Let us recognize our Dignity

Let us recognize our Dignity

I've been reading some Patristic homilies on Pascha and I came across this from St. Gregory of Nazianzus' first Paschal Oration:

Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; to-day I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; to-day I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us--you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God's for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.

Outside of Christ, there is no understanding of our Dignity. There are shallow attempts at manifesting that dignity such as a stance against abortion or efforts to alleviate suffering, but absent the fullness of Christ these are hollow shells.

I think it is all to common today for us to think that by emphasizing the "dignity" of others we can inspire in our communities the necessary and yet seemingly missing sense of compassion. I see a good deal of irony in that the Dalai Lama can speak about compassion and recognizing the Dignity in others, while rejecting (publicly at least) any notion of recognizing the Dignity in ourselves which is precisely what he does when he avoids the issue of personal holiness (e.g. avoiding excesses of sex, drugs, or whatever). Now, look, I don't want to hammer away at the DL again here...but I do think he provides a great example of how "dignity" can sometimes not be dignity at all. Plus, I'll admit to having my Lenten patience tried by the undying oohing and ahhing I hear around Seattle...it's as bad as teenage girls at a Beatles concert.

Recognizing our Dignity, necessarily leads us to holiness - I think. Understanding the reality and work of the Image in whom we are made, draws us closer to Him and inspires us to offer ourselves wholly to Him. We cannot lead a life of hedonism and yet still recognize the real dignity of others...for that dignity is not found in what I or anyone else thinks about a particular person or group of persons. It is found in the Christian - the PASCHAL - message given to us by the Lover of Mankind.

I can sum up the powerful difference between the Christian notion of dignity and the secular notion by simply correcting a good, but somewhat ill-aimed political slogan.

It's not a "Right to Life"...it's a "Gift of Life."

Yes, let us recognize our Dignity and in so doing we will plant real seeds of compassion in ourselves and in others...with Christ as the pinnacle example of the true meaning of compassion. As we approach Holy Week and we bear witness to God's unsurpassed love for us, let us love one another in the same spirit.

But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.



Anonymous said…
But James, you don't want to go on record as being against compassion, do you?

I'm not surprised that Seattle embraces this kind of thing. I've long thought of Western Washington as the more or less unofficial capital of Neo-Hippyism, and hippyism (neo or not) always thinks of itself as being into Buddhism at some level. Mostly, what attracts our little would-be bohemians to quasi-Buddhism is its non-sectarian and rather non-specific worldview, its pacifism, and its wispy, thoroughly self-referential mysticism. But ask your average neo-hippy Buddhist enthusiast to define (or even spell) asceticism, and wait for the blank stare. If they do know about it, listen to them explain it away.

On the other hand, given the raucous scandal of both Roman Catholicism and denominationalism, and the only slightly less silly jurisdictional logjam in Orthodoxy, it's easy to see why people give up on Christianity. If I hadn't found Orthodoxy (regardless of its warts, because mine are far worse), I'd be an existentialist or dead, or perhaps a dead existentialist.


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