Genuine human freedom manifests the Divine image

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

Taking up the words of Sirach, the Second Vatican Council explains the meaning of that “genuine freedom” which is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image” in man: “God willed to leave man in the power of his own counsel, so that he would seek his Creator of his own accord and would freely arrive at full and blessed perfection by cleaving to God”.64 These words indicate the wonderful depth of the sharing in God’s dominion to which man has been called: they indicate that man’s dominion extends in a certain sense over man himself. This has been a constantly recurring theme in theological reflection on human freedom, which is described as a form of kingship. For example, Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes: “The soul shows its royal and exalted character . . . in that it is free and self-governed, swayed autonomously by its own will. Of whom else can this be said, save a king? . . . Thus human nature, created to rule other creatures, was by its likeness to the King of the universe made as it were a living image, partaking with the Archetype both in dignity and in name”.65

The exercise of dominion over the world represents a great and responsible task for man, one which involves his freedom in obedience to the Creator’s command: “Fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). In view of this, a rightful autonomy is due to every man, as well as to the human community, a fact to which the Council’s Constitution Gaudium et spes calls special attention. This is the autonomy of earthly realities, which means that “created things have their own laws and values which are to be gradually discovered, utilized and ordered by man”.66

64 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 17.
65 De Hominis Opificio, Chap. 4: Patrologiæ Cursus completus, Series Græca 44, 135-136.
66 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 36.

Veritatis Splendor 38

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