On the occasion of the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, I read the following commentary by St. Thomas Aquinas on Genesis I, 27:
“God created man to His own image.”
As man is said to be the image of God, because of his intellectual nature, he is most especially like God according to that in which he can best imitate God in his intellectual nature. Now the intellectual nature imitates God chiefly in this, that God understands and loves Himself. Wherefore we see that the image of God is in man in three ways.
Firstly, inasmuch as man possesses a natural aptitude for understanding and loving God, which aptitude consists in the very nature of the mind which is common to all men.
Secondly, inasmuch as man actually or habitually knows and loves God, though imperfectly; which kind of image is by the conformity of grace.
Thirdly, inasmuch as God knows and loves God perfectly, which is from the likeness and conformity of glory. Wherefore, on the words : “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us” (Ps IV, 7), the gloss distinguishes a threefold image, namely, the image of creation, of re-creation and of likeness. The first is found in all men, the second only in the just and the third in the blessed.
The image of God is especially in us when we actually know and love God. For the intellectual creature is chiefly like unto God from the very fact that he is intellectual. For man has this likeness in preference to other creatures, and this includes all other created things. From the fact that man understands, he is chiefly linked unto God, for God in understanding Himself understands all other things.
Therefore, first and chiefly, the image of the Trinity is to be found in the acts of the soul, that is, inasmuch as from the knowledge we possess by actual thought, we form an internal word, and thence break into love. But since the principle acts are the habits and powers, and everything exists virtually in principle, so, secondarily, and consequently, the image of the Trinity may be considered as existing in the powers and still more in the habits as much as the acts virtually exists therein.
The image of God abides ever in the soul; whether this image of God be so obscure, as if it were clouded so as to amount to nothing, as in those who have not the use of reason, or obscured and disfigured, as in sinners, or clear and beautiful as in the just, as Augustine says.
Translated from Latin and compiled into a volume of meditations by Fr. E.C. McEniry, O.P. in 1938.