The Divine Image
Our True Humanity
drawing: Leonardo da Vinci
Key Facts and Ideas
What is the true nature of our humanity? Are we "Naked Apes?" Complex bioprocessors? Angels in disguise? Depraved hell-fodder? Selfish Genes?
St. Gregory of Nazianzen, a 4th century Father from Asia Minor had his own Christian answer concerning humanity:-
" ... earthly yet heavenly, temporal yet immortal, visible yet intelligible, midway between majesty and lowliness; one self-same being, but both spirit and flesh." [38th Oration]
The Christian vision of humanity, at its best, has always been exalted. How else could it be when we have this from Genesis:-
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; [Genesis 1:26a]
There is something of God about us ... body, mind and soul. In humanity there is something even bigger than the Universe itself (Origen, St. Nilus of Ancyra and St. Maximus the Confessor), because we are made in God's image. In us the Cosmos has transcended even itself as a divine gift.
But, herein lies the tragedy as well as the glory of humanity.
We have squandered the gift through self will and rejection of the Giver. We are condemned to a lower nature for forsaking a higher. Like the prodigal son we eat with the pigs rather than at the Father's table. We have fallen from our true and highest vocation. Not only have we fallen but, because we are the hope of the Cosmos, a microcosm, a micro-theos (little god), the Cosmos has itself fallen with us as well. Outside the Garden now there is only toil and thorns and an angel standing guard.
This is why there must be a New Adam* for a New Creation, Christ ... a Cosmic Christ, a Suffering Servant who will rise from death to destroy the destructive wall of division that we have erected between ourselves and God. With our freedom in the resurrection will come freedom for all creation. Our vocation will be restored to us by God himself in the flesh. Such is the Christian gospel, the good news not just for us but for all creation. The once limitless possibilities of being human have now been reopened. A divinised humanity takes its seat again in a renewed creation.
New Adam* :-
St. Paul makes first use of this concept for
Christ [1 Corinthians 15:45 - Last Adam] in order to show that in Him we
have a new humanity fashioned by the resurrection. The old human
has been replaced by the new. The change is not (yet at any rate)
biological but spiritual. It's connected to the idea of baptism
leading to a new birth.
Humanity is glorious by bearing the image of God. Humanity is tragic by rejecting the divine vocation and gift. Restoration has been made possible by Christ the New Adam.
How do I see myself and my worth as a human being?
1. The Unity of the Human Person According to the Greek Fathers by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
2. Ancestral Sin and Salvation by Fr. Gregory Hallam
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