Friday, April 20, 2012

Did Jesus really eat after the Resurrection?

3rd Sunday of Easter, Luke 24:35-48
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
Christ our Savior manifested the corporality of his glorified body through two principal proofs: First, he allowed his disciples to touch him; second, he ate in their presence.
While spirits, whether angels or separated souls, are indeed capable of appearing in a bodily form, the sight of our Lord eating was taken by the apostles as a certain manifestation of the truth of the resurrection of the flesh.
Yet, we might ask, was it fitting for Christ to eat food after having risen from the dead?
The risen do not need food
Christ, having risen from the dead, had no need of food or drink – this is obvious. Eating and drinking appertains to mortal animal life, but the resurrection does not restore a man to animal life and mortality; hence (so runs the objection), it does not seem fitting that our Savior should eat after the Resurrection.
To this, the Fathers of the Church affirm that our Lord had no need of this food, but used the act of eating only as a means for the manifestation of the truth of the Resurrection. The eating of fish was given as a proof to his disciples that he had a true body, and that this body contained within it all the normal organs which human bodies possess.
That our Lord could eat proves that his risen body was neither a ghostly phantasm nor a mere exterior shell (hallow on the inside), but was a true and physical human body.
Angels and ghosts cannot eat
Yet, one objects, is it not possible for angels and ghosts to appear to eat? And does this not confute the proof which our Lord gives? Since it would seem that even an angel could have eaten this fish.
I respond that an angel cannot truly be said to eat, for he has not the organs necessary for eating. And, even if it may appear that angels eat (as indeed was done in the presence of Abraham and Tobias), we must affirm that there is no true eating in such cases, as we hear from St. Raphael (Tobias 12:18-19): When I was with you … I seemed indeed to eat and to drink with you: but I use an invisible meat and drink, which cannot be seen by men – by which he means that he is fed spiritually and not corporeally, having no need of material food.
However, the disciples saw Christ eat and they knew that Truth himself could not deceive; therefore, since his eating was given as a proof both of his interior organs and of the corporality of his risen body, we must affirm these truths.
What happened to the fish eaten by our Savior?
And yet, although this eating was indeed a true act of eating – for our Lord did indeed take the food into his body which possessed all the organs necessary for the digestion and consumption of food – we must nevertheless assert that the effects of eating were not present.
In other words, while it is true that the risen Jesus did both chew and swallow the fish, and that he has within his glorified body all the organs which human bodies possess; nevertheless, this food was not in fact digested and absorbed into his body.
St. Thomas Aquinas (cf. Commentary on John 21 lecture 2; ST III, q.45, a.6) and St. Augustine affirm that this food was not transformed into Christ’s body by the natural process of digestion, but was rather dissolved into pre-existing matter by the divine power.
Thus writes St. Augustine (as quoted by Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide), “The thirsty earth, and the burning rays of the sun absorb water, each in a different way; the one because of its need; the other by its power.”
And so, although Christ did not take the food into his glorified body as nourishment (for the risen have no need of food), yet did he truly dissolve the food by his divine power.
Neither would it have been becoming for our Lord to digest food, since this process implies a certain bodily imperfection or defect – namely, the reliance upon external matter for strength.


A Sinner said...

This raises an interesting moral question though.

The end of the appetite to eat is nutrition. And as Catholic Encyclopedia says in its article on gluttony, "It is incontrovertible that to eat or drink for the mere pleasure of the experience, and for that exclusively, is likewise to commit the sin of gluttony. Such a temper of soul is equivalently the direct and positive shutting out of that reference to our last end which must be found, at least implicitly, in all our actions."

In other words, it works basically the same was a sex and procreation. (Though, like with NFP, I suppose the moral injunction is to not actively EXclude nutrition, rather than requiring that you actively include it, which might be impossible in the case of certain diseases, etc)

However, if Christ is eating but then actively dissolving the food without nutrition...what does this mean?

I suppose we must say that glorified humans no longer have an appetite for eating (as their will is immediately fulfilled already) and that thus Christ did not receive the pleasure of eating from His eating either?

But then, Christ had the beatific vision His whole life, even before His resurrection, and yet presumably He did have an appetite for eating and pleasure from it before, so what would have changed (as regards His will and passions) in the Resurrection?

Liam Ronan said...

As ever, a succinct and clear explanation. Many thanks, Father Erlenbush...but your choice of the term "ghosts" seems to want some further refinement.

misterd418 said...

Does that mean that the angel(s) deceived when they appeared to eat?

Davor Aslanovski said...

Can you please explain, or point us to some references in the Fathers, what the purpose of organs in the resurrected body is? For instance, is there a liver and what does it do...?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
Interesting you raise the question ... there was a good deal of debate in the Scholastic period about whether there were pleasures of taste and touch were of any use in the risen body.

Trying to remember (off the top of my head), it seems to me that these senses will be in use and we will have delights through them ... but not through the consumption of food (nor from sex), but rather through some other means ... perhaps ... like the way that some saints describe smelling sweet things while in prayer....

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I agree that the word "ghost" is loaded ... and personally I think the better word would be "spirit" ... but the reason I use it is because that is the word in the lectionary used in the USA ...
And I agree that more explanation would have been helpful ... If only I had the time! :-)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The angels did not deceive because they ate not so much to try and prove that they had true bodies ... but rather as a way of showing that they truly were present as helpers and companions.

Christ, on the other hand, ate as an explicit proof that his risen body was one and the same as the body which had died and been laid in the tomb.

Hope that helps! +

Anonymous said...

I would not quite agree that "the risen do not need food", in that "risen" can mean either those who have been resurrected to the new life (as is obviously the case with Jesus) or those who have been raised again to this life (e.g., Lazarus). Many accounts both in Scripture and in the lives of the saints indicate that those who have been raised back to this life are often very hungry immediately thereafter.

As regards the whole problem of "what happens to the food", a quick citation of St. Thomas is not in itself perfectly convincing, since this appears to be his "professional opinion" (not without value!) rather than an established teaching of the Church. However, in appearing and disappearing, in the unparalleled identity with each particle of a Consecrated Host, etc., it's clear that the risen Body of Christ is by no means hindered by the laws of physics.

-- Howard

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The main reason why Jesus' risen body had organs is that organs are constituent parts of the body -- hence, it is more fitting to have them (even if they are no longer needed).

Further, those organs were involved in our sanctification (especially since one must have a body to receive the Sacraments) ... hence, it is well that they be preserved in glory.

Good question! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are just playing word-games in your first paragraph ... when I speak of the "risen" anyone should be able to tell I mean those risen to glory as opposed to those merely "resuscitated" to natural life.
The article itself makes this abundantly clear.

As far as the question of "what happens to the food?" ... I do not give this as a dogmatic answer, but as the best explanation.
The dogma is that the risen and glorified body has no need of food.

Finally, Jesus' risen body is not wholly and entirely free from the laws of nature ... for he cannot contradict nature (except by divine power - as when he walks through walls), he only supersedes nature (as walking on water).

You can see the difference: bodies naturally tend to float on water, it is only beyond natural powers that Christ could walk on water.
But bodies have no natural tendency to be in the same place as another piece of matter, hence it is by divine power that Christ walked through walls.

So, you are partially correct and partially incorrect -- a glorified body can move very fast, but it cannot (except, perhaps, by divine omnipotence) be in two places at the same time; it can fly, but it cannot telaport.

Regarding the Sacred Body sacramentally present in the Eucharist ... we must not confuse Christ's proper species in his glorified body with his sacramental species in the Eucharist.
The two are very different modes of being present ... and thinking of them at the same time causes most people much confusion.

Peace. +

A Sinner said...

"it can fly, but it cannot telaport."

Well, define "teleport."

The Summa's point in denying that the motion would be "instantaneous" was to deny that the body would not pass through intervening space, because a body is still a body and not a spirit.

However, in teleportation (theoretically), the radiowaves or whatever still do pass through the intervening space (just at the speed of light) it would seem an analogy could still be made to teleportation (albeit, no one is saying the body would be converted to "waves")

As for passing through doors, I thought this was attributed to the "subtlety" of a glorified body and not simply divine omnipotence.

A Sinner said...

"Interesting you raise the question ... there was a good deal of debate in the Scholastic period about whether there were pleasures of taste and touch were of any use in the risen body."

I'd be very interested to see any references you have to these questions.

"Trying to remember (off the top of my head), it seems to me that these senses will be in use and we will have delights through them ... but not through the consumption of food (nor from sex), but rather through some other means ... perhaps ... like the way that some saints describe smelling sweet things while in prayer...."

That's my question, though. If these delights will still exist without the good which ordered them (nutrition for the pleasure of eating, procreation for the pleasure of sex), even if not from actual eating or sex (though, Christ's example seems to suggest it is at least possible)...then what is to stop dissenters today from claiming, say, that the telos of an appetite can be transcended already? That, say, sexual pleasure could be co-opted for its own sake, "overflowing" from the (vestigial) reproductive drive, but now simply an end in itself? That's the sort of thing I worry about if we admit such appetites or pleasures in a glorified body.

Anonymous said...

You can call it playing word games if you like, but it is a striking difference between the two kinds of "risen". I would not have guessed that someone brought back to natural life would probably be hungry.

Two different modes of being present? Yes, but one essence. The mode of being present in the Eucharist is, as far as I know, entirely unprecedented and unique to the essence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. That's why it is so hard to understand; we have no truly similar experiences with which to compare it. It would be easy to understand, and in fact entirely dull and commonplace, if the "mode of being present" were merely symbolic, but that is heretical; the Body of Christ has a mode of being truly present in the Eucharist. (Of course, that was also true at the Last Supper, so this must have nothing in particular to do with the properties of a resurrected body.)

As for the distinction you draw between walking on water and walking through a wall, I don't see it. Maybe that was just not the best example for the kind of distinction you wished to make. For one thing, some bodies can pass effortlessly through other bodies; neutrinos are known to do this, and there is strong but indirect evidence that there is 4 times as much "dark matter" (capable of passing unnoticed through not just walls, but the whole earth) as "normal" matter in the universe. For that matter, under the right conditions (Bose-Einstein condensation), some kinds of bodies (bosons) are actually attracted to occupy the same space as other, identical particles. (This happens, for example, in superfluid Helium-4.) Those things are all pretty irrelevant to the normal experience or the behavior of a human body, I freely acknowledge; but no more irrelevant than a log floating in the water or an insect walking on the surface tension is to Christ walking on the water.

I think the big difficulty (for me, at least) is in distinguishing the "natural" behavior of the body of a resurrected saint and "miraculous" behavior. The immortality of the resurrected body seems to me to be miraculous. So does bilocation, which has been alleged of some saints (like Padre Pio) at certain times and for certain reasons.

-- Howard

Anonymous said...

Interesting post - will have to go read Thomas on that matter. Believe or not, I was just wondering about this the other day - assuming he really ate, but didn't need to, but, where did the food go? So thanks!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

As you say, the mode of being present in the Eucharist is "entirely unprecedented and unique" ... therefore, it is not helpful to compare the Resurrection to the Eucharist.

Regarding walking on water vs. walking through walls ... you have never seen anything approximating two pieces of matter being in the same place at the same time (which is what truly occurred when Christ walked through the wall), but you have many many times seen things approximating to walking on water (as, for example, when wood floats).

Finally, regarding the difference between Christ's and Lazarus' "resurrections" (if you are truly interested in knowledge and not merely in making an unnecessary attack) ... see an earlier article:

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
For a start (on the question of sensible pleasures in the glorified body), you can look at ST Supp. q.82, a.4 --

Peace. +

Anonymous said...

I have not made *any* attacks. I have no idea why you are reacting in such a hostile fashion.

So the question is not whether we know of bodies that pass through other bodies (we do), or that share the same space as other bodies (again, we do), but whether we have direct sensory experience of them? And also not whether a floating log is *really* like walking on the water (it is not), but whether it is superficially similar as it is detected by our senses? In fact, both cases may have natural physical phenomena which are similar in one or two points, yet neither miracle can be explained as a natural physical phenomenon (which is why they are miracles). If it is to be claimed that one contradicts nature, but that the other only supersedes nature, that would seem to require a real difference in the relationship of the miracle to nature, not to superficial similarities of which I have direct sensory experience.

(Actually, it is not recorded that Jesus walked through a wall, only that he came and went in a some extraordinary way.

-- Howard

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Well, ok, I guess we have established that there is really no reason to be confused about whether the article is speaking to the "resurrection" of Lazarus ... I still don't know why you decided to go after that point....

Regarding the question of walking through walls, etc ... if you are interested, consider the following article:

or also this one:

... think more about the walking on water and you will see that it is not a mere superficial similarity detected by the senses ... but I don't have time to continue this discussion now.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. However, it seems to imply a thoroughly utilitarian view of eating (i.e, the only reason to eat is to gain nourishment).

As Catholics, we know our Lord placed preeminent importance on his presence at specific meal, in the Eucharist.

While the natural purpose of sex is the conception of children, it is also undeniabley pleasing, a physical sign of the spiritual union between husband and wife, and ultimately, of union between mankind and God.

I would suggest that eating, specifically
communal meals, carriea a similarly mystical significance, whether we recognize it or not.

Could it be our Lord was acknowledging this reality when eating in common with the disciples following his resurrection, even though he had no physical need of nourishment?

Anonymous said...

Father, I almost regret that I noticed an interesting difference between the Resurrection of Christ and the resuscitation of Lazarus. Almost.

As for "walking through wall", thank you for the reference to Saint Thomas. I respect him greatly, but he shows himself to be a man of the thirteenth century. In the intervening centuries, physics has not been idle, so he is somewhat out of date and was in error regarding the behavior of natural bodies.

-- Howard

jayeverett said...

Another example of "I am smarter than God".
We are made in the image of God not God is made in our image. The Bible interpretations come from the Holy See (2000 years of doing so)and the fact that Jesus ate some baked fish is a, believe in the scripture of go some where else......

bill bannon said...

Very nice article. I believe we will eat in the resurrected world as Christ did then because eating is such a communal part of the Bible. Abraham feeds the three strangers who speak with one sentence (Trinity hint) and much later the risen Christ feeds the apostles on the shore after they catch the 153 fish (my guess on the number: living out the 150 psalms leads to being with the 3 of the Trinity).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

It is simply not the case that modern science has "proven" that two bodies (by their natural powers) can be in the same place in the same time in the same respect.

As to the difference between Lazarus and Jesus ... I don't regret that you noticed the difference ... but I do regret that you have been unable to recognize that "the risen" (especially in this article) clearly refers to those risen to glory -- instead, you chose to make a useless distinction which only served to muddy the waters; in an attempt to sound smart.

But, yes, of course Lazarus digested food after being restored to natural animal life ... I have no idea why anyone would have expected otherwise. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm sorry, but I really have no idea what your comment means ...

In any case, as I say (following St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas), Christ most certainly did eat those fish ... but the process of digestion is another matter. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@bill bannon,
No, the risen will not eat in the new heavens and the new earth ... but there will be a "spiritual eating" -- and this is what will fulfill all that is most dignified in the process natural eating in human communion.

The glorified body will no longer be subject to the necessity of food and nutrition. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@bill bannon,
That is a really interesting interpretation of the 153 fish! I don't think I have heard that one before.
I like it (as a spiritual interpretation).

I wrote an article about this before, going through the commentaries of the Fathers of the Church ... you might find it interesting!

Peace! +

James Joseph said...

The story of the fish. This is the evidence that has points me to Tobias.

On His return trip from finding His beloved, a fish is torn open so that a Man blinded by sin might perceive the Son of God, assisted by His angels.

Mercy comes to us through the entrails.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting discussion. Regarding two bodies being in the same place at the same time, it is more accurate to say that physics has demonstrated that there 'states' that can be occupied by more than one 'particle'. For example, in a laser more than one photon can occupy the same 'state' (i.e. can have the same wave vector, polarization, etc.). On the other hand, there are certain particles (like electrons) that cannot share the same state. Thus, human beings (being made of electrons, among other types of particles) cannot walk through walls, which also are made of electrons. Clearly, Jesus' glorified body is not limited by this 'exclusion principle' that is operative between electrons. Indeed, I wonder if it is necessary that Jesus' glorified body need be composed of the same matter that makes up a pre-resurrected body.

A Sinner said...

Quantum tunneling is real and COULD apply to a whole human body, it's just that the probability is so low it would take virtually forever for that "freak" occurrence to ever happen on its own.

I've said this before on NTM: science now knows that physics is probabilistic rather than deterministic, so the old scholastic definition of a "miracle" or of miracles "extending" natural laws vs those overcoming them doesn't really work anymore.

In reality, even something like levitation could happen. The probability is tiny, but there is nothing about levitation (or walking through a wall) that is physically impossible. Just extremely improbable.

Miracles, then, can't really be conceived as about God making something physically impossible happen, but rather of Him making something extremely improbable happen. But at that point, one has to ask if the distinction between "miracles" and ordinary Providence is one of nature, or merely one of degree.

Seraphim said...

So if a glorified body doesn't need food, where does its energy come from?

Seriously, how do you reconcile this with basic biology and physics? If a "glorified body" does not need food, then it is not a physical, material, body, and you are denying one of the most basic dogmas of the Christian Faith.

Tomy Sebastian said...

Just one thought.
Throughout the Bible, Jesus always talked about things that were REAL and EXISTING. Even the parables that He used were not imaginary.

So, how can we assume that Jesus was acting like eating? He showed us what and how the life after death is. So, there must be eating even after the resurruction.

This is just a personal reflection of mine. We can know the truth after His second coming.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

There is nothing about the nature of a body to necessitate that it must eat ... it could be sustained by the power of God and by the glorified soul.
Shall we say that the glorified eyes are not physical eyes just because it is written, "They will need no light from lamps or the sun"? ... get serious.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Don't know to whom your comment is directed ... certainly I very clearly affirmed that Jesus really did eat ... however, he had no need of this food, nor was the food really digested by his interior organs.

However, I assure you that there is no eating after the Resurrection ... this is what every saint and theologian has taught ... is your "personal reflection" in any way based on the doctrines of the Church? Or are you the first Christian to read the Bible (so that you can ignore what every saint has said for 2,000 years)?

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