Every so often I will run across a theological concept that really strikes me as a profound truth that resonates with me. Last Monday’s Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours had a second reading from the treatise of St Fulgentius of Ruspe on the forgiveness of sins, “Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death”. The concept in this treatise that struck me was that of two resurrections, a spiritual resurrection in this life and a bodily resurrection in the next life.
Through justification and the spiritual resurrection, grace now effects in them an initial change that is God’s gift. Later on, through the bodily resurrection, the transformation of the just will be brought to completion, and they will experience a perfect, abiding, unchangeable glorification. The purpose of this change wrought in them by the gifts of both justification and glorification is that they may abide in an eternal, changeless state of joy.
Here on earth they are changed by the first resurrection, in which they are enlightened and converted, thus passing from death to life, sinfulness to holiness, unbelief to faith, and evil actions to holy life. For this reason the second death has no power over them. It is of such men that the Book of Revelation says: Happy the man who shares in the first resurrection; over such as he the second death has no power.
I am not sure why, but this idea of two resurrections struck me as being a very profound truth based on my experience of receiving God’s gift of conversion to faith in Jesus. A friend that I excitedly texted with about this concept on Monday responded insightfully that maybe the first resurrection is what Jesus referred to as being “Reborn”.
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3
That would seem to be a big part of it but I think the first resurrection also puts us on a different spiritual level and to become a bit of a mystic like the writer of the book of Revelation, John.
I, John, had a vision of an open door to heaven, and I heard the trumpetlike voice that had spoken to me before, saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards.” At once I was caught up in spirit. Rev 4:1-2
After the first resurrection one sees the world differently, God is no longer hidden but bursts out in all of creation. Nature in the plants, trees, rocks, and animals speaks loudly of God and reveals the beautiful artist God the creator is. Our interactions with others bring forth the person of Jesus Christ walking around us 24/7. It is like a veil has been lifted and you see the world anew with eyes guided by the Holy Spirit and are transformed to see the world and universe around us as a foretaste of the beautiful eternal life in heaven with God we will experience in our second bodily resurrection.
Peace, Love, and Blessings
By the way, you may be like me and wondering who this St Fulgentius of Ruspe was. Here is some information from the Universalis App I use for the Liturgy of the Hours.
Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (462/7 - 527/ 533)
Fulgentius was bishop of the city of Ruspe in the Roman province of Africa, which is in modern-day Tunisia. At that time Africa and parts of the Near East were ruled by the Vandals, who were Arians, calling themselves Christians but denying the divinity of Christ. As a result Fulgentius’ early career was marked by a series of flights from persecution, as Catholics tried to maintain their faith under Vandal rule. It was a complicated time. In 499 he was tortured for saying that Jesus was both God and man; the next year the Vandal king Thrasamund, impressed by his talents, invited him to return from exile and become a bishop (Fulgentius declined, since he knew that Thrasamund had ordered that none but Arians should be bishops); two years later he was persuaded to become bishop of Ruspe in Tunisia but shortly afterwards he was exiled to Sardinia. Thrasamund invited him back in 515 to debate against the Arians but exiled him again in 520.
In 523, following the death of Thrasamund and the accession of his Catholic son Hilderic, Fulgentius was allowed to return to Ruspe and try to convert the populace back to the faith. He worked to reform many of the abuses which had infiltrated his old diocese in his absence. The power and effectiveness of his preaching were so profound that his archbishop, Boniface of Carthage, wept openly every time he heard Fulgentius preach, and publicly thanked God for giving such a preacher to his church.