What is the significance in Stevens' "Sunday Morning" of the lines "The tomb in Palestine/ is not the porch of spirits lingering"?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The opening of the final stanza of Steven's poems contrasts Christianity with the preceding image of pagan relion and the images of natural order which conclude the poem. The contrast of Jesus tomb with "spirits lingering" evokes the image in Homer's Odyssey of the pathetic shades in Hades gathering around Odysseus unable to communicate unless given blood. In Christian doctrine, the body as well as the spirit of Jesus (and of dead Christians) are resurrected, and thus disembodied shades cannot exist. Thus the contrast on the one had is with the pagan imagery of the earlier stanza in which soul and body are presumed to separate at death. The stanza concludes, however, with an insistence on the corporeality of living beings, suggesting that what we are is in part our physical nature, that what makes us part of the natural order is our coporeality, and that the finality of death is the price we pay for that participation in nature.