Monday, December 6, 2010

A Royal Dignity

Dear Parish Faithful,

In ch. 5 of her remarkable book, God's Many-Splendored Image, Sister Nonna examines the "royal dignity" of being created as a human being "in the image and likeness of God." She begins by asking some direct questions, the answers to which have enormous consequences as to how we view ourselves and our neighbors: "Do I have real dignity as a human person?" And "Does my neighbor have real dignity as a human person?"

Basing herself on the Scriptures and the Church Fathers, Sister Nonna of course answers those questions in the affirmative. In fact, she writes the following:

Because everyone is made in the image of God, and because this image defines what it means to be human, people are fundamentally equal, regardless of the differences in wealth, education, and social status. The Church preached this countercultural message in the ancient world and still preaches it now. For example, here is what Martin Luther King Jr. said in a sermon on July 4, 1965:

The whole concept of the imago Dei , as it is expressed as it is expressed in Latin, the "image of God," is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this is a nation; there are no gradations in the image of God ... We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.

Sister Nonna offers this commentary on this fine passage from Dr. King's speech:

In 1965 when King preached this sermon, people in our culture were not yet attentive to the problem of sexist language. If he were speaking today, surely he would say, "God made us to live together as brothers and sisters and to respect the dignity and worth of every human being. And yet today, although our culture speaks loudly about the equality of all people, in many places the message that all people are made in God's image and should be treated accordingly is still countercultural.

In this chapter, we will discuss how early Christians affirmed that women, slaves and lepers (read "social outcasts") are made in God's image.

Christian societies have not honored the image of God in those three "categories" of life nearly as well as the vision given to us in the scriptural revelation expects of us. Though at times a dreary topic, it can be inspiring when you read the Scriptures carefully and the commentary of the great Church Fathers on these themes.

It is certainly a group of topics more than worthy of our time and attention on Monday evening, December 6.

Vespers at 7:00 p.m.
Session V - "Royal Dignity" - at 7:45 p.m.

Click this link for notes and questions for our next session on Monday evening. Please scroll down to p. 9.
For more on our Fall Adult Education Class, visit our website.

Fr. Steven

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