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Center for Action and Contemplation

Mirroring the Divine Image

Monday, December 24, 2018

Image and Likeness: Summary

Mirroring the Divine Image
Monday, December 24, 2018
Christmas Eve

The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine image in everything. Our job is to mirror things correctly, deeply, and fully until all beings know who they are. A mirror by its nature reflects impartially, equally, effortlessly, spontaneously, and endlessly. It does not produce the image, nor does it filter the image according to its perceptions or preferences. Authentic mirroring can only call forth what is already there.

Consider the very “Mind of Christ” as a mirror. The Christ-mirror fully knows and loves us from all eternity and reflects that image back to us. I cannot logically prove this to you, but I do know that people who live inside of this resonance are both happy and healthy. Those who do not resonate and reciprocate with the inherent dignity of things around them only grow in loneliness and alienation and invariably tend toward violence in some form, if only toward themselves.

Do you then also see the lovely significance of John’s statement: “It is not because you do not know the truth that I write to you, but because you know it already” (1 John 2:21)? He is talking about an implanted knowing in each of us—an inner mirror, if you will. Today, many would just call it “consciousness.” Poets and musicians might call it the “soul.” The prophet Jeremiah called it “the Law written in your heart” (Jeremiah 31:33), while Christians call it the “Indwelling Holy Spirit.”

In that same letter, John puts it quite directly: “My dear people, we are already the children of God, and what we are to be in the future is still to be revealed, and when it is revealed—all we will know is that we are like God, for we shall finally see God as God really is!” (1 John 3:2). And who is this God that we will finally see? It is somehow Being Itself, for God is the one, according to Paul, “in whom we live and move and have our [own] being, as indeed some of your own writers have said, ‘We are all God’s children’” (Acts 17:28).

Our inherent “likeness to God” depends upon the objective connection given by God equally to all creatures, each of whom carries the divine DNA in a unique way. Owen Barfield called this phenomenon “original participation.” [1] I would also call it original blessing, original goodness, or original innocence (unwoundedness).

Whatever you call it, the “image of God” is absolute and unchanging. There is nothing humans can do to increase or decrease it. And it is not ours to decide who has it or does not have it, which has been most of our problem up to now. It is pure and total gift, given equally to all.

[1] See Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances (Wesleyan University Press: 1988), chapter 6.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 59-61.

Image credit: Venus (detail), 2008
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine image in everything. —Richard Rohr
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