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Home > Summa Theologica > Supplement > Question 83

Question 83. The subtlety of the bodies of the blessed

  1. Is subtlety a property of the glorified body?
  2. By reason of this subtlety, can it be in the same place with another not glorified body?
  3. By a miracle, can two bodies be in the same place?
  4. Can a glorified body be in the same place with another glorified body?
  5. Does a glorified body necessarily require a place equal to itself?
  6. Is a glorified body palpable?

Article 1. Whether subtlety is a property of the glorified body?

Objection 1. It would seem that subtlety is not a property of the glorified body. For the properties of glory surpass the properties of nature, even as the clarity of glory surpasses the clarity of the sun, which is the greatest in nature. Accordingly if subtlety be a property of the glorified body, it would seem that the glorified body will be more subtle than anything which is subtle in nature, and thus it will be "more subtle than the wind and the air," which was condemned by Gregory in the city of Constantinople, as he relates (Moral. xiv, 56).

Objection 2. Further, as heat and cold are simple qualities of bodies, i.e. of the elements, so is subtlety. But heat and other qualities of the elements will not be intensified in the glorified bodies any more than they are now, in fact, they will be more reduced to the mean. Neither, therefore, will subtlety be in them more than it is now.

Objection 3. Further, subtlety is in bodies as a result of scarcity of matter, wherefore bodies that have less matter within equal dimensions are said to be more subtle; as fire in comparison with air, and air as compared with water, and water as compared with earth. But there will be as much matter in the glorified bodies as there is now, nor will their dimensions be greater. Therefore they will not be more subtle then than now.

On the contrary, It is written (1 Corinthians 15:44): "It is sown a corruptible body, it shall rise a spiritual," i.e. a spirit-like, "body." But the subtlety of a spirit surpasses all bodily subtlety. Therefore the glorified bodies will be most subtle.

Further, the more subtle a body is the more exalted it is. But the glorified bodies will be most exalted. Therefore they will be most subtle.

I answer that, Subtlety takes its name from the power to penetrate. Hence it is said in De Gener. ii that "a subtle thing fills all the parts and the parts of parts." Now that a body has the power of penetrating may happen through two causes. First, through smallness of quantity, especially in respect of depth and breadth, but not of length, because penetration regards depth, wherefore length is not an obstacle to penetration. Secondly, through paucity of matter, wherefore rarity is synonymous with subtlety: and since in rare bodies the form is more predominant over the matter, the term "subtlety" has been transferred to those bodies which are most perfectly subject to their form, and are most fully perfected thereby: thus we speak of subtlety in the sun and moon and like bodies, just as gold and similar things may be called subtle, when they are most perfectly complete in their specific being and power. And since incorporeal things lack quantity and matter, the term "subtlety" is applied to them, not only by reason of their substance, but also on account of their power. For just as a subtle thing is said to be penetrative, for the reason that it reaches to the inmost part of a thing, so is an intellect said to be subtle because it reaches to the insight of the intrinsic principles and the hidden natural properties of a thing. In like manner a person is said to have subtle sight, because he is able to perceive by sight things of the smallest size: and the same applies to the other senses. Accordingly people have differed by ascribing subtlety to the glorified bodies in different ways.

For certain heretics, as Augustine relates (De Civ. Dei xiii, 22), ascribed to them the subtlety whereby spiritual substances are said to be subtle: and they said that at the resurrection the body will be transformed into a spirit, and that for this reason the Apostle describes as being "spiritual" the bodies of those who rise again (1 Corinthians 15:44). But this cannot be maintained. First, because a body cannot be changed into a spirit, since there is no community of matter between them: and Boethius proves this (De Duab. Nat.). Secondly, because, if this were possible, and one's body were changed into a spirit, one would not rise again a man, for a man naturally consists of a soul and body. Thirdly, because if this were the Apostle's meaning, just as he speaks of spiritual bodies, so would he speak of natural [animale] bodies, as being changed into souls [animam]: and this is clearly false.

Hence certain heretics said that the body will remain at the resurrection, but that it will be endowed with subtlety by means of rarefaction, so that human bodies in rising again will be like the air or the wind, as Gregory relates (Moral. xiv, 56). But this again cannot be maintained, because our Lord had a palpable body after the Resurrection, as appears from the last chapter of Luke, and we must believe that His body was supremely subtle. Moreover the human body will rise again with flesh and bones, as did the body of our Lord, according to Luke 24:39, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see Me to have," and Job 19:26, "In my flesh I shall see God," my Saviour: and the nature of flesh and bone is incompatible with the aforesaid rarity.

Consequently another kind of subtlety must be assigned to glorified bodies, by saying that they are subtle on account of the most complete perfection of the body. But this completeness is explained by some in relation to the fifth, or heavenly, essence, which will be then predominant in them. This, however, is impossible, since first of all the fifth essence can nowise enter into the composition of a body, as we have shown above (Sent. D, 12, qu. 1). Secondly, because granted that it entered into the composition of the human body, it would be impossible to account for its having a greater predominance over the elemental nature then than now, unless--either the amount of the heavenly nature in human bodies were increased (thus human bodies would not be of the same stature, unless perhaps elemental matter in man were decreased, which is inconsistent with the integrity of those who rise again)--or unless elemental nature were endowed with the properties of the heavenly nature through the latter's dominion over the body, and in that case a natural power would be the cause of a property of glory, which seems absurd.

Hence others say that the aforesaid completeness by reason of which human bodies are said to be subtle will result from the dominion of the glorified soul (which is the form of the body) over the body, by reason of which dominion the glorified body is said to be "spiritual," as being wholly subject to the spirit. The first subjection whereby the body is subject to the soul is to the effect of its participating in its specific being, in so far as it is subject to the soul as matter to form; and secondly it is subject to the soul in respect of the other operations of the soul, in so far as the soul is a principle of movement. Consequently the first reason for spirituality in the body is subtlety, and, after that, agility and the other properties of a glorified body. Hence the Apostle, as the masters expound, in speaking of spirituality indicates subtlety: wherefore Gregory says (Moral. xiv, 56) that "the glorified body is said to be subtle as a result of a spiritual power."

This suffices for the Replies to the Objections which refer to the subtlety of rarefaction.

Article 2. Whether by reason of this subtlety a glorified body is able to be in the same place with another body not glorified?

Objection 1. It would seem that by reason of this subtlety a body is able to be in the same place with another body not glorified. For according to Philippians 3:21, "He will reform the body of our lowness made like to the body of His glory." Now the body of Christ was able to be in the same place with another body, as appears from the fact that after His Resurrection He went in to His disciples, the doors being shut (John 20:19-26). Therefore also the glorified bodies by reason of their subtlety will be able to be in the same place with other bodies not glorified.

Objection 2. Further, glorified bodies will be superior to all other bodies. Yet by reason of their superiority certain bodies, to wit the solar rays, are able now to occupy the same place together with other bodies. Much more therefore is this befitting glorified bodies.

Objection 3. Further, a heavenly body cannot be severed, at least as regards the substance of the spheres: hence it is written (Job 37:18) that "the heavens . . . are most strong, as if they were of molten brass." If then the subtlety of a glorified body will not enable it to be in the same place together with another body, it will never be able to ascend to the empyrean,* and this is erroneous. [The empyrean was the highest of the concentric spheres or heavens, and was identified by Christian writers with the abode of God. Cf. I, 56, 3].

Objection 4. Further, a body which is unable to be in the same place with another body can be hindered in its movement or even surrounded by others standing in its way. But this cannot happen to glorified bodies. Therefore they will be able to be together in the same place with other bodies.

Objection 5. Further, as point is to point, so is line to line, surface to surface, and body to body. Now two points can be coincident, as in the case of two lines touching one another, and two lines when two surfaces are in contact with one another, and two surfaces when two bodies touch one another, because "contiguous things are those whose boundaries coincide" (Phys. vi, 6). Therefore it is not against the nature of a body to be in the same place together with another body. Now whatever excellence is competent to the nature of a body will all be bestowed on the glorified body. Therefore a glorified body, by reason of its subtlety, will be able to be in the same place together with another body.

On the contrary, Boethius says (De Trin. i): "Difference of accidents makes distinction in number. For three men differ not in genus, nor in species, but in their accidents. If we were to remove absolutely every accident from them, still each one has a different place; and it is quite conceivable that they should all occupy the same place." Therefore if we suppose two bodies to occupy the same place, there will be but one body numerically.

I answer that, It cannot be maintained that a glorified body, by reason of its subtlety, is able to be in the same place with another body, unless the obstacle to its being now in the same place with another body be removed by that subtlety. Some say that in the present state this obstacle is its grossness by virtue of which it is able to occupy a place; and that this grossness is removed by the gift of subtlety. But there are two reasons why this cannot be maintained. First, because the grossness which the gift of subtlety removes is a kind of defect, for instance an inordinateness of matter in not being perfectly subject to its form. For all that pertains to the integrity of the body will rise again in the body, both as regards the matter and as regards the form. And the fact that a body is able to fill a place belongs to it by reason of that which pertains to its integrity, and not on account of any defect of nature. For since fulness is opposed to vacancy, that alone does not fill a place, which being put in a place, nevertheless leaves a place vacant. Now a vacuum is defined by the Philosopher (Phys. iv, 6,7) as being "a place not filled by a sensible body." And a body is said to be sensible by reason of its matter, form, and natural accidents, all of which pertain to the integrity of nature. It is also plain that the glorified body will be sensible even to touch, as evidenced by the body of our Lord (Luke 24:39): nor will it lack matter, or form, or natural accidents, namely heat, cold, and so forth. Hence it is evident that the glorified body, the gift of subtlety notwithstanding, will fill a place: for it would seem madness to say that the place in which there will be a glorified body will be empty. Secondly their aforesaid argument does not avail, because to hinder the co-existence of a body in the same place is more than to fill a place. For if we suppose dimensions separate from matter, those dimensions do not fill a place. Hence some who held the possibility of a vacuum, said that a vacuum is a place wherein such like dimensions exist apart from a sensible body; and yet those dimensions hinder another body from being together with them in the same place. This is made clear by the Philosopher (Phys. iv, 1,8; Metaph. ii, 2), where he considers it impossible for a mathematical body, which is nothing but separate dimensions, to be together with another natural sensible body. Consequently, granted that the subtlety of a glorified body hindered it from filling a place, nevertheless it would not follow that for this reason it is able to be in the same place with another body, since the removal of the lesser does not involve the removal of the greater.

Accordingly we must say that the obstacle to our body's being now in the same place with another body can nowise be removed by the gift of subtlety. For nothing can prevent a body from occupying the same place together with another body, except something in it that requires a different place: since nothing is an obstacle to identity, save that which is a cause of distinction. Now this distinction of place is not required by any quality of the body, because a body demands a place, not by reason of its quality: wherefore if we remove from a body the fact of its being hot or cold, heavy or light, it still retains the necessity of the aforesaid distinction, as the Philosopher proves (Phys. iv), and as is self-evident. In like manner neither can matter cause the necessity of the aforesaid distinction, because matter does not occupy a place except through its dimensive quantity. Again neither does form occupy a place, unless it have a place through its matter. It remains therefore that the necessity for two bodies occupying each a distinct place results from the nature of dimensive quantity, to which a place is essentially befitting. For this forms part of its definition, since dimensive quantity is quantity occupying a place. Hence it is that if we remove all else in a thing from it, the necessity of this distinction is found in its dimensive quantity alone. Thus take the example of a separate line, supposing there to be two such lines, or two parts of one line, they must needs occupy distinct places, else one line added to another would not make something greater, and this is against common sense. The same applies to surfaces and mathematical bodies. And since matter demands place, through being the subject of dimension, the aforesaid necessity results in placed matter, so that just as it is impossible for there to be two lines, or two parts of a line, unless they occupy distinct places, so is it impossible for there to be two matters, or two parts of matter, without there be distinction of place. And since distinction of matter is the principle of the distinction between individuals, it follows that, as Boethius says (De Trin.), "we cannot possibly conceive two bodies occupying one place," so that this distinction of individuals requires this difference of accidents. Now subtlety does not deprive the glorified body of its dimension; wherefore it nowise removes from it the aforesaid necessity of occupying a distinct place from another body. Therefore the subtlety of a glorified body will not enable it to be in the same place together with another body, but it will be possible for it to be together with another body by the operation of the Divine power: even as the body of Peter had the power whereby the sick were healed at the passing of Peter's shadow (Acts 5:15) not through any inherent property, but by the power of God for the upbuilding of the faith. Thus will the Divine power make it possible for a glorified body to be in the same place together with another body for the perfection of glory.

Reply to Objection 1. That Christ's body was able to be together with another body in the same place was not due to its subtlety, but resulted from the power of His Godhead after His resurrection, even as in His birth [Cf. III, 28, 2, ad 3]. Hence Gregory says (Hom. xxvi in Evang.): "The same body went into His disciples the doors being shut, which to human eyes came from the closed womb of the Virgin at His birth." Therefore there is no reason why this should be befitting to glorified bodies on account of their subtlety.

Reply to Objection 2. Light is not a body as we have said above (Sent. ii, 13, 3; I, 67, 2): hence the objection proceeds on a false supposition.

Reply to Objection 3. The glorified body will pass through the heavenly spheres without severing them, not by virtue of its subtlety, but by the Divine power, which will assist them in all things at will.

Reply to Objection 4. From the fact that God will come to the aid of the blessed at will in whatever they desire, it follows that they cannot be surrounded or imprisoned.

Reply to Objection 5. As stated in Phys. iv, 5, "a point is not in a place": hence if it be said to be in a place, this is only accidental, because the body of which it is a term is in a place. And just as the whole place corresponds to the whole body, so the term of the place corresponds to the term of the body. But it happens that two places have one term, even as two lines terminate in one point. And consequently though two bodies must needs be in distinct places, yet the same term of two places corresponds to the two terms of the two bodies. It is in this sense that the bounds of contiguous bodies are said to coincide.

Article 3. Whether it is possible, by a miracle, for two bodies to be in the same place?

Objection 1. It would seem that not even by a miracle is it possible for two bodies to be in the same place. For it is not possible that, by a miracle, two bodies be at once two and one, since this would imply that contradictions are true at the same time. But if we suppose two bodies to be in the same place, it would follow that those two bodies are one. Therefore this cannot be done by a miracle. The minor is proved thus. Suppose two bodies A and B to be in the same place. The dimensions of A will either be the same as the dimensions of the place, or they will differ from them. If they differ, then some of the dimensions will be separate: which is impossible, since the dimensions that are within the bounds of a place are not in a subject unless they be in a placed body. If they be the same, then for the same reason the dimensions of B will be the same as the dimensions of the place. "Now things that are the same with one and the same thing are the same with one another." Therefore the dimensions of A and B are the same. But two bodies cannot have identical dimensions just as they cannot have the same whiteness. Therefore A and B are one body and yet they were two. Therefore they are at the same time one and two.

Objection 2. Further, a thing cannot be done miraculously either against the common principles--for instance that the part be not less than the whole; since what is contrary to common principles implies a direct contradiction--or contrary to the conclusions of geometry which are infallible deductions from common principles--for instance that the three angles of a triangle should not be equal to two right angles. In like manner nothing can be done to a line that is contrary to the definition of a line, because to sever the definition from the defined is to make two contradictories true at the same time. Now it is contrary to common principles, both to the conclusions of geometry and to the definition of a line, for two bodies to be in the same place. Therefore this cannot be done by a miracle. The minor is proved as follows: It is a conclusion of geometry that two circles touch one another only at a point. Now if two circular bodies were in the same place, the two circles described in them would touch one another as a whole. Again it is contrary to the definition of a line that there be more than one straight line between two points: yet this would be the case were two bodies in the same place, since between two given points in the various surfaces of the place, there would be two straight lines corresponding to the two bodies in that place.

Objection 3. Further, it would seem impossible that by a miracle a body which is enclosed within another should not be in a place, for then it would have a common and not a proper place, and this is impossible. Yet this would follow if two bodies were in the same place. Therefore this cannot be done by a miracle. The minor is proved thus. Supposing two bodies to be in the same place, the one being greater than the other as to every dimension, the lesser body will be enclosed in the greater, and the place occupied by the greater body will be its common place; while it will have no proper place, because no given surface of the body will contain it, and this is essential to place. Therefore it will not have a proper place.

Objection 4. Further, place corresponds in proportion to the thing placed. Now it can never happen by a miracle that the same body is at the same time in different places, except by some kind of transformation, as in the Sacrament of the Altar. Therefore it can nowise happen by a miracle that two bodies be together in the same place.

On the contrary, The Blessed Virgin gave birth to her Son by a miracle. Now in this hallowed birth it was necessary for two bodies to be together in the same place, because the body of her child when coming forth did not break through the enclosure of her virginal purity. Therefore it is possible for two bodies to be miraculously together in the same place.

Further, this may again be proved from the fact that our Lord went in to His disciples, the doors being shut (John 20:19-26).

I answer that, As shown above (Article 2) the reason why two bodies must needs be in two places is that distinction in matter requires distinction in place. Wherefore we observe that when two bodies merge into one, each loses its distinct being, and one indistinct being accrues to the two combined, as in the case of mixtures. Hence it is impossible for two bodies to remain two and yet be together unless each retain its distinct being which it had hitherto, in so much as each of them was a being undivided in itself and distinct from others. Now this distinct being depends on the essential principles of a thing as on its proximate causes, but on God as on the first cause. And since the first cause can preserve a thing in being, though the second causes be done away, as appears from the first proposition of De Causis, therefore by God's power and by that alone it is possible for an accident to be without substance as in the Sacrament of the Altar. Likewise by the power of God, and by that alone, it is possible for a body to retain its distinct being from that of another body, although its matter be not distinct as to place from the matter of the other body: and thus it is possible by a miracle for two bodies to be together in the same place.

Reply to Objection 1. This argument is sophistical because it is based on a false supposition, or begs the question. For it supposes the existence, between two opposite superficies of a place, of a dimension proper to the place, with which dimension a dimension of the body put in occupation of the place would have to be identified: because it would then follow that the dimensions of two bodies occupying a place would become one dimension, if each of them were identified with the dimension of the place. But this supposition is false, because if it were true whenever a body acquires a new place, it would follow that a change takes place in the dimensions of the place or of thing placed: since it is impossible for two things to become one anew, except one of them be changed. Whereas if, as is the case in truth, no other dimensions belong to a place than those of the thing occupying the place, it is clear that the argument proves nothing, but begs the question, because according to this nothing else has been said, but that the dimensions of a thing placed are the same as the dimensions of the place; excepting that the dimensions of the thing placed are contained within the bounds of the place, and that the distance between the bounds of a place is commensurate with the distance between the bounds of the thing placed, just as the former would be distant by their own dimensions if they had them. Thus that the dimensions of two bodies be the dimensions of one place is nothing else than that two bodies be in the same place, which is the chief question at issue.

Reply to Objection 2. Granted that by a miracle two bodies be together in the same place, nothing follows either against common principles, or against the definition of a line, or against any conclusions of geometry. For, as stated above (Article 2), dimensive quantity differs from all other accidents in that it has a special reason of individuality and distinction, namely on account of the placing of the parts, besides the reason of individuality and distinction which is common to it and all other accidents, arising namely from the matter which is its subject. Thus then one line may be understood as being distinct from another, either because it is in another subject (in which case we are considering a material line), or because it is placed at a distance from another (in which case we are considering a mathematical line, which is understood apart from matter). Accordingly if we remove matter, there can be no distinction between lines save in respect of a different placing: and in like manner neither can there be a distinction of points, nor of superficies, nor of any dimensions whatever. Consequently geometry cannot suppose one line to be added to another, as being distinct therefrom unless it be distinct as to place. But supposing by a Divine miracle a distinction of subject without a distinction of place, we can understand a distinction of lines; and these are not distant from one another in place, on account of the distinction of subjects. Again we can understand a difference of points, and thus different lines described on two bodies that are in the same place are drawn from different points to different points; for the point that we take is not a point fixed in the place, but in the placed body, because a line is not said to be drawn otherwise than from a point which is its term. In like manner the two circles described in two spherical bodies that occupy the same place are two, not on account of the difference of place, else they could not touch one another as a whole, but on account of the distinction of subjects, and thus while wholly touching one another they still remain two. Even so a circle described by a placed spherical body touches, as a whole, the other circle described by the locating body.

Reply to Objection 3. God could make a body not to be in a place; and yet supposing this, it would not follow that a certain body is not in a place, because the greater body is the place of the lesser body, by reason of its superficies which is described by contact with the terms of the lesser body.

Reply to Objection 4. It is impossible for one body to be miraculously in two places locally (for Christ's body is not locally on the altar), although it is possible by a miracle for two bodies to be in the same place. Because to be in several places at once is incompatible with the individual, by reason of its having being undivided in itself, for it would follow that it is divided as to place. on the other hand, to be in the same place with another body is incompatible with the individual as distinct from aught else. Now the nature of unity is perfected in indivision (Metaph. v), whereas distinction from others is a result of the nature of unity. Wherefore that one same body be locally in several places at once implies a contradiction, even as for a man to lack reason, while for two bodies to be in the same place does not imply a contradiction, as explained above. Hence the comparison fails.

Article 4. Whether one glorified body can be in the same place together with another glorified body?

Objection 1. It would seem that a glorified body can be in the same place together with another glorified body. Because where there is greater subtlety there is less resistance. If then a glorified body is more subtle than a non-glorified body, it will offer less resistance to a glorified body: and so if a glorified body can be in the same place with a non-glorified body, much more can it with a glorified body.

Objection 2. Further, even as a glorified body will be more subtle than a non-glorified body, so will one glorified body be more subtle than another. Therefore if a glorified body can be in the same place with a non-glorified body, a more subtle glorified body can be in the same place with a less subtle glorified body.

Objection 3. Further, the body of heaven is subtle, and will then be glorified. Now the glorified body of a saint will be able to be in the same place with the body of heaven, since the saints will be able at will to travel to and from earth. Therefore two glorified bodies will be able to occupy the same place.

On the contrary, The glorified bodies will be spiritual, that is like spirits in a certain respect. Now two spirits cannot be in the same place, although a body and a spirit can be in the same place, as stated above (Sent. i, D, 37, 3, 3; I, 52, 3). Therefore neither will two glorified bodies be able to be in the same place.

Further, if two bodies occupy the same place, one is penetrated by the other. But to be penetrated is a mark of imperfection which will be altogether absent from the glorified bodies. Therefore it will be impossible for two glorified bodies to be in the same place.

I answer that, The property of a glorified body does not make it able to be in the same place with another glorified body, nor again to be in the same place with a non-glorified body. But it would be possible by the Divine power for two glorified bodies or two non-glorified bodies to be in the same place, even as a glorified body with a non-glorified body. Nevertheless it is not befitting for a glorified body to be in the same place with another glorified body, both because a becoming order will be observed in them, which demands distinction, and because one glorified body will not be in the way of another. Consequently two glorified bodies will never be in the same place.

Reply to Objection 1. This argument supposes that a glorified body is able by reason of its subtlety to be in the same place with another body: and this is not true.

The same answer applies to the Second Objection.

Reply to Objection 3. The body of heaven and the other bodies will be said equivocally to be glorified, in so far as they will have a certain share in glory, and not as though it were becoming for them to have the gifts of glorified human bodies.

Article 5. Whether by virtue of its subtlety a glorified body will no longer need to be in an equal place?

Objection 1. It would seem that by virtue of its subtlety, a glorified body will no longer need to be in an equal place. For the glorified bodies will be made like to the body of Christ according to Philippians 3:21. Now Christ's body is not bound by this necessity of being in an equal place: wherefore it is contained whole under the small or great dimensions of a consecrated host. Therefore the same will be true of the glorified bodies.

Objection 2. Further, the Philosopher proves (Phys. iv, 6), that two bodies are not in the same place, because it would follow that the greatest body would occupy the smallest place, since its various parts could be in the same part of the place: for it makes no difference whether two bodies or however many be in the same place. Now a glorified body will be in the same place with another body, as is commonly admitted. Therefore it will be possible for it to be in any place however small.

Objection 3. Further, even as a body is seen by reason of its color, so is it measured by reason of its quantity. Now the glorified body will be so subject to the spirit that it will be able at will to be seen, and not seen, especially by a non-glorified eye, as evidenced in the case of Christ. Therefore its quantity will be so subject to the spirit's will that it will be able to be in a little or great place, and to have a little or great quantity at will.

On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Phys. iv, text. 30) that "whatever is in a place occupies a place equal to itself." Now the glorified body will be in a place. Therefore it will occupy a place equal to itself.

Further, the dimensions of a place and of that which is in that place are the same, as shown in Phys. iv, text. 30,76,77. Therefore if the place were larger than that which is in the place the same thing would be greater and smaller than itself, which is absurd.

I answer that, A body is not related to place save through the medium of its proper dimensions, in respect of which a located body is confined through contact with the locating body. Hence it is not possible for a body to occupy a place smaller than its quantity, unless its proper quantity be made in some way less than itself: and this can only be understood in two ways. First, by a variation in quantity in respect of the same matter, so that in fact the matter which at first is subject to a greater quantity is afterwards subject to a lesser. Some have held this to be the case with the glorified bodies, saying that quantity is subject to them at will, so that when they list, they are able to have a great quantity, and when they list a small quantity. But this is impossible, because no movement affecting that which is intrinsic to a thing is possible without passion to the detriment [Cf. I-II, 22, 1; I-II, 41, 1] of its substance. Hence in incorruptible, i.e. heavenly, bodies, there is only local movement, which is not according to something intrinsic. Thus it is clear that change of quantity in respect of matter would be incompatible with the impassibility and incorruptibility of a glorified body. Moreover, it would follow that a glorified body would be sometimes rarer and sometimes denser, because since it cannot be deprived of any of its matter, sometimes the same matter would be under great dimensions and sometimes under small dimensions, and thus it would be rarefied and densified, which is impossible. Secondly, that the quantity of a glorified body become smaller than itself may be understood by a variation of place; so, to wit, that the parts of a glorified body insinuate themselves into one another, so that it is reduced in quantity however small it may become. And some have held this to be the case, saying that by reason of its subtlety a glorified body will be able to be in the same place with a non-glorified body: and that in like manner its parts can be one within the other, so much so that a whole glorified body will be able to pass through the minutest opening in another body: and thus they explain how Christ's body came out of the Virgin's womb; and how it went into His disciples, the doors being shut. But this is impossible; both because the glorified body will not be able, by reason of its subtlety, to be in the same place with another body, and because, even if it were able to be in the same place with another body, this would not be possible if the other were a glorified body, as many say; and again because this would be inconsistent with the right disposition of the human body, which requires the parts to be in a certain fixed place and at a certain fixed distance from one another. Wherefore this will never happen, not even by a miracle. Consequently we must say that the glorified body will always be in a place equal to itself.

Reply to Objection 1. Christ's body is not locally in the Sacrament of the Altar, as stated above (Sent. iv, D, 10, 1, 1, ad 5; III, 77, 5).

Reply to Objection 2. The Philosopher's argument is that for the same reason one part might permeate another. But this permeation of the parts of a glorified body into one another is impossible, as stated above. Therefore the objection does not prove.

Reply to Objection 3. A body is seen because it acts on the sight: but that it does or does not act on the sight causes no change in the body. Hence it is not unfitting, if it can be seen when it will, and not seen when it will [Cf. III, 55, 4]. On the other hand, being in a place is not an action proceeding from a body by reason of its quantity, as being seen is by reason of its color. Consequently the comparison fails.

Article 6. Whether the glorified body, by reason of its subtlety, will be impalpable?

Objection 1. It would seem that the glorified body, by reason of its subtlety, is impalpable. For Gregory says (Hom. xxv in Evang.): "What is palpable must needs be corruptible." But the glorified body is incorruptible. Therefore it is impalpable.

Objection 2. Further, whatever is palpable resists one who handles it. But that which can be in the same place with another does not resist it. Since then a glorified body can be in the same place with another body, it will not be palpable.

Objection 3. Further, every palpable body is tangible. Now every tangible body has tangible qualities in excess of the qualities of the one touching it. Since then in the glorified bodies the tangible qualities are not in excess but are reduced to a supreme degree of equality, it would seem that they are impalpable.

On the contrary, our Lord rose again with a glorified body; and yet His body was palpable, as appears from Luke 24:39: "Handle, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones." Therefore the glorified bodies also will be palpable.

Further, this is the heresy of Eutychius, Bishop of Constantinople, as Gregory states (Moral. xxiv): for he said that in the glory of the resurrection our bodies will be impalpable.

I answer that, Every palpable body is tangible, but not conversely. For every body is tangible that has qualities whereby the sense of touch has a natural aptitude to be affected: wherefore air, fire, and the like are tangible bodies: but a palpable body, in addition to this, resists the touch; wherefore the air which never resists that which passes through it, and is most easily pierced, is tangible indeed but not palpable. Accordingly it is clear that a body is said to be palpable for two reasons, namely on account of its tangible qualities, and on account of its resisting that which touches it, so as to hinder it from piercing it. And since the tangible qualities are hot and cold and so forth, which are not found save in heavy and light bodies, which through being contrary to one another are therefore corruptible, it follows that the heavenly bodies, which by their nature are incorruptible, are sensible to the sight but not tangible, and therefore neither are they palpable. This is what Gregory means when he says (Hom. xxv in Evang.) that "whatever is palpable must needs be corruptible." Accordingly the glorified body has by its nature those qualities which have a natural aptitude to affect the touch, and yet since the body is altogether subject to the spirit, it is in its power thereby to affect or not to affect the touch. In like manner it is competent by its nature to resist any other passing body, so that the latter cannot be in the same place together with it: although, according to its pleasure, it may happen by the Divine power that it occupy the same place with another body, and thus offer no resistance to a passing body. Wherefore according to its nature the glorified body is palpable, but it is competent for it to be impalpable to a non-glorified body by a supernatural power. Hence Gregory says (Hom. xxv in Evang.) that "our Lord offered His flesh to be handled, which He had brought in through the closed doors, so as to afford a complete proof that after His resurrection His body was unchanged in nature though changed in glory."

Reply to Objection 1. The incorruptibility of a glorified body does not result from the nature of its component parts; and it is on account of that nature that whatever is palpable is corruptible, as stated above. Hence the argument does not prove.

Reply to Objection 2. Although in a way it is possible for a glorified body to be in the same place with another body: nevertheless the glorified body has it in its power to resist at will any one touching it, and thus it is palpable.

Reply to Objection 3. In the glorified bodies the tangible qualities are not reduced to the real mean that is measured according to equal distance from the extremes, but to the proportionate mean, according as is most becoming to the human complexion in each part. Wherefore the touch of those bodies will be most delightful, because a power always delights in a becoming object, and is grieved by excess.

The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas
Second and Revised Edition, 1920
Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Online Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol.
Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii.
APPROBATIO ORDINIS
Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L.
Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ

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