Monday, January 7, 2019

Met Silouan (Muci): The Image from Christmas to Theophany

Arabic original here.

The Image from Christmas to Theophany

I was recently asked to talk about the Feasts of the Incarnation and Theophany and about their connection to both our life and the life of Christ. The idea occurred to me for a meditation on the meaninc of "the image"--that is, since we are created in God's image-- that is earthly and spiritual for our encounter with God.

I have to discuss the background of our civilization a bit, which has come to focus on sight more than on hearing, to the point that you can tell that what people seek the most in their daily life is to receive or to see images. I don't know what image each person wants for himself or what image he has of himself. Of course, true self-knowledge helps us heal our burning desire in this regard. And this is necessary if a believer wants to live an honest and authentic spiritual life. Here I mean the bond that brings together God and man.

The bond is clear in our Holy Bible. It speaks to us about the "image" in which God has seen us since the beginning. We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). This takes you from talking about how people see you or how you see yourself to talking about how God sees you. If you take this matter seriously and examine it carefully, a new horizon will be revealed to you, in which you can learn to see yourself with the right eyes. That is, with the eyes of God the Creator. The result of this is that your entire life changes, since it brings you abiding joy because you realize that you are beloved of God, who has granted you to become much greater than yourself, to become like Him by grace! This is the final "image" for man.

So that we do not exert too much in our study and make the mistake of using inappropriate theories or picking images that do not agree with us, God has granted us to "see" our true image. His Son became incarnate and we have seen in Him the perfect union between the image and the likeness, the image of perfect man and perfect God. At Christmas, we saw how He took our body-- that is, He took the image that He created. And at Theophany, we saw how the Father announced that the one who had " increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52), who now is the one being baptized in the Jordan, is Himself His "beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17). God showed us this union in the person of Jesus Christ.

At that point, the "image" on the basis of which I was created becomes the arena for a heart-to-heart encounter with my Creator, an image within me upon which I was based, but it is an image called to be transfigured in all the splendor that God has given for me to be in. "The image" is my connection to my Creator and Lord. I bear it in a vessel of clay. It is this existence that groans and strains for glory to be manifest in it and through it. That is, the likeness which is realized whenever we strive to receive the word of God and have it bring forth within us behavior, life and a mind like the mind of Christ. It is the "space" in which we encounter God and become united to Him, if we truly believe in Him. It is our launchpad into a process of becoming that never ends, which the Bible told us about and for which it gave us many names, such as "eternal life".

Between the Feasts of Christmas and Theophany, we stand in humility before the majesty of the image and likeness before our eyes. So we strive for the "beloved Son" just as we strive for the beloved that our souls search for. At that point, we realize ourselves in a certain way, a way whose splendor we see in those who have robed themselves in light and have put on God and become christs in word and deed, one christ after another, in the likeness of Christ, the Lord and Savior. This is what we hope for ourselves, for each other, and for all those created in the image of God.

Metropolitan of Jbeil and Batroun (Mount Lebanon)

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