The soul-sickness called modernism runs deep in us. We have become creatures of mind and reason, and we have lost our hearts. Some, reacting to this desiccation of the human soul, have shredded their hearts by giving themselves over to mere feeling and impulse. So we categorize and pigeonhole one another. Or we manipulate and control through a distortion of desire. But the deepest part of the human person is mystery, a deep core that God alone knows. At the center of this mystery lies an image and a freedom. The image bears the immense weight of the divine, the freedom carries a design for creation and love.
Each and every human being bears a unique and creative identity which is grounded and sustained in the image of God. We do not need to parse this divine image. It is enough that we are like the God who created us, enough that we bear his unique stamp and identity. Because this image is of God, is divine, it necessarily bears life and goodness, and it is indestructible. It may be disfigured and distorted, as a painting may be damaged by water and fire. Adam’s sin did just that for us, and we, too, add to that damage. But we cannot jettison the image. It is who we are, an inescapable weight of being and glory. It may be saving, or it may be terrible. It is always in us.
Because this image is of God, it is ultimately indefinable. We cannot finally describe it. The edges of its meaning always retreat beyond our advance, always elude our final grasp. But in that God has revealed himself to us, we can know that this image grounds us in love. This love is not a thing, a force, an element, but is in fact the expression of the Persons of the Godhead. It is personal. It is communion.
Grounded in love, more importantly, grounded in the love of God, then, we are free, for love is not least the freedom for union with the other. This love is creative. It acts and multiplies. It delights in the freedom of the other, the creative and indeterminate give and take of communion, pursuer and pursued. God is love and Lover, and we are made in his image. In freedom he creates and saves and loves and blesses; and we in freedom join the symphonic choir.
Yes, we are fallen, we sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. We do not bear the image of God easily, we do not use our freedom wisely. We desire and do not love. We fear our freedom and seek to control the other. We are brought each moment to the opportunity of repentance in all our interactions with one another, even when alone. For we are always presented the choice between love and selfishness, and may use our solitude to pray for and with one another.
Hurt and wounded by one another, we retreat into categories and control. We feel the weight of the image, but we do not feel the strength to bear it. We feel the responsibility of the freedom, but we fear not only to exercise it but to receive in love the freedom of the other. We feel exposed and vulnerable. Overwhelmed, we are disoriented and lost. The mystery is beyond our grasp. We cannot define it. We cannot control it.
Here is this person before us. We see. We hear. We feel the fire of communion. But we cannot contain or control that fire. Its source is the person, and at the center is mystery. An image grounded in the Unknowable One, a freedom grounded in the divine Lover.
There is nothing for it, then, but to recapture our hearts, to steal them back from this soul-sickness which infects our world. To reject categorization and manipulation. More importantly to find a way to strengthen our hearts for invitation and reception. There is no single and formulaic path, for God is creating an infinity of goods. But his pathways are our pathways. The other will always be ever beyond our knowing or control. Such is communion, a mystery, and love.