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Center for Action and Contemplation

Saying Yes to the Divine Likeness

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Image and Likeness: Summary

Saying Yes to the Divine Likeness
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Christmas Day

My work is to free
myself of myself
so that You can be
born in me.
—Meister Eckhart, paraphrased [1]

The positive being that emerges from you and me [is] the image of God. The problem is that this image has been distorted by the emotional programs for happiness and over-identification with false values or groups so that the purity and power and beauty of who we really are is kind of hidden with layers of false self, both conscious and unconscious. So the spiritual journey aims at that. —Thomas Keating [2]

How do we first see and then practice our unique image of God, our “Original Goodness”? Paul gives us an answer. He says, “There are only three things that last, faith, hope, and love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). In Catholic theology, we call these three essential attitudes the “theological virtues” because they are a “participation in the very life of God”—given freely by God or “infused” into us at our very conception. In this understanding, faith, hope, and love are far more defining of the human person than the “moral virtues,” the various good behaviors we learn as we grow older. This is why I cannot abandon an orthodox or Catholic worldview. For all of its poor or incomplete formulations, it still offers humanity a foundationally positive anthropology, not just a moral worthiness contest, which is always unstable and insecure.

From the very beginning, faith, hope, and love are planted deep within our nature—indeed they are our very nature (Romans 5:5, 8:14-17). But we have to awaken, allow, and advance this core identity by saying a conscious yes to it and drawing upon it as a reliable and Absolute Source. Image must become likeness.

Our saying “yes” to such implanted faith, hope, and love plays a crucial role in the divine equation; human freedom matters. Mary’s yes seemed to be essential to the event of Incarnation (Luke 1:38). God does not come uninvited. God and grace cannot enter without an opening from our side, or we would be mere robots. God does not want robots, but lovers who freely choose to love in return for love. And toward that supreme end, God seems quite willing to wait, cajole, and entice.

[1] Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Burrows, Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart: Meditations for the Restless Soul (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.: 2017), 35.

[2] Thomas Keating, Healing Our Violence Through the Journey of Centering Prayer, disc 5 (Franciscan Media: 2012), CD.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 65-66.

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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