The gifts of language and thought, says St. Ephrem the Syrian, are what distinguish us from the animals and make us the image of God. What a terrible thing it is, then, when we use these gifts to be like animals instead of like God!
God gave us speech that is free like himself, in order that free speech might serve our independent free will. And by speech, too, we are the likeness of the Giver of it, since as by means of it we have impulse and thought for good things—and not only for good things, but we learn also of God, the fountain of good things, by means of speech, a gift from Him. By means of this speech that is like God, we are clothed with the likeness of God.
For if by free will Adam was the image of God, it is a most praiseworthy thing when, by true knowledge, and by true conduct, a man becomes the image of God. For that independence exists in these also. Animals cannot form in themselves pure thoughts about God, because they do not have speech, which is what forms in us the image of the Truth. We have received the gift of speech so that we may not be like speechless animals in our conduct, but in our actions resemble God, the giver of speech.
How great is speech, a gift that came to make those who receive it like its Giver! And because animals do not have speech, they cannot be the likeness of our minds. But because the mind has speech, it is a great disgrace to it when it is not clothed with the likeness of God. It is a still more grievous shame when animals resemble men, and men do not resemble God. But it is twice three times the torture when man, who stands between God and the animals, forsakes the Good above him and degrades himself from his natural rank to put on the likeness of animals in his conduct. –St. Ephrem the Syrian, First Discourse Against the False Teacher
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
When I think and talk, am I imitating God or beasts?
Lord, you made each human being a world within the world, and the glory of all the glories of creation. Guide me to live according to the purpose for which you created me.
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