Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The likeness of God

By Sr. Teresa Forcades (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Un Manament Nou
12/16/2011

For Basil, it was clear that the end of human life is full participation in the divine life. Having been passively created in the image of God, we need to make use of our freedom to reach the likeness of God. The Spirit of God pushes us to live according to God's will. Our response is decisive: either we can stifle the action of the Spirit or we can be open to it.

"Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of charisms, participation in heaven and the dance of the angels, joy without end, abiding in God, being made like to God, and, highest of all, being made God." (9:23)

Due to sin, the step from the image to the likeness cannot be simply continuous. It can't just be the unfolding of potential that leaves intact or reinforces the initial identity but rather, as in the case of seed, we need a real transformation (1 Cor 15:51), we have to "die to be born anew."

The economy of our God and Savior over human beings is to bring them back from exile and rescue them for intimacy with God from the alienation caused by disobedience. (...) Therefore, for the perfection of life, the imitation of Christ is necessary not only in the examples of gentleness, humility, and patience He left us in His lifetime, but also of death itself, says Paul, the imitator of Christ -- "being conformed to His death, in order to attain the resurrection from the dead." (Phil 3:10-11) (15,35).

Basil reflects the belief of the Christians of the ascetic monastic movement at the end of the 4th century in his identification of the "death" that enables us to be "born from above" through baptism:

How, then, can we resemble Him in death? Being buried with Him in baptism. What is this kind of burial? And what is the benefit of imitation? First, you have to interrupt the course of the previous life. This is impossible unless one is born from above, according to the word of the Lord. In fact, the rebirth -- as its name suggests -- is the beginning of a second life. Now, before starting the second life, you have to put an end to the previous one (15:35).

(From Ser persona, hoy: estudio del concepto de 'persona' en la teología trinitaria clásica y de su relación con la noción moderna de libertad by Teresa Forcades i Vila. Published by the Abadía de Montserrat).

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