The Image of God
As we embrace the joy of Christmas, we are drawn to the innocence of the Christ Child and the faithfulness of the Holy Family, but there has always also been the profound truth of the Incarnation. The early Church Fathers tried, not so simply to our modern ears, to express the miracle, mystery, and accessibility of the imago dei, the image of God, to our likeness.
I offer these expressions of devotion and love as a challenge of reflection for each of us this Christmas. Read through what the Fathers say, and rest in the Holy Spirit to deepen your reflection in the imago dei.
God recapitulated in Himself in ancient formation of man, that he might kill sin, deprive death of its power and vivify man. (St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, c. 202)
For He is not the voice of an articulate utterance, but a substance begotten by divine power, who has in all things pleased Him that sent Him. (St. Ignatius, Patriarch of Antioch, c. 140)
Man’s maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die. (St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-340)
This day He who Is, is Born; and He who is becomes what He was not. (St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, 347-407)
Thus it happened that two opposite marvels took place at once: the death of all was consummated in the Lord’s body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished. (St. Athanasius the Great, Pope of Alexandria, 298-373)
He measures all by comparison with his own suffering, so that he may know our condition by his own, and how much is demanded of us, and how much we yield. (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Archbishop of Constantinople, 329-390)
Teacher of children became himself a child among children, that he might instruct the unwise. The Bread of heaven came down to earth to feed the hungry. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop of Jerusalem, 313-386 )
The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. (St. Athanasius the Great, Pope of Alexandria, 298-373)
For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. (Justin Martyr, Christian apologist and philosopher, 100-165)
God the Word was made man for this reason, that that very nature which had sinned, fallen, and become corrupt should conquer the tyrant who had deceived it. (John of Damascus, monk, priest, hymnographer, and apologist, 675-749)
Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope. (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Archbishop of Constantinople, 329-390)
He was made man that we might be made God. (St. Athanasius the Great, Pope of Alexandria, 298-373)
This Lord of natures today was transformed contrary to His nature; it is not too difficult for us to also overthrow our evil will. (St. Ephrem the Syrian, Theologian, hymnographer, 306-373)
Through the imago dei,
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Father Bill Burk†