Dorotheos of Gaza on an Easter Hymn by St Gregory Nazianzinos – 316 May 2014
Let us restore the image
To the ‘in the image’.
Let us come to know our value.
Let’s learn what great blessings we’ve been given; let’s learn in Whose image we’ve been made. Let’s not ignore the great gifts we’ve been given by Him, not because we deserve them, but simply out of His goodness. We should know that we’ve been made in the image of God Who created us.
Let us honour the Archetype.
Let’s not belittle the image of God in which we were made. If someone wanted to paint the image of a ruler, would they dare use a clarty colour in the picture and thus disrespect the ruler and leave themselves open to punishment? They’d always use costly and bright colours, worthy of a picture of a ruler. In fact, gold leaf is often used in pictures of rulers, and great care is taken to depict, as far as possible, all the royal robes, so that anyone seeing the picture with the whole of its regal character might think that they were almost seeing the ruler himself, the actual model for the portrait. Because the picture is wonderful and brilliant. So let’s not demean our Archetype. We’ve been made in the image of God. So rather let’s make our own image pure and honourable, worthy of the Archetype. Because, if people are punished for disrespecting the portrait of a ruler, who is no more than human in any case, what should we suffer if we disparage the divine image within us and don’t restore the image pure to the ‘in the image’, as Saint Gregory puts it. So, let’s honour the Archetype.
172. Let us know the power of the mystery
and for whom Christ died.
The power of the mystery of Christ lies in the fact that, by sin, we’ve expunged the image in which we were made and have therefore been rendered dead, as the Apostle says, by our sins and transgressions. Having made us in His image, and through compassion for His creation and His image, God became human for our sakes and accepted death for all of us, so as to return us, who were dead, to life from which we had fallen away through the transgression. When He mounted His holy Cross and crucified the sin for which we were expelled from Paradise, He led captivity captive, as it’s written.
What’s this ‘He led captivity captive?’ It means that, because of Adam’s transgression, the enemy took us prisoner and kept us under his thumb. From then on, people’s souls went to Hades when they left the body, because Paradise was closed. But when Christ mounted the holy and life-giving Cross, by His own blood He delivered us from the captivity into which the enemy had led us through the transgression. In other words, He snatched us back from the hand of the enemy and, in a sense, made us captives again by defeating and casting down him who’d enslaved us in the first place. This is why it says He led captivity captive. This is the power of the mystery. This is why Christ died for us, so that, as Saint Gregory says, He might lead us, who were dead, back to life. We’ve been delivered from Hell, then, through Christ’s love for us, and now the return to Paradise is up to us. Because now the enemy is no longer a tyrant over us; no longer does he have us as his slaves.
173. Let’s only beware, brethren, and keep ourselves from active sin. I’ve already told you often enough, that every active sin we commit renders us, once again, slaves of the enemy, since of our own will we cast ourselves down and submit to him. Is it not shameful and great wretchedness if, after Christ has redeemed us from Hell with His most precious blood, and after we’ve heard all this, we should turn back and cast ourselves into Hell once more? Wouldn’t we then deserve worse and more ignominious punishment? May God, Who loves us, have pity on us and grant us the vigilance to understand and help ourselves, so that we may find a little mercy on the Day of Judgment.