Saturday, January 14, 2006

Man In His
Own Image

A little lesson in the foundation of Western Civilization from Henri De Lubac. From the book, The Drama of Atheist Humanism:

A wonderful piece of sculpture adorning the cathedral of Chartres represents Adam, head and shoulders barely roughed out, emerging from the earth from which he was made and being molded by the hands of God. The face of the first man reproduces the features of his modeler. This parable in stone translates for the eyes the mysterious words of Genesis:

"God made man in His own image and likeness."

From its earliest beginnings, Christian tradition has not ceased to annotate this verse, recognizing in it our first title of nobility and the foundation of our greatness. Reason, liberty, immortality, and dominion over nature are so many prerogatives of divine origin that God has imparted to his creatures.

Establishing man, from the outset, in God's likeness, each of these prerogatives is meant to grow and unfold until the divine resemblance is brought to perfection. Thus they are the key to the highest of destinies.

"Man, know thyself!" Taking up, after Epicetetus, the Church tranformed and deepened it, so that what had been chiefly a piece of moral advice became an exhortation to form a metaphysical judgement. Know yourself, said the Church, that is to say, know your nobility and you dignity, understand the greatness of your being and your vocation, of that vocation which constitutes your being. Learn how to see in yourself the spirit, which is a reflection of God, made for God.

"O man, scorn not that which is admirable in you! You are a poor thing in your own eyes, but I would teach you that in reality you are a great thing... Realize what you are! Consider your royal dignity! The heavens have not been made in God's image, nor the moon, nor the sun, nor anything to be seen in creation... Behold, of all that exists, there is nothing that can contain your greatness."