Perhaps we don’t realize it, but whenever we pray, we renew the image of God within us. Even when we pray on the Click to Pray app or pray for the Pope’s prayer intentions, we shine forth with the image of God.
The biblical passage that underlies this Christian conception of the human being comes at the beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’ (…) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:26-27). The Fathers of the Church at the beginning of Christianity say that human life is more than a part of creation; it is its completion, like the final masterpiece of a craftsman. Without human life, creation would have been incomplete. We are unique because we are given a special dignity by being the image of God himself. Aware of this, St. Basil the Great said: “Man is a great thing!”
What does this mean; what does it have to do with us? St. Cyril of Alexandria identifies this “image” with sanctification. Now, if God is the Father of Jesus, it is through his Son, who makes himself one of us, that we can say to God, “Father.” This happens through the Holy Spirit. Thus, each person can find in their internal structure the traces of the Holy Trinity, as St. Augustine affirms. St. John Cassian, in his optimistic view of creation, even goes so far as to say that, even though we can do evil, we are created for good because God is good, and that something good always remains in each of us. The “daily grace of the risen Christ,” he says, sanctifies us every day.
Prayer purifies the heart and recovers in us the image of the heart of Jesus from which we are molded. This is also the journey of the heart proposed by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
Fr. Antonio S’Antana, SJ
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Portugal)