Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 10

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 10

18. If ‘love is long-suffering and kind’ (1 Cor. 13:4), a man who is fainthearted in the face of his afflictions and who therefore behaves wickedly towards those who have offended him, and stops loving them, surely lapses from the purpose of divine providence.

Indeed. Yet love is hard, especially toward those who are afflicting you. Of course, I’ve often seen people confuse love with allowing others to abuse you when there are other options. That’s not love. If you study the ancient Christian martyrs, you’ll encounter many places where, if they had an available option, they act to escape. In no small part, it was out of love for their persecutors. These were not people who feared death, but they also did not seek it. They loved life. Moreover, they did not want another human being bearing the burden of the evil of murder. So we do not allow others to abuse us. But we should not respond in like manner when they do. I can’t claim to have such restraint, sadly. But that’s not a reason to stop trying.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 9

Posted: August 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 9

17.  The aim of divine providence is to unite by means of true faith and spiritual love those separated in various ways by vice. Indeed, the Savior endured His sufferings so that ‘He should gather together into one the scattered children of God’ (John 11: 52). Thus, he who does not resolutely bear trouble, endure affliction, and patiently sustain hardship, has strayed from the path of divine love and from the purpose of providence.

On the one hand, I lived so much of my early life on the edge of crisis that most of the time I’m pretty good at getting through rough times. I can compartmentalize and focus on what needs to be done immediately. But I’m not sure that bear, endure, or patience describe me much at all.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 8

Posted: August 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 8

15.  A soul’s motivation is rightly ordered when its desiring power is subordinated to self-control, when its incensive power rejects hatred and cleaves to love, and when its power of intelligence, through prayer and spiritual contemplation, advances towards God.

Without self-control, we are ruled by the passions flowing from our disordered nous. We tend to lash out when provoked; it’s not easy to embrace love. And ultimately, we need to know God.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 7

Posted: August 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 7

14.  Evil is not to be imputed to the essence of created beings, but to their erroneous and mindless motivation.

This is an important point. There is a mystery to evil as the nature of creation is good. As such it can even be difficult to describe evil as a separate thing. Rather it is more the perversion of something. God did not create evil, but in the very freedom instilled in the essence of his creation, God created the space that allows evil to exist. Ironically, evil rules, dominates, and destroys us in ways that God never would. We truly suffer evil. And God suffers with us both as the lover of creation and, through Christ, by joining us within our suffering.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 6

Posted: August 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 6

13.  Whether or not a nature endowed with intelligence and intellect is to exist eternally depends on the will of the Creator whose every creation is good; but whether such a nature is good or bad depends on its own will.

First, we are contingent beings. We have no natural immortality. Thus our existence is not part of our nature in the sense that it is something we control. When Christ broke the chains of death he did so for all humanity. However, our acts for good or ill do depend on our will. In that sense we form part of our nature.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 5

Posted: August 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 5

7.  Divinity and divine realities are in some respects knowable  and in some respects unknowable. They are knowable in the contemplation of what appertains to God’s essence and unknowable as regards that essence itself.

This text touches on the distinction between what is also called the essence and energies of Gods. The actual essence of God is unknowable to us. We know God through his activities or energies. Those energies are no less God, but they are active as opposed to being. Every description we have of God at some level describes an activity of God, not the essence of God. In many ways, that’s also true of the way we know each other. We do not know the essence of another human being; we know them by their activities, by their words, and by association with them. It’s a concept that sounds esoteric, but is really so fundamental to our nature that it can be hard to accurately describe it in language.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 4

Posted: August 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 4

6.  Some say that the created order has coexisted with God from eternity; but this is impossible. For how can things which are limited in every way coexist from eternity with Him who is altogether infinite? Or how are they really creations if they are coeternal with the Creator? This notion is drawn from the pagan Greek philosophers, who claim that God is in no way the creator of being but only of qualities. We, however, who know almighty God, say that He is the creator not only of qualities but also of the being of created things. If this is so, created things have not coexisted with God from eternity.

We are not eternal beings. There was a time when we did not exist. There was a time when all that was did not exist. The idea that we are somehow naturally eternal seeps into Christianity from various sources today, even. We see evidence of that in various ways, but not least in Christians who also claim belief in the transmigration of souls or reincarnation.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 3

Posted: July 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 3

3.  God is the Creator from all eternity, and He creates when He wills, in His infinite goodness, through His coessential Logos and Spirit. Do not raise the objection: ‘Why did He create at a particular moment since He is good from all eternity?’ For I reply that the unsearchable wisdom of the infinite essence does not come within the compass of human knowledge.

4.  When the Creator willed, He gave being to and manifested that knowledge of created things which already existed in Him from all eternity. For in the case of almighty God it is ridiculous to doubt that He can give being to anything when He so wills.

Time before the beginning of time is not a concept that makes sense within our perspective of reality. Everything about us is ordered by sequenced events. We could not exist in any other way. Creation exists in the overflow of God’s love made uniquely real and manifest.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 2

Posted: July 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 2

2.  How can the intellect not marvel when it contemplates that immense and more than astonishing sea of goodness? Or how is it not astounded when it reflects on how and from what source there have come into being both nature endowed with intelligence and intellect, and the four elements which compose physical bodies, although no matter existed before their generation? What kind of potentiality was it which, once actualized, brought these things into being? But all this is not accepted by those who follow the pagan Greek philosophers, ignorant as they are of that all-powerful goodness and its effective wisdom and knowledge, transcending the human intellect.

In this text, St. Maximos notes, as I commented on Tuesday, that the pagan Greek philosophers did not grasp this point about the fundamental nature of reality. I will also note, especially since I have a son now studying physics and we like to discuss it, that all our studies so far point back to a singularity. That is to say that everything points back to an event before which we can say nothing. We label that singularity the Big Bang. I don’t want to oversimplify, but it does look a lot more like the Christian perspective than many of the other ancient perspectives on origins of reality.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 1

Posted: July 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 1

1.  First the intellect marvels when it reflects on the absolute infinity of God, that boundless sea for which it longs so much. Then it is amazed at how God has brought things into existence out of nothing. But just as ‘His magnificence is without limit’ (Ps. 145:3. LXX), so ‘there is no penetrating His purposes’ (Isa. 40:28).

I want to note something in this text that’s somewhat tangential. I’ve often encountered a modern idea that the ancient “Greek” fathers twisted the Christian tradition they received into something else through the influence of  Greek philosophy. (I’ll note that St. Ephraim, St. Isaac, and many others weren’t actually Greek at all. They are called “Greek” fathers, I believe, because they wrote in Greek.) Yet above we see St. Maximos referring to the ex nihilo act of creation by God. That stands in sharp contrast to pagan Greek philosophy. Yes, they used the terms available to them in the language of their time. We do the same today. The words we have are our available tools. But they used that language to fight against Greek philosophy and Christian heresies in those areas where they did not conform to the faith that had been handed down to them. If you actually read the fathers, you can’t help but see that truth. It permeates their writings.

Reflecting on St. Maximos’ text for today, all I can say is go read Colossians. If your mind doesn’t marvel and your heart (nous) isn’t at least momentarily stilled in wonder, I’m not sure you’ve allowed yourself to truly understand what it says.