If, dearly beloved, we comprehend faithfully and wisely the beginning of our creation, we shall find that man was made in God’s image, to the end that he might imitate his Creator, and that our race attains its highest natural dignity, by the form of the Divine goodness being reflected in us, as in a mirror.
And assuredly to this form the Saviour’s grace is daily restoring us, so long as that which, in the first Adam fell, is raised up again in the second.
And the cause of our restoration is naught else but the mercy of God, Whom we should not have loved, unless He had first loved us, and dispelled the darkness of our ignorance by the light of His truth.
And the Lord foretelling this by the holy Isaiah says, “I will bring the blind into a way that they knew not, and will make them walk in paths which they were ignorant of. I will turn darkness into light for them, and the crooked into the straight. These words will I do for them, and not forsake them” (Is. 42:16).
And again he says, “I was found by them that sought Me not, and openly appeared to them that asked not for Me” (Isaiah 65:1).
And the Apostle John teaches us how this has been fulfilled, when he says, “We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and may be in Him that is true, even His Son” (1 John 5:20), and again, “let us therefore love God, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Thus it is that God, by loving us, restores us to His image, and, in order that He may find in us the form of His goodness, He gives us that whereby we ourselves too may do the work that He does, kindling that is the lamps of our minds, and inflaming us with the fire of His love, that we may love not only Himself, but also whatever He loves.
For if between men that is the lasting friendship which is based upon similarity of character notwithstanding that such identity of wills is often directed to wicked ends, how ought we to yearn and strive to differ in nothing from what is pleasing to God.
Of which the prophet speaks, “for wrath is in His indignation, and life in His pleasure” (Ps. 29:5 (LXX), because we shall not otherwise attain the dignity of the Divine Majesty, unless we imitate His will.
Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 12:1.