Dignity of the Human Person

I have begun to read the little book, The Pearl of Great Price, The Life of Mother Maria Skobtsova by Sergei Hackel and I have found what I think is a wonderful passage that should be adopted by all who work to alleviate the suffering of those who are less fortunate.What follows is Mother’s Code of Practice based on a recognition of the dignity of man created in the “Image and Likeness of God”

If someone turns with his spiritual world to the spiritual world of another person, he encounters an awesome and inspiring mystery […].  He comes into contact with the true image of God in man, with the very icon of God incarnate in the world, with a reflection of the mystery of God’s incarnation and divine manhood.  And he needs to accept this awesome revelation of God unconditionally, to venerate the image of God in his brother.  Only when he senses, perceives and understands it will yet another mystery be revealed to him – one that will demand his most dedicated efforts […].  He will perceivethat this divine image is veiled, distorted and disfigured by the power of evil […]. And he will want to engage in battle with the devil for the sake of the divine image.But it is a battle which demands self-abnegation.  Anyone who engages in it should not harbor the slightest desire, however subtle for personal gain.  By the same token, there should be no question of entertaining any idle curiosity for the victim’s experience.  On the contrary, it is essential to put oneself in his place, to attempt to appreciate and experience from within what he feels, to become all things to all men.

A doctrinaire approach from without is to be avoided.  The reduction of men’s needs to a few common denominators is likely to lead to mechanistic and partial solutions.  Yet equally pernicious and unprofitable is the facile and sentimental acceptance of the person just as he is, spiritual warts and all.  For those who work in this field, the balance is achieved by care, sobriety and love.  But this love needs to be extended to the whole person.  As was too often forgotten in the Russian Orthodox past, man’s body requires care, as well as his spirit and his psyche.

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