Introduction: Image and Likeness
In the Beginning and the End
Sunday, December 31, 2017
God said, “Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness.” —Genesis 1:26
Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. —Revelation 22:17
As we turn toward a new year, we embark on a new theme in the Daily Meditations: Image and Likeness. Centuries of Christian theology confirm that the “image” described in Genesis refers to our eternal essence in God which cannot be increased or decreased. It is the soul’s objective union with God. You (and every other created thing) begin with a divine DNA, an inner destiny as it were, a blueprint tucked away in the cellar of your being, that begs to be allowed, to be fulfilled, and to show itself.
“It is the Holy Spirit poured into your heart, and it has been given to you” (Romans 5:5). My “I am” is merely a further breathing forth of the eternal and perfect “I Am Who Am” of the Creator (Exodus 3:14). This “beingness” precedes all doing. I am loved—or better, I am love—before I do anything right or wrong, worthy or unworthy. To put it philosophically, ontology precedes morality. Without doubt, this is our “original blessing.” The divine indwelling is a gratuitous gift, standing presence, and guarantee. We are the containers, temples, and recipients of this gift. In a certain sense, it had nothing to do with us. And yet it is our own inherent and irrevocable dignity. I call it the True Self, an immortal, imperishable diamond.
The indwelling divine image moves toward fulfillment in each of us throughout our lifetimes. “Likeness” refers to our personal and unique embodiment of that inner divine image. It is our gradual realization of this gift. We all have the same objective gift, but different ways of saying yes and consenting to it. There are as many ways to manifest God as there are beings in the universe. Our personal and collective embodiments reveal aspects of the sacred through our personhood, relationships, fields of work and study, culture, economy, politics, and justice. Though we differ in likeness, the imago Dei persists and shines through all created things.
Earlier this year we explored divinization or theosis, the process of becoming our truest selves. The clear goal and direction of biblical revelation is toward a full mutual indwelling. We see the movement toward union as God walks in the garden with naked Adam and Eve and “all the array” of creation (Genesis 2:1). The theme finds its climax in the realization that “the mystery is Christ within you, your hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). As John excitedly puts it, “You know him because he is with you and he is in you!” (John 14:17). The eternal mystery of incarnation will have finally met its mark, and “the marriage feast of the Lamb will begin” (Revelation 19:7-9). As in the beginning, so in the end. Amen. Let it be so.
Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 17, 121-122.