On the Truest Source of our Dignity

BY MSGR. CHARLES POPE
One of our deeper wounds is that we tend to doubt our dignity, especially in times of trouble. We look to human be- ings who are fickle for a sense of honor and prestige in our life. But St. Peter Chrysologus reminds us of the true source of our dignity, and that of others, in a homily in last week’s office:

A virgin conceived, bore a son, and yet remained a virgin….for [God] is the cause, and not nature….Christ’s birth was not a necessity, but an expression of omnipotence, a sacrament of piety for the redemption of men….That the Cre- ator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonor to him who made him.

“Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dis- honor when you are honored by Him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made? Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwelling? It was for you that the light dispelled the over- shadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embel- lished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, groves and fruit; and the constant marvelous variety of lovely living things was created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest sad solitude destroy the joy of God’s new creation.

And the Creator still works to devise things that can add to your glory. He has made you in His image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth; He has made you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord’s representative. Then in His mercy God assumed what he made in you; He wanted now to be truly manifest in man.”– St Peter Chrysologus From a Homily on the Nativity of Christ.

Yes, God is the true source of our honor. Before we were ever formed in our mother’s womb God thought about us and prepared for us and did whatever was necessary to bringing us into being (Jer 1:5). He knit us together in our mother’s womb and we are wonderfully fearfully made and every one of our days was known to Him before one of them ever came to be. (cf Ps 139)

Yes, God knowing all about us, our foibles and sins, our gifts and blessings, created us as a free act of love. Human life and the human person are sacred since they are this free and loving act of God who bestows life upon us, not of necessity but simply out of love. And thus, Chrysologus asks, “Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonor when you are hon- ored by Him?”

And for all of us together comes this additional dignity, that this whole universe and world was made for us! Modern environmental extremists see man as an interloper in this world, or even worse like some plague of locusts that must be destroyed.

But the Scriptures and the Christian vison see that whole universe exists just as it does in a delicate and perfect balance so that on this rare earth, life as we know it, and indeed our very life would be able to exist. God carefully, and in stages guided the emergence of life here, culminating with the Human Person.

The second story of creation has God creating Adam first and then designing everything around him and for him, and later for Eve. And thus, speaking from this tradition Peter Chrysologus says, “Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwell- ing? It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, groves and fruit; and the constant marvelous variety of lovely living things was created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest sad solitude destroy the joy of God’s new creation.”

And finally, our greatest dignity of all was that our Savior and very Lord chose to become one of us though His Incar- nation, humbling Himself to elevate us.

Can you really doubt your dignity and worth? Why do we look to lesser sources to assess our worth. Money, populari- ty, power, and so forth come and go and cannot be valid or lasting sources of our dignity. Look to God, and never forget the efforts and stages He carefully went about to make you. Dwell in His love for you.
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