Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 12

Posted: July 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 12

32. There are three things that impel us towards what is holy: natural instincts, angelic powers and probity of intention. Natural instincts impel us when, for example, we do to others what we would wish them to do to us (cf. Luke 6:31), or when we see someone suffering deprivation or in need and naturally feel compassion. Angelic powers impel us when, being ourselves impelled to something worthwhile, we find we are providentially helped and guided. We are impelled by probity of intention when, discriminating between good and evil, we choose the good.

33. There are also three things that impel us towards evil: passions, demons and sinfulness of intention. Passions impel us when, for example, we desire something beyond what is reasonable, such as food which is unnecessary or untimely, or a woman who is not our wife or for a purpose other than procreation, or else when we are excessively angered or irritated by, for instance, someone who has dishonored or injured us. Demons impel us when, for example, they catch us off our guard and suddenly launch a violent attack upon us, stirring up the passions already mentioned and others of a similar nature. We are impelled by sinfulness of intention when, knowing the good, we choose evil instead.

I wanted to highlight the above two texts together. The number three had a sacred meaning in ancient Judaism and, considered in light of the three Persons of the Trinity, took on even greater significance in Christianity. In these texts, St. Maximos draws parallels between the forces which move us toward good and those which move us toward evil in groups of three.

Our natural instincts, as creatures in the image of God impel us toward good, while our unbridled passions impel us toward evil and seek to rule us. Angels seek to help us and guide us toward good while demons seek to fuel our passions. But the most important of all, I think, are those cusps where we know the difference between good and evil and willfully and deliberately choose the one or the other. Every such choice, large or small, is important for those choices shape our will. The more we choose evil, the easier we find it to will evil and the harder we find it to will good. And the reverse is true as well.

Our wills need to be healed, but they can only be healed through choosing good. And at every such point at which we can exercise our will for good, an evil alternative is always available and may often seem more attractive.

Healing our wills is also essential in our overall salvation. This is why the determination that Jesus had both a human and divine will in the sixth ecumenical council is so important to our faith. If Jesus did not have a human will or if his human will was wholly subsumed in his divine will, then our wills are not healed in Christ and we have no hope of true healing. Our human will can be healed because Jesus assumed a human will and willfully remained the faithful and good man at every point of intention and decision in the face of every temptation to do otherwise. He truly became one of us and in him we are healed.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 4

Posted: June 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 4

8.  He who drives out self-love, the mother of the passions, will with God’s help easily rid himself of the rest, such as anger, irritation, rancor and so on. But he who is dominated by self-love is overpowered by the other passions, even against his will. Self-love is the passion of attachment to the body.

When I consider it, it does seem obvious that anger, irritation, jealousy, greed, and a host of other things are fueled by “self-love.” And it can be very subtle indeed. We can do good things driven by our desire for others to recognize the self we love above all. And we lie to ourselves very easily in such situations. It is often as difficult to truly know ourselves as it is to know another human being.


Four Hundred Texts on Love 23

Posted: May 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

84.  First the memory brings some passion-free thought into the intellect. By its lingering there, passion is aroused. When the passion is not eradicated, it persuades the intellect to assent to it. Once this assent is given, the actual sin is then committed. Therefore, when writing to converts from paganism, St Paul in his wisdom orders them first to eliminate the actual sin and then systematically to work back to the cause. The cause, as we have already said, is  greed, which generates and promotes passion. I think that greed in this case means gluttony, because this is the mother and nurse of unchastity. For greed is a sin not only with regard to possessions hut also with regard to food, just as self-control likewise relates to both food and possessions.

This text provides one of the descriptions of the way a thought arouses a passion and the passion then translates into an act of actual sin. In some ways, I’m not totally unlike those ancient converts from paganism. I understand that you have to learn to see something as wrong, then stop doing it, and finally trace backwards the inward paths.

I don’t believe I had really considered greed as a form of gluttony, but it makes sense. They both manifest as the desire to acquire and consume more. Our modern American culture is a treacherous environment for us. Consumption and acquisition are considered to be the normal course of life. Perhaps in that way, we are all the new pagans?