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The Creation of Men and Angels: Second distinction of the creation of man in these words: In our image and likeness, and The image of the Trinity in the rational soul

This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.

Second distinction of the creation of man in these words: In our image and likeness.

Let us make man in our image and likeness. At these admirable words, raise yourself up above the heavens, and all the heavens of heavens, rational soul, since God teaches you to form you, he has not proposed an alternative model other than himself. It is not the heavens, nor the stars, nor the sun, nor the Angels themselves, nor Archangels, nor Seraphim he wants to make you like. Let us make, he says, in our image: and to instill more: let us make in our likeness: that one may see all our traits in this beautiful creature, to the extent that the condition of the creature can afford it.

If it is necessary to distinguish the image and likeness; or is it, as has just been proposed, to further instill the truth that God uses these two words with almost the same strength, I do not know if one can decide. Such as it is, God expresses here all beauties of reasonable nature, and at the same time all the wealth he has given to him by his grace: understanding, commitment, honesty, innocence, clear knowledge of God, love infused from this first being, assurance of enjoying with him the same satisfaction if we had persevered in righteousness with which we had been created.

Christians, let us rise to our model, and aspire to nothing less than to imitate God. Be merciful, says the Son of God, as your heavenly Father is merciful. God is good; by his nature, he only does good and does not do evil to anyone. So do good to everyone, and the same to our enemies, as God, who makes His sun to shine on the good and the bad, and rains on the field of the just like that of the sinner. God is forgiving and easily appeases towards us, despite our malice: forgive by His example. He is holy: Be holy as I am holy, says the Lord God Almighty. In a word it is perfect, Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Who can attain the perfection of this model? It is thus necessary to always grow and give no rest or no letting go. This is why St. Paul always moves forward in his course: Forgetting what he leaves behind, and never ceasing to stretch forward by new and continual efforts. (Philippians 3:13) Weigh all these words, this forgetfulness, this stretching, this tireless ardor. It is at the end of such a course that one finds the crown and the prize set forth by the divine calling in Jesus Christ. May no Christian imagine himself exempt from this work, or that this perfection is not for him. This way demands, says St. Augustine, people walking without stopping; it does not put up with those who turn aside; finally it does not put up with those who stop, little that it is. For those who stop, it is pride that takes them there, it is laziness that takes them there; they think they have moved forward or accomplished something, and in letting go, their natural heaviness drags them down and there is no longer a resource.

Seventh Elevation. The image of the Trinity in the rational soul.

Let us make man: we have said, in these words, the image of the Trinity began to appear and shines beautifully in the rational creature. Like the Father, she has being: like the Son, she has intelligence; like the Holy Spirit, she has love: like the Father, the Son and the Holy spirit, she has in her being, her intelligence and her love a same happiness and a same life. You can not remove anything without removing everything. Happy creature, and perfectly similar, if she occupies herself only with him. So perfect in His being, in His intelligence, in His Love, she hears all that she is, she loves what she hears: his being and his operations are inseparable: God becomes the perfection of his being, the immortal food of his intelligence and his love. Like God she only said one word, which includes all His wisdom: like God, she only produces one love which surrounds her being; and all that does not die in her. Grace comes over these depths and lifts nature: the glory is shown to her, and adds its complement to grace. Happy creature once again, if she can keep her happiness! Man, you have lost. Where does your mind wander; where will drown your love? Alas! Alas! And without end alas! Come back to your origin.


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