25. When God brought into being natures endowed with intelligence and intellect He communicated to them, in His supreme goodness, four of the divine attributes by which He sustains, protects and preserves created things. These attributes are being, eternal being, goodness and wisdom. Of the four He granted the first two, being and eternal being, to their essence, and the second two, goodness and wisdom, to their volitive faculty, so that what He is in His essence the creature may become by participation. This is why man is said to have been created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26). He is made in the image of God, since his being is in the image of God’s being, and his eternal being is in the image of God’s eternal being (in the sense that, though not without origin, it is nevertheless without end). He is also made in the likeness of God, since he is good in the likeness of God’s goodness, and wise in the likeness of God’s wisdom, God being good and wise by nature, and man by grace. Every intelligent nature is in the image of God, but only the good and the wise attain His likeness.
This text is not easy to unpack. Those of us endowed by God with intelligence and intellect have in our essence both being and eternal being. Death is not a natural part of our essence. St. Maximos’ parenthetical, though, is important. There was a competing view in the ancient world, and indeed in ours as well, that viewed human beings (or more often some non-material aspect of the human) as truly eternal — without beginning or end. St. Maximos is careful to distinguish his point. Unlike God, all created beings have an origin. There was a “time” when no creature, in whole or in part, existed. But for human beings, created in the image of God, from the point of our origin onward, we are in our essence eternal beings — sharing that with God through the grace of God.
But that is only the first step. We must learn to use the attributes of goodness and wisdom, again by grace, to participate in God and with God. Through that participation, we become united with God and attain his likeness. This is the heart of love, which is also the heart of theosis. For what does it mean to be good and wise? It means to unfailingly love others and God.