradition supply us with knowledge of four awe-inspiring properties that the glorified, resurrected bodies of the elect will possess: agility, subtlety, impassibility, and clarity.
Agility is the property which enables the glorified body to travel at the speed of thought. After His Resurrection, Our Lord demonstrated this property when visiting the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. St. Thomas Aquinas uses the following passage from the Book of Wisdom as a proof that the elect will possess agility, “The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.” (Wis. 3:7). St. Thomas writes that the just will use this property to travel to see the incredible beauty of the variety of creatures in heaven.
Mary already has her glorified body, and there is evidence that she has used agility to travel to Earth in her apparitions, as opposed to appearing in a solely spiritual way. For example, we know that Our Lady traveled to Fatima in her glorified body because the accounts relate that the tree branches bent as she stood on them. With agility, the saved will not only be able to travel anywhere within heaven; they will also be able to travel to the new earth. In fact, Suarez and other theologians have speculated that the unbaptized persons in Limbo will inhabit the new earth, and that the elect will be able to visit them there.
Subtlety is the property that makes it possible for the glorified body to penetrate matter. The prime example of Our Lord exercising subtlety is when He walked through doors. Many Fathers of the Church also write that subtlety was involved in the birth of Christ, for it is a defined dogma that Mary was not only a Virgin before and after birth but also in partu.
Impassability is the property which makes it so that the glorified body cannot experience any suffering, physical or mental. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.” (Apoc. 21:4).
Clarity is the property that makes the glorified body shine with a beautiful splendor. “Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. 13:43). St. Bernadette described Our Lady as, “beautiful, more beautiful than any other.” Sr. Lucy of Fatima said that Mary’s glorified body looked, “more brilliant than the sun, indescribably beautiful.”
Resurrected Bodies of the Damned
The damned souls will also receive their bodies back on the last day. This will result in all the greater suffering for them.
St. Francis was so impressed by the sound of a harp just briefly touched by an angel that he thought he was in another world. With that being the case, imagine what pleasure the ears of the saved will experience when millions of harps and cantors praise God and the saints with the most melodious voices. When the damned get their bodies back, they will experience horrible sufferings through their ears. They will hear nothing but awful screams and blasphemies, along with the perpetual mocking of the demons.
When it comes to bodily eyes, the just will experience tremendous joy in looking at all the beautiful creatures of heaven. The damned, in contrast, will constantly undergo the pain of looking at hideous demons and their own frightening instruments of torments.
It is related in several histories that the bodies of many saints upon death have sent forth most pleasing scents. It is probable that every creature in heaven will have a very nice odor which the noses of the just will get to appreciate. In hell, the damned will suffer greatly through their noses. The devil once appeared to St. Martin, and the stench that filled the room was so overwhelming that the saint said to himself: “If one single devil has so disgusting an odour, what can the stench be in hell, where there are thousands of devils all together?”
A Lesson from Our Enemy
The diabolically inspired Masons know very well that God in His omnipotence can reunite a soul with its body even if the body has been completely incinerated. Cremation will no more prevent this from happening than did Julian the Apostate’s bath with goat’s blood could have prevented him from being judged as one having the Baptismal character on his soul. What the Masons also know, however, is how much of an effect external ceremonies have in determining what a person believes.
Cremation can indeed undermine belief in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. Similarly, having a dozen lay-women serve as “extraordinary ministers” to distribute Communion in the hand to people standing can – and has – undermined belief in the Real Presence. As Fr. Michael Muller wrote in The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, “It is the nature of man to need external assistance to enable him to rise to the meditation of divine things. Internal piety, therefore, requires to be excited and nourished by ceremonies, or certain sensible signs. Moreover, every man ought to be religious and pious…to the extent of promoting the piety and instruction of his fellow men…and this cannot be done, unless we profess by some external sign the intimate sense of religion with which we are animated.”
John Henderson is a graduate of the Catholic University of America currently working as an educator in the state of Maryland. He has been going to the traditional Latin Mass regularly for six years and is zealous to tell others of the treasures of the Catholic religion.