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The Spirit, Body, and Hell: A Meditation on Self-Possession

Updated on December 16, 2013
18th Century Russian Icon of Isaiah
18th Century Russian Icon of Isaiah | Source

An Indwelling of the Spirit

As Christians it is important to remember who we are, that we are redeemed, and the goal towards which we should point our earthly lives. We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, first in Baptism and then through Confirmation, which leaves us a new creation. In fact, the Catholic Church even says that our souls are "indelibly marked" by the Holy Spirit through these sacraments. This is an indwelling of the Holy Spirit--God comes to reside in us to empower us to be sanctified through his grace. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that "...your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies". Even in the Old Testament, before the official descent of the Spirit, certain men and women who were close to God were indwelt with the Spirit, sometimes as a prefigurement for the person of Christ. Isaiah utters the famous words, The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me" (Is 61:1).

But no longer is it just Isaiah or Christ who is anointed, but rather all the baptized faithful. Through the sacraments we are anointed for God's purpose, and thus must remember to orient our whole selves towards this calling--both our body and soul must be used.

The Goal of Divinization

What is our goal in life if not union with God? Not only is this union a simple invitation to heaven, but is a participation in the inner life of the Trinity and the status of (in a sense) being Gods. God, in sanctifying us, wants us to become divine, and upon the final resurrection of our bodies, we shall be divine in both our body and our soul. This cannot happen through a simple self-control of our bodies and passions, and especially not from treating our bodies however we desire or in whichever way will give us immediate pleasure.

This type of divinization can only happen through allowing God to "possess" our bodies through the Holy Spirit. This is not only an "other-wordly" possession however, for it must start in this life, when our actions matter in determining our orientation towards or away from God.

How do we allow ourselves to receive this indwelling of the Spirit? Through frequent participation in the Sacraments, Prayer, and obeying the will of God. In short, we must keep ourselves both spiritually and physically healthy. Because we are human persons who's body and soul are essentially linked, we must make sure we are morally and physically upholding the good of our bodies.

Are our Bodies Our Own?

There is a prevailing mentality among our society today, even in some Christian circles that "my body is my own, I can do with it what I will." We must not live by this philosophy any longer. Our bodies do not belong just to us, because our lives do not--we are put on this earth for others as well as ourselves. If we are married, our bodies belong to our spouses. If we have children we have a responsibility to them to take care of our bodies so we can take care of them.

But most of all our bodies, and our souls, belong to God, who wants our body to return to him so he can eternally dwell within us and us in him. It belongs to God, who wants to use it for his purpose--creation of life, love, sacrifice, and as a witness to him.

Hell as Eternal Self-Posession

In this paradigm, Hell is eternal self-possession. God grants us our choice, and we can choose to either be eternally possessed by his love, or eternally possessed by self-love. If in this life we choose to allow God to indwell us, to use our bodies for his purpose, and to set aside our own unhealthy desires and appetites, we will prepare ourselves to fully receive him in unity after death. If, however, we continually make the choice in this life to keep God outside of us, to use our body and our spirit for our own will and for our own ends, then we will become our own end and be eternally self-possessed with no room for God.

© 2013 rdlang05


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