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 (Third Century) 46

Posted: June 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 46

93.  The angelic powers urge us towards what is holy. Our natural instincts and our probity of intention assist us. But the passions and sinfulness of intention reinforce the provocations of the demons.

It’s a struggle that’s in the air we breathe. We can no more escape this constant push and pull than we can escape ourselves. People didn’t turn to the desert as monastics to escape this struggle. They went to face it full on without the masks usually pulled over it. I think that we tend to misunderstand that aspect of the monastic call. It’s not about escape or hiding. It’s more about turning all of one’s resources toward this struggle on your own behalf and on the behalf of the world. At least that’s how it seems to me, even as I note that I’m thoroughly nothing like a monastic in any sense.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 39

Posted: May 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 39

78.  It is one thing to be delivered from sinful thoughts and another to be free from passions. Frequently a man is delivered from such thoughts when the things which rouse his passions are not present. But the passions lie hidden in the soul and are brought to light when the things themselves are present. Hence one must watch over the intellect in the presence of things and must discern for which of them it manifests a passion.

And this is an important point. Passions require a trigger. If we simply remove the trigger, we are not free of the passion. The former is important, of course, but only the first step in our healing. Moreover, like the Pharisee thanking God that he is not like other men, including the wicked publican, we are often proud of our ability to resist things with which we have never been truly tempted. We need to understand that we share in the weakness of humanity and that only through the strength of Christ can we be truly healed.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 35

Posted: April 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 35

74.  It is not always for the same reason that sinners commit the same sin. The reasons vary. For example, it is one thing to sin through force of habit and another to sin through being carried away by a sudden impulse. In the latter case the man did not deliberately choose the sin either before committing it, or afterwards;  on the contrary, he is deeply distressed that the sin has occurred. It is quite different with the man who sins through force of habit. Prior to the act itself he was already sinning in thought, and after it he is still in the same state of mind.

There is a common way of speaking in my strand of Christianity that holds that all sin is the same. Of course that’s nonsense. We don’t even live or act as though that’s true. I think it’s even a dangerous attitude. It can hide the more dangerous things that rule us. All sin is not the same. St. Maximos has warned us elsewhere that the more spiritual sins like greed and pride are much more destructive than the baser passions. Here he warns us that even when the sin is the same, it’s merely the outward symptom. In and of itself, it tells us nothing about the inner state driving the act. And that inner state is extremely important. An impulsive action for which we are distressed is more easily and readily healed than a deeply engrained passion.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 34

Posted: April 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

73.  He who speaks dispassionately of his brother’s sins does so either to correct him or to benefit another. If he speaks for any other reason, either to the brother himself or to another person, he speaks to abuse him or ridicule him. In this case he will not escape being abandoned by God. On the contrary, he will fall into the same sin or other sins and, censured and reproached by other men, will be put to shame.

Of course, we see, hear about, and experience cases of spiritual abuse all the time today, it seems. We need to speak from love, that is actively willing the good of the other, or we should not speak at all. Our New Testament has an awful lot to say about how we should speak and the danger that lies in our tongue — ever ready to trap us. I think it almost has as much to say about that as it does about the dangers of wealth and the passions riches and power stir.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 33

Posted: April 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 33

72.  God created both the invisible and the visible worlds, and so He obviously also made both the soul and the body. If the visible world is so beautiful, what must the invisible world be like? And if the invisible world is superior to the visible world, how much superior to both is God their Creator? If, then, the Creator of everything that is beautiful is superior to all His creation, on what grounds does the intellect abandon what is superior to all and engross itself in what is worst of all – I mean the passions of the flesh? Clearly this happens because the intellect has lived with these passions and grown accustomed to them since birth, whereas it has not yet had perfect experience of Him who is superior to all and beyond all things. Thus, if we gradually wean the intellect away from this relationship by long practice of controlling our indulgence in pleasure and by persistent meditation on divine realities, the intellect will gradually devote itself more and more to these realities, will recognize its own dignity, and finally transfer all its desire to the divine.

Asceticism, a word derived from one which originally described the physical training of an athlete, used to be part of the universal life of all Christians. We recognized, as St. Maximos outlines above, that we must train our nous and break the grip of the passions which enthrall us. Somehow that awareness and practice has been all but lost in modern Christianity. Is it any wonder, then, that we’re spiritually flabby?


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 32

Posted: April 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

71.  The passion of love, when reprehensible, occupies the intellect with material things, but when rightly directed unites it with the divine. For the intellect tends to develop its powers among those things to which it devotes its attention; and where it develops its powers, there it will direct its desire and love. It will direct them, that is to say, either to what is divine, intelligible and proper to its nature, or to the passions and things of the flesh.

We become like that toward which we direct our nous. At least, that’s how I understand St. Maximos here. Or, to put it a different way, we become like what we worship.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 30

Posted: April 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 30

60. All the gross passions that dominate the soul drive from it the thought of self-esteem. But when all these passions have been defeated, they leave self-esteem free to take control.

61.  Self-esteem, whether it is eradicated or whether it remains, begets pride. When it is eradicated, it generates self-conceit; when it remains, it produces boastfulness.

62.  Self-esteem is eradicated by the hidden practice of the virtues, pride, by ascribing our achievements to God.

These three texts fit together as they all discuss self-esteem. The Fathers within Christianity have always tended to see self-esteem as a problem, not as something we should seek or desire. That does not, however, mean that they teach we should have what today we describe as low self-esteem. It’s my impression they would view that as a distortion as well. Their focus seems to be that we learn to see ourselves truthfully with nothing accentuated or overlooked. Facing the reality about ourselves is a hard thing, which is why we tend to lie to ourselves so easily.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 29

Posted: April 5th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 29

59.  When you overcome one of the grosser passions, such as gluttony, unchastity, anger or greed, the thought of self-esteem at once assails you. If you defeat this thought, the thought of pride succeeds it.

In other words, breaking the grip of an attitude or behavior is just the first step. If we do so successfully, we are immediately beset by the wrong sort of self-esteem followed closely by pride in our achievement. And those will undo any gains we originally made.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 27

Posted: March 29th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 27

57.  The origin of all the passions is self-love; their consummation is pride. Self-love is a mindless love for the body. He who cuts this off cuts off at the same time all the passions that come from it.

It’s an interesting cycle St. Maximos describes. The central creed of Christianity has always been love of God and others — though that has not always been realized in practice. The two are not separate commands, but one. How do you love God? Love others. When you love others, you love God. This is even the basis given for judgment in Matthew. So when we mindlessly love ourselves and focus on our own desires instead, we open the door to the passions. It’s a way of life and a way of death. Life or death received now and enduring — not some future externalized reward or punishment.