All of humanity is made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). Note that second part — likness. We can become like God. This is never more true than when Christ became a human being for our salvation; however, in order to become anything, one must act. In his Sermon XXVII On the Nativity, St. Leo implores us:
Awake, O man, and recognize the dignity of thy nature. Recollect thou wast made in the image of God, which although it was corrupted in Adam, was yet re-fashioned in Christ.
The first essential act in becoming like God is becoming aware of the image and likeness within. It is then that we, despite the radical inequalities of the fallen world, realize the radical equality we all have in Christ. No matter what background, no what disabilities, no matter what education, no matter what nationality, no matter what age — we are all made in the image and likeness of God and one in Christ. When we embrace this reality, miracles happen.
Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved. — St. Seraphim of Sarov
Today we celebrate two saints that embody this reality — St. Spyridon the Wonderworker and St. Peter the Aleut.
St. Spyridon was a simple shepherd. He married, he had a family and he tended his sheep. When his wife died, he was called to serve as a bishop. This simple shepherd then went on to defend the Orthodox faith against the Arians at the First Ecumenical Council. His simple explanation of our faith helped defeat the complex and academic explanations of the Arians.
St. Peter was an Aleut seal and otter hunter from the island of Kodiak in Alaska. He became a Christian through the missionary work of St. Herman of Alaska. When captured by the Spanish in California, he refused to denounce his faith despite getting his hands and feet cut off one joint at a time. Recognizing the image and likeness of God within himself, he had the ability to move through the suffering and unite himself to Christ on the Cross.
Through the prayers of Sts. Spyridon and Peter may we all awake and recognize the dignity of our nature and acquire a peaceful spirit. Amen.