“God has imprinted the image of the good things of His own nature on creation. But sin, in spreading out over the divine likeness, has caused this good to disappear, covering it with shameful garments. But if, by a life rightly led, you wash away the mud that has been put on your heart, then godlike (theoeides) beauty will again shine out in you. And so it is that he who is pure of heart merits to be called blessed, since in looking at his own beauty, he sees in it its model.
Just as he who looks at the sun in a mirror, even if he does not fix his eyes on the sky itself, nevertheless sees the sun in the mirror’s brightness, so you also even if you eyes could not bear the light, possess within yourselves what you desire, if you return to the grace of the image that was placed in you from the beginning. (Gregory of Nyssa, from Louis Bouyer’s The Spirit of the New Testament and the Fathers, pp. 365-366)
Numerous Fathers accept the image of sin as being a mud which has sullied us but has not become part of who we are. Sin can be washed away by tears of repentance, by baptism, by living a godly life, by allowing the Light of God to enter into one’s life. Sin at worst is a parasite living on us, but we never lose our connection to God, the image of God imprinted on our hearts. These Fathers reject any idea of the total depravity of humanity or that humans are nothing but sin deserving God’s eternal damnation. Humans are loved by God and Christ comes to us as a healer, to take away our sins, to restore us to full health, to make us human again. The Hope diamond caked with layers of dried mud would look like a dirty rock. Yet, beneath the layers of mud the diamond is as valuable as ever. This is the situation of humans in the world and why God loves us and works so hard to save us. God sees through the mud and knows the worth of every human person.