In the Ash Wednesday mass of the Catholic Church, the priest puts a cross made of ash in the forehead, whilst saying:

You are dust and to dust you shall return

I understand the literal and (I think) the spiritual meaning of these words. Yet, in both the Apostle's creed and the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed state:

I believe in ... the resurrection of the body

According to the Catholic Church, how are these two statemets/beliefs reconcilable?

  • 3
    There's nothing to reconcile. Returning to dust in no way precludes a resurrection after that.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 1, 2017 at 13:14
  • 1
    @curiousdannii, unless you are assumed to heaven like v.Mary, Enoch and Elijah. Lol
    – Grasper
    Mar 1, 2017 at 20:28
  • @curiousdannii It seems you have an answer to the question. Please could you write it in detail?
    – luchonacho
    Mar 2, 2017 at 9:21
  • @luchonacho I'm not a Catholic and don't know the details of how they'd answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 2, 2017 at 9:21
  • @curiousdannii Then I don't see how your comment is pertinent to the question. What was the point of the comment then?
    – luchonacho
    Mar 2, 2017 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


The dilemma is actually resolved in the Old Testament Scriptures.

(St.) Irenaeus of Lyon (130-202) defended against those who objected to the Christian belief of the resurrection of the dead in Book V of Against Heresies, showing how the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead is supported in the writings of the Prophets.

I think that the passage from Ezekiel 37 is especially relevant. It is talking about resurrection from bones and not dust, but I think the concepts are affine enough to merit mention.

Your title asks for the "Catholic perspective". Irenaeus is a respected Church Father, so I think his writings would be considered authoritative in this point (I am Orthodox, not Roman Catholic - anymore - but we share a common early Church tradition).

Now, that He who at the beginning created man, did promise him a second birth after his dissolution into earth, Isaiah thus declares:

The dead shall rise again, and they who are in the tombs shall arise, and they who are in the earth shall rejoice. For the dew which is from You is health to them. (Isaiah 26:19)

And again:

I will comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem: and you shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish as the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known to those who worship Him. (Isaiah 66:13)

And Ezekiel speaks as follows:

And the hand of the Lord came upon me, and the Lord led me forth in the Spirit, and set me down in the midst of the plain, and this place was full of bones. And He caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were many upon the surface of the plain very dry. And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I said, Lord, You who has made them knows. And He said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and you shall say to them, You dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord to these bones, Behold, I will cause the spirit of life to come upon you, and I will lay sinews upon you, and bring up flesh again upon you, and I will stretch skin upon you, and will put my Spirit into you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord. And I prophesied as the Lord had commanded me. And it came to pass, when I was prophesying, that, behold, an earthquake, and the bones were drawn together, each one to its own articulation: and I beheld, and, lo, the sinews and flesh were produced upon them, and the skins rose upon them round about, but there was no breath in them. And He said unto me, Prophesy to the breath, son of man, and say to the breath, These things says the Lord, Come from the four winds (spiritibus), and breathe upon these dead, that they may live. So I prophesied as the Lord had commanded me, and the breath entered into them; and they did live, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great gathering. (Ezekiel 37:1, etc.)

And again he says,

Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will set your graves open, and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall open your sepulchres, that I may bring my people again out of the sepulchres: and I will put my Spirit into you, and you shall live; and I will place you in your land, and you shall know that I am the Lord. I have said, and I will do, says the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:12, etc.)

As we at once perceive that the Creator is in this passage represented as vivifying our dead bodies, and promising resurrection to them, and resuscitation from their sepulchres and tombs, conferring upon them immortality also (He says, For as the tree of life, so shall their days be [Isaiah 65:22]), He is shown to be the only God who accomplishes these things, and as Himself the good Father, benevolently conferring life upon those who have not life from themselves.

Against Heresies, V.XV.1

  • Just adding"I think this apology addresses your question directly" doesn't explain how that apology succeeds in answering the question. It's also a wall of text in a difficult-to-read italic. Please make it clearer. Mar 1, 2017 at 15:25
  • @AndrewLeach, was there something specific in the apology that you found lacking, or did you not read it because it was difficult to read? For the numerical majority of Christians (Roman Catholics + Orthodox together), testimony from the Church Fathers is quite compelling, especially when backed (as is usually the case) by Scripture. But I can understand your objection if your perspective is different.
    – guest37
    Mar 1, 2017 at 15:28
  • I find it too difficult to read. Paragraphs would help. But you should present your own answer and cite references which back up your answer. Mar 1, 2017 at 15:29
  • I'm confused. I provide a reference as well as a link to the actual document. Irenaeus is considered one of the most authoritative early Church Fathers. Would the answer be more acceptable to you if I cited additional writings from other Church Fathers. What sort of references would you find acceptable? The quote is verbatim from Irenaeus work, which was in a single paragraph, but I will parse out the Scripture quotes to make it more readable.
    – guest37
    Mar 1, 2017 at 15:32
  • 2
    A good answer doesn't just copy others wholesale. It provides a commentary and uses original works to justify the answer. I'm sure this citation is relevant (if illegible, though that's not your fault), but you should explain how it is relevant. Mar 1, 2017 at 15:34

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