Maximus the Confessor: Faith, Hope, Love Tuesday, Aug 13 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorAugust 13th is the feast of St Maximus the Confessor

Love is a holy state of the soul, disposing it to value knowledge of God above all created things.

We cannot attain lasting possession of such love while we are still attached to anything worldly.

Dispassion engenders love, hope in God engenders dispassion, and patience and forbearance engender hope in God.

These in turn are the product of complete self-control, which itself springs from fear of God. Fear of God is the result of faith in God.

If you have faith in the Lord you will fear punishment, and this fear will lead you to control the passions.

Once you control the passions you will accept affliction patiently, and through such acceptance you will acquire hope in God.

Hope in God separates the intellect** from every worldly attachment, and when the intellect is detached in this way it will acquire love for God.

The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created by God, and pursues such knowledge ardently and ceaselessly.

If everything that exists was made by God and for God, and God is superior to the things made by Him, he who abandons what is superior and devotes himself to what is inferior shows that he values things made by God more than God Himself.

When your intellect is concentrated on the love of God you will pay little attention to visible things and will regard even your own body as something alien.

Since the soul is more noble than the body and God incom­parably more noble than the world created by Him, he who values the body more than the soul and the world created by God more than the Creator Himself is simply a worshipper of idols.

If you distract your intellect from its love for God and concentrate it, not on God, but on some sensible object, you thereby show that you value the body more than the soul and the things made by God more than God Himself.

Since the light of spiritual knowledge is the intellect’s life, and since this light is engendered by love for God, it is rightly said that nothing is greater than divine love (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13).

When in the intensity of its love for God the intellect goes out of itself, then it has no sense of itself or of any created thing.

For when it is illumined by the infinite light of God, it becomes insensible to everything made by Him, just as the eye becomes insensible to the stars when the sun rises.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Four Hundred Texts on Love 1-10, Text  from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.53-54.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Maximus and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

Maximus the Confessor: Moses, Elijah and the Mystery of the Transfiguration (2) Monday, Aug 5 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here…

Then they [Peter, James and John] are taught through them [Moses and Elijah] about wisdom and kindness dwelling with Him.

It is in accordance with wisdom that the word is declaratory of things made and prohibitory of things not made, and of this Moses is the type, for we believe the grace of law-giving to belong to wisdom.

And it is in accordance with kindness that the word invites and causes to return to the divine life those who have slipped away from it, and of this Elijah is the type, through himself manifesting the complete prophetic gift.

For the conversion through love for humankind of those who have erred is a characteristic of divine kindness, and the heralds of this we know as the prophets.

[And they are also taught about] knowledge and education. Knowledge is the source in human beings of the understanding of good and evil.

“For I have set before your face”, he says, “life and death” (Deut. 30:19), the one you are to elect, the other to flee, and lest through ignorance you disguise the worse with the good,

Moses proclaims what is to be done, prefiguring in himself the symbols of the truth. Education is needed for those who without restraint do what is contrary and indiscriminately mix what should not be mixed. In Israel the great Elijah was their teacher, the scourge of indifference, who, like reason, led to understanding and sense the mindlessness and hardness of those who were utterly addicted to evil.

[And they are also taught about] ascetic struggle and contemplation. Ascetic struggle destroys evil and through the demonstration of the virtues cuts off from the world those who are completely led through it in their disposition, just as Moses led Israel out of Egypt and educated her persuasively through the divine laws of the Spirit.

Contemplation seizes them as it were from matter and form, like Elijah on his chariot of fire, leading them to God through knowledge and uniting them with Him, so that they are no longer weighed down by the flesh because of the setting aside of its law, nor burning with zeal for the fulfillment of the commandments, because of the grace of poverty of spirit mixed with all real virtues.

Again, they learnt from the Word the mysteries of marriage and celibacy: through Moses, how one is not prevented by marriage from being a lover of divine glory; and through Elijah, how he remained completely pure from any marital intercourse, and how the Word and God proclaims that those who direct themselves in these things by reason according to the laws that are divinely laid down concerning them are made to enter into Himself in a hidden way.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):  Eighteen Spiritual Interpretations of the Tranfiguration, From Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth (Routledge: London 1999) pp. 128-134 @ Mystagogy here and here.

Maximus the Confessor: Moses, Elijah and the Mystery of the Transfiguration (1) Sunday, Aug 4 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorBut going back to what has already been contemplated, let us turn our attention according to our means to the rest of the meaning of the Transfiguration, so that the excellence of the Saints in everything and their genuine separation from the flesh and matter may be seen.

And let us note that they do not contemplate either creation or Scripture like us in a material or lowly way.

They do not acquire the blessed knowledge of God only by sense and appearances and forms, using letters and syllables, which lead to mistakes and bafflement over the judgment of the truth, but solely by the mind [nous], rendered most pure and released from all material mists.

Since therefore we want to judge reverently and see clearly and intelligibly the meanings of those things perceived by the senses, we must look carefully to the inerrant knowledge concerning God and divine things and rightly proceed along the straight path.

Therefore it was said above that through the luminous brightness that shone from the face of the Lord on the mount, the thrice-blessed apostles were secretly led in an ineffable and unknowable manner to the power and glory of God which is completely incomprehensible to every being, for they learnt that the light that appeared to their senses is a symbol of what is hidden and beyond any manifestation.

For as the ray of the light that came to pass here overwhelmed the strength of the eyes and remained beyond their grasp, so also their God transcends all the power and strength of the mind and leaves no kind of trace for the mind to experience.

The white garments teach, in a divinely fitting way, at one and the same time both the magnificence that lies in creatures proportionately to the logoi [symbols of the divine plan] according to which they have come into being and the mysterious revelation found in the understanding of the words of Holy Scripture, so that the written power in the Spirit and the wisdom and knowledge manifested together in creatures are displayed together for the knowledge of God, and through them again he is proportionately manifested.

Through Moses and Elijah, who were with Him on either side, they are taught many various conceptions which are put forward as figures of mysteries: through true contemplation of them they found ways of knowing. It is this that must now be examined.

And first they received through Moses and Elijah the most reverent notion about how the legal and the prophetic word had always to be present with God the Word, as they are and proclaim from Him and concerning Him and they are established around Him.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):  Eighteen Spiritual Interpretations of the Tranfiguration, From Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth (Routledge: London 1999) pp. 128-134 @ Mystagogy.

Maximus the Confessor: Let Us Believe that We shall Reach the Realm where Christ Himself Now Is Saturday, Dec 29 2012 

Maximus_ConfessorHe who prays must never stand still on the steep ascent that leads to God.

[…] He must raise his intellect and the resolve of his soul from what is human to what is divine, so that his intellect can follow Jesus the Son of God, who has passed through the heavens (cf. Heb. 4:14) and who is everywhere.

For He has passed through all things for us by the dispensation of His incarnation, so that we, by following Him, may pass through all that is sequent to Him and so come to be with Him.

[…] Since Christ is God and the Logos [“Word”] of the Father, ‘the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Him’ in a manner that is according to essence (Col. 2:9).

The fullness of the Godhead dwells in us by grace when we gather into ourselves all virtue and wisdom, a wisdom which, so far as this is possible in man, does not in any way fall short of a faithful imitation of the divine archetype.

For it is not incongruous that, by virtue of our relationship with the Logos, the fullness of the Godhead…should come to dwell also in us.

[…] He who is in essence the Logos of God and knows the Father…is called ‘Messenger of great counsel’ (Isa. 9:6 LXX).

The great counsel of God the Father is the unspoken and unknown mystery of the divine dispensation.

This the only-begotten Son revealed through His incarnation, when He became the Messenger of the great pre-eternal counsel of God the Father.

[…] The Logos of God providentially descended for our sakes into the lower parts of the earth, and also ascended far above all the heavens (cf. Eph. 4:9-10), even though by nature He is entirely unmoving.

Since through the incarnation the Logos has already accomplished in Himself as man all that is to be, let him who delights in spiritual knowledge rejoice inwardly as he considers the consummation promised to those who love the Lord.

If the divine Logos of God the Father became son of man and man so that He might make men gods and the sons of God, let us believe that we shall reach the realm where Christ Himself now is:

for He is the head of the whole body (cf. Col. 1:18), and endued with our humanity has gone to the Father as forerunner on our behalf.

God will stand ‘in the midst of the congregation of gods’ (Ps. 82:1. LXX) – that is, of those who are saved – distributing the rewards of that realm’s blessedness to those found worthy to receive them, not separated from them by any space.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God Written for Thalassios, 18,21-25, Text  from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.141-143.

Maximus the Confessor: Bearing by Grace an Exact Spiritual Likeness of Christ, the Truly Great King Sunday, Nov 25 2012 

Anger and desire repudiated, we should next invoke the rule of the kingdom of God the Father with the words “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10), that is, “May the Holy Spirit come”.

For, having put away these things [anger and desire], we are now made into a temple for God through the Holy Spirit by the teaching and practice of gentleness.

“For on whom shall I rest”, says Scripture, “but on him who is gentle and humble, and trembles at my words?” (cf. Isa, 66:2).

It is clear from this that the kingdom of God the Father belongs to the humble and the gentle. For “blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

It is not this physical earth, which by nature occupies a middle place in the universe, that God promises as an inheritance for those who love Him.

[…] In this text (Matt. 5:5) I think that the word “earth” signifies the resolution and strength of the inner stability, immovably rooted in goodness, that is possessed by gentle, people.

This state of stability exists eternally with the Lord, contains unfailing joy, enables the gentle to attain the kingdom prepared from the beginning, and has its station and dignity in heaven. It also permits the gentle to inherit the principle of virtue, as if virtue were the earth that occupies a middle place in the universe.

For the gentle person holds a middle position between honour and obloquy, and remains dispassionate, neither puffed up by the first nor cast down by the second.

For the intelligence is by nature superior to both praise and blame; and so, when it has put away the sensual desire, it is no longer troubled by either the one or the other, having  anchored the whole power of the soul in divine and unassailable liberty.

The Lord, wanting to impart this liberty to His disciples says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29).

He calls the rule of the divine kingdom “rest” because it confers on those worthy of it a lordship free from all servitude.

If the indestructible power of the pure kingdom is given to the humble and the gentle, what man will be so lacking in love and so completely without appetite for divine blessings that he will not desire the greatest degree of humility and gentleness in order to take on the stamp of the divine kingdom, so far as this is possible for men, and to bear in himself by grace an exact spiritual likeness of Christ, who is by nature the truly great king?

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): On the Lord’s Prayer, Text (slightly adapted) from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.292-293.

Maximus the Confessor: The Lamp Set upon the Lamp Stand – Jesus Christ – the True Light from the Father Wednesday, Oct 17 2012 

The lamp set upon the lamp stand is Jesus Christ, the true light from the Father, the light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.

In taking our own flesh he has become, and is rightly called, a lamp, for he is the connatural wisdom and word of the Father.

He is proclaimed in the Church of God in accordance with orthodox faith, and he is lifted up and resplendent among the nations through the lives of those who live virtuously in observance of the commandments.

So he gives light to all in the house (that is, in this world), just as he himself, God the Word, says: No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 

Clearly he is calling himself the lamp, he who was by nature God, and became flesh according to God’s saving purpose.

[…] Lamp-like indeed, he alone dispelled the gloom of ignorance and the darkness of evil and became the way of salvation for all men.

Through virtue and knowledge, he leads to the Father those who are resolved to walk by him, who is the way of righteousness, in obedience to the divine commandments.

He has designated holy Church the lamp stand, over which the word of God sheds light through preaching, and illumines with the rays of truth whoever is in this house which is the world, and fills the minds of all men with divine knowledge.

This word is most unwilling to be kept under a bushel; it wills to be set in a high place, upon the sublime beauty of the Church.

For while the word was hidden under the bushel, that is, under the letter of the law, it deprived all men of eternal light.

For then it could not give spiritual contemplation to men striving to strip themselves of a sensuality that is illusory, capable only of deceit, and able to perceive only decadent bodies like their own.

[…] For the letter, when it is not spiritually understood, bears a carnal sense only, which restricts its expression and does not allow the real force of what is written to reach the hearer’s mind.

Let us, then, not light the lamp by contemplation and action, only to put it under a bushel…lest we be condemned for restricting by the letter the incomprehensible power of wisdom.

Rather let us place it upon the lamp stand of holy Church, on the heights of true contemplation, where it may kindle for all men the light of divine teaching.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):Questions to Thalassius, 3 (PG 90, 667-670) from the Office of Readings (liturgy of the hours) for Wednesday of the 28th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Maximus the Confessor: Christ Makes Us Co-Worshippers with the Angels Tuesday, Oct 2 2012 

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).

He who worships God mystically with the faculty of the intelligence alone, keeping it free from sensual desire and anger, fulfils the divine will on earth just as the orders of angels fulfill it in heaven.

He has become in all things a co-worshipper and fellow-citizen with the angels, conforming to St Paul’s statement, ‘Our citizenship is in heaven’ (Phil. 3:20).

Among the angels desire does not sap the intellect’s intensity through sensual pleasure, nor does anger make them rave and storm indecently at their fellow creatures:

there is only the intelligence naturally leading intelligent beings towards the source of intelligence, the Logos Himself.

God rejoices in intelligence alone and this is what He demands from us His servants.

He reveals this when He says to David, ‘What have I in heaven, and besides yourself what have I desired on earth?’ (Ps. 73:25. LXX).

Nothing is offered to God in heaven by the holy angels except intelligent worship; and it is this that God also demands from us when He teaches us to say in our prayers, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt. 6:10).

Let our intelligence, then, be moved to seek God, let our desire be roused in longing for Him, and let our incensive power struggle to keep guard over our attachment to Him.

Or, more precisely, let our whole intellect be directed towards God, tensed by our incensive power as if by some nerve, and fired with longing by our desire at its most ardent.

For if we imitate the heavenly angels in this way, we will find ourselves always worshipping God, behaving on earth as the angels do in heaven.

For, like that of the angels, our intellect will not be attracted in the least by anything less than God.

[…] Christ…arouses in us an insatiable desire for Himself. If we fulfill His Father’s will, He makes us co-worshippers with the angels, when in our conduct we imitate them as we should and so conform to the heavenly state.

Then He leads us up still further on the supreme ascent of divine truth to the Father of lights, and makes us share in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4) through participation by grace in the Holy Spirit.

By virtue of this participation we are called children of God and, cleansed from all stain, in a manner beyond circumscription, we all encircle Him who is the author of this grace and by nature the Son of the Father.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): On the Lord’s Prayer, Text (slightly adapted) from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.298-304.

Maximus the Confessor: The Festal Assembly of Earthly and Heavenly Powers Monday, Jun 25 2012 

The Logos [Greek for the Word of God; the Son of God] bestows adoption on us when He grants us that birth and deification which, transcending nature, comes by grace from above through the Spirit.

The guarding and preservation of this in God depends on the resolve of those thus born: on their sincere acceptance of the grace bestowed on them and, through the practice of the commandments, on their cultivation of the beauty given to them by grace.

Moreover, by emptying themselves of the passions they lay hold of the divine to the same degree as that to which, deliberately emptying Himself of His own sublime glory, the Logos of God truly became man.

The Logos…‘made peace through the blood of His Cross…between things on earth and things in heaven” (Col. 1:20), and reduced to impotence the hostile powers that fill the intermediary region between heaven and earth.

He thereby made the festal assembly of earthly and heavenly powers a single gathering for His distribution of divine gifts, with humankind joining joyfully with the powers on high unanimous praise of God’s glory.

Also, after fulfilling the divine purpose undertaken on our behalf, when He was taken up with the body which He had assumed, He united heaven and earth in Himself.

He joined what is sensible with what is intelligible, and revealed creation as a single whole whose extremes are bound together through virtue and through knowledge of their first Cause.

He shows, I think, through what He has accomplished mystically, that the Logos unites what is separated and that alienation from the Logos divides what is united.

[…] The Logos enables us to participate in divine life by making Himself our food, in a manner understood by Himself and by those who have received from Him a ‘noetic’ [i.e. in the mind,; in the heart] perception of this kind.

It is by tasting this food that they become truly aware that the Lord is full of virtue (cf Ps. 34:8).

For He transmutes with divinity those who eat it, bringing about their deification, since He is the bread of life and of power in both name and reality.

He restores human nature to itself. First, He became man and kept His will dispassionate and free from rebellion against nature, so that it did not waver in the slightest from its own natural movement even with regard to those who crucified Him.

On the contrary, it chose death for their sake instead of life, thereby demonstrating the voluntary character of His passion, rooted as it is in His love for humankind.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): On the Lord’s Prayer, Text (slightly adapted) from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979).

Maximus the Confessor: When the Intellect Perceives its own Weakness it Rejects the Vain Pretensions of the Heart Thursday, Oct 6 2011 

When any devout philosopher fortified with ascetic practice and contemplation sees the power of evil rising up against him through the passions, like the king of the Assyrians rising up against Hezekiah, he is aware that only with God’s help can he escape.

He invokes God’s mercy by crying out silently and by striving to advance still further in virtue and knowledge.

He then receives as an ally, or rather as his salvation, an angel: one of the higher principles of wisdom and knowledge who cuts off every mighty man, warrior, leader and commander in the camp.

Every passion has its origin in the corresponding sensible object. For without some object to attract the powers of the soul through the senses, no passion would ever be generated.

In other words, without a sensible object a passion does not come into being.

[…] Thus at the origin of every impassioned stimulation of our natural powers there is a sensible object or, in other terms, a demon inciting the soul to commit sin by means of the sensible object.

The wrath of God is the painful sensation we experience when we are being trained by Him.

Through this painful experience of unsought sufferings God often abases and humbles an intellect concerned about its knowledge and virtue; for such sufferings make it conscious of itself and its own weakness.

When the intellect perceives its own weakness it rejects the vain pretensions of the heart.

[…] The intellect of every true philosopher … possesses both Judah and Jerusalem; Judah is practical philosophy and Jerusalem is contemplative initiation.

Whenever by the grace of God such an intellect repels the powers of evil with virtue and spiritual knowledge and wins a complete victory over them, yet does not thank God the true author of this victory, but boasts that the achievement is its own, it brings down the wrath of God’s abandonment not only on itself but also on Judah and Jerusalem, that is, on both its practice of the virtues and its contemplative life.

It has failed to give thanks to God for the gifts that he has given.

God at once permits shameful passions to vitiate its practice of the virtues and to sully its conscience, which until then was pure.

He also permits false concepts to insinuate themselves into its contemplation of created beings and to pervert its spiritual knowledge, which until then had been sound.

For ignoble passions immediately attack an intellect that is over-elated because of its spiritual knowledge and such an intellect will be permitted by God’s just judgement to lapse from true contemplation.

St Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662): Various Texts on Theology, 3.2, 3, 9-11; Philokalia 2 (1981) tr. Palmer etc., taken from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1

Maximus the Confessor: Elijah, the “Still Small Voice”, and the Understanding of Scripture Monday, Jul 25 2011 

The meaning of Holy Scripture reveals itself gradually to the higher senses of the more discerning mind when the mind has put off the complex bodily form of the words which are formed in it.

This revelation is like a still small voice.

Through a supreme abandonment of its natural activities, such a mind has been able to perceive the meaning only in a simplicity which reveals the divine Word.

This is the way that the great Elijah was granted the vision in the cave at Horeb.

For ‘Horeb’ means ‘newness’, which is our virtuous condition in the new spirit of grace.

The cave is the hiddenness of spiritual wisdom in which the one who enters will mystically experience the knowledge which goes beyond the senses.

This is the knowledge in which God is found.

Therefore anyone who truly seeks God, as did the great Elijah, will come upon him not only on Horeb – that is, as an ascetic in the practice of the virtues.

He will also encounter him in the cave of Horeb – that is, as a contemplative in the hidden place of wisdom which can exist only in the habit of the virtues.

When the mind shakes off the many distractions about things which are pressing on it, then the clear meaning of truth appears and gives it pledges of genuine knowledge.

These are given after it has driven off its recent preoccupations which were like scales on the eyes, just as in the case of the great and holy Apostle Paul.

For thoughts about the mere letter of Scripture and the consideration of those visible things that hinder understanding are indeed scales which cling to the clear-sighted part of the soul and hinder the passage to the pure meaning of truth.

St Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662): Gnostic Chapters 74-75, Maximus the Confessor: Selected Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality), taken from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the 18th Week of Ordinarty Time, Year 1

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