By St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Excerpted from The Refuge: Anchoring the Soul in God (The Collected Works of St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), Vol. 3. Translated by Nicholas Kotar — Paperback — 448 pages — 978–088465-429–2. Available directly from the publisher, or from any good bookstore or online bookseller.
And once again the greatness of God’s image appears! It is revealed even in the very Fall, in the way that man was rescued from this fall.
God, by One of His Persons, took His image upon Himself. He became man. By His own Self He rescued him from the Fall and restored him to his former glory, raising him up to an even greater height than was given to him at the creation.
Here also we see how man is exactly God’s image. The Son takes humanity on Himself and through Him God the Trinity enters into communion with mankind.
All the Persons of God the Trinity took part in the work of Incarnation, even hypostatically. The Father abides as the begetter; the Son is begotten, and the Holy Spirit acts.
Here also we see how man is exactly God’s image. The Son takes humanity on Himself and through Him God the Trinity enters into communion with mankind. Our own thought, in order to communicate with other people, is incarnated into sounds. The immaterial is joined with matter; through it, the spirit and the mind enter this communication as well.
The Son, God the Word, the Divine Truth—He was incarnate. Our own thought was corrected and purified by Truth, and our own spirit became capable of communion with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then revivified our spirit, which was mortified by eternal death. Then our mind could enter into the knowledge and vision of the Father.
Man the trinity is healed by God the Trinity. The Word heals the thought and leads it from the dominion of falsehood, from the dominion of self-delusion, into the dominion of truth. The Holy Spirit vivifies the spirit and leads it from carnal and sensual emotions to spiritual ones. The Father appears to the mind, and the mind becomes the mind of God. “We have the mind of Christ,” said St Paul (1 Cor 2:16).
The beauty of the likeness was restored by the Spirit, just as the image was in baptism. It develops and perfects itself by the keeping of the commandments of the Gospel.
In the font of baptism, our fallen image is restored, and man is born into eternal life by water and the Spirit. From this moment, the Spirit, who had come away from man at his fall, begins to accompany him during his earthly life, healing the damage inflicted by sin after baptism through repentance. Thus, He makes it possible for him to be saved through repentance, even to the last breath.
The beauty of the likeness was restored by the Spirit, just as the image was in baptism. It develops and perfects itself by the keeping of the commandments of the Gospel. The model for this beauty, the fullness of this beauty is the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), exhorts the apostle, calling the faithful to restore and perfect the divine likeness in themselves, indicating to them the Holy Archetype of perfection for the new man who was recreated and renewed by the Redemption. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14). God the Trinity, when He redeemed His image (man), gave him such an opportunity to succeed in the perfection of the likeness, that the true likeness becomes a union of the image with the Archetype, the union of impoverished creation with its all-perfect Creator.
Wondrous, miraculous is the image of God, that image through which God Himself shines and acts. Peter’s very shadow could heal the sick! The man who lied to his face immediately fell down dead, as though he had lied directly to God. Paul’s kerchiefs and head-coverings performed miracles. Elisha’s bones raised a dead man, when the careless undertakers accidentally touched his body to the bones of the long-dead spirit-bearer.
The closest likeness and union is effected and preserved by the constant abiding in the commandments of the Gospel. The Savior commanded His disciples, “Abide in Me, and I in you.… I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:4–5).
The most blessed of states is when the Christian, with a conscience purified by the abandonment of all sin and the exact fulfillment of the commandments of the Gospel, communicates of the all-holy Body and Blood of Christ, and together with them he unites with God. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56).
O reasoning image of God! Look carefully at the glory, the perfection, the majesty that you are called to, that you are predestined for by God! The unattainable wisdom of the Creator has provided for you to make of yourself what you will.
O reasoning image of God! Is it possible that you do not want to remain a worthy image of God? Is it possible that you want to pervert yourself, to destroy the likeness, to assume the image of the devil and to descend to the level of the dumb beasts?
Has God poured forth His benefits in vain? Has His wondrous creation been for naught? Has He considered His counsel before the creation of His own image to be pointless? Did He redeem man from the Fall without expecting recompense? No, He will expect an account from all who received gifts from Him. He will judge how His generosity was used, how His incarnation was appreciated, how His blood was valued, the blood that was poured to redeem us from the Fall.
Woe, woe to any creatures who disdain the benefits of God, the Creator and Redeemer! Eternal fire, the pit of inextinguishable fire, lit a long time ago, prepared for the devil and his angels—this is what awaits the perverted images of God who have become worthless. They will burn eternally but will not be consumed for eternity!
Brothers! While we wander this earth, while we are on the threshold of eternity (this visible life) let us try to correct the outlines of the image of God within ourselves, as God has drawn on our souls. Let us add shading and color to fill out the beauty, vividness, and freshness of the likeness; and God, at the terrible judgment, will judge us worthy of entering His eternal, blessed bridal chamber on His eternal day, His eternal feast and triumph.
St Ignatius (Brianchaninov) (1807–1867) was a prolific author of Orthodox Christian ascetical works. Published toward the end of his life, his writings continued to grow in popularity long after his death. Along with his contemporary, St Theophan the Recluse, St Ignatius is now considered a foremost authority on Orthodox spirituality. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1988. His writings have previously appeared in English as The Arena, The Field and On the Prayer of Jesus. His feast day is celebrated on April 30th/May 13th.