Who Am I?

St. Maximos the Confessor

Posted: April 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on St. Maximos the Confessor

If you study Church history, you can’t help but encounter St. Maximos the Confessor. He stood faithfully against the monothelite heresy, even when it meant standing against both the Patriarch and the Emperor. This heresy held that even though Christ had both a human and a divine nature, he had only a divine will. Such a man could not have strayed from the divine will, thus could not have been truly tempted. A Christ like that could never relate to us as one of us, nor we to him. St. Maximos held faithfully to the teaching that in Christ’s fully human nature, he also had a human will. Despite all temptation and suffering, Jesus kept his human will faithfully aligned with the divine will.

St. Maximos not only faithfully held to the faith, he confessed it widely and effectively in person and in writing. He was so effective that in his last exile, his tongue was removed to keep him from speaking and his hand was cut off to keep him from writing. His faithful assistant continued writing and St. Maximos’ works continued to be widely circulated and read. In 680, eighteen years after his death, he was vindicated in the 6th ecumenical council, which affirmed the two wills of Christ.

Once he was accused of esteeming himself the only Orthodox and the only one who would be saved and of believing all others were heretics would be condemned. His response has stayed in my mind.

When all the people in Babylon were worshiping the golden idol, the Three Holy Youths did not condemn anyone to perdition. They did not concern themselves with what others were doing, but took care only for themselves, so as not to fall away from true piety. In precisely the same way, Daniel also, when cast into the den, did not condemn any of those who, in fulfilling the law of Darius, did not want to pray to God; but he bore in mind his duty, and desired rather to die than to sin and be tormented by his conscience for transgressing God’s Law. God forbid that I, too, should condemn anyone, or say that I alone am being saved. However, I would sooner agree to die than, having apostatized in any way from the right faith, endure the torments of my conscience.

Though I have but a fraction of the great saint’s faith, I understand and share his response above. My scribblings here and elsewhere, such as they are, represent my effort to understand and express my faith in Christ. I do not intend to condemn anyone. I do not have that right and do not desire that responsibility.

St. Maximos has long held a special place in my heart and I’ve decided to blog through some of his works preserved in the philokalia. I’ll start tomorrow with his Four Hundred Texts on Love.

My Church History Perspective 1 – History & Me

Posted: December 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Church History | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on My Church History Perspective 1 – History & Me

Since I frequently discuss and engage aspects of Church history, I thought it might be helpful to do a series that explores how I interact with history. In order to do that, I think I need to begin with the way an interest in and exploration of history in general has intersected and shaped my life. That flows into a variety of different areas so the series will continue until I’ve explored some of those nuances.

I’m not sure there was ever a time when I was not interested in how things came to be what they now are. Some of the earliest things I remember exploring include the formation of planets (and earth in particular), development of life, dinosaurs (of course), and some of the basics of how things came to be. The earliest encounter I clearly recall with specifically human history involves a big, highly detailed and illustrated book (probably one of those Time Life books) on the US Civil War my grandfather got me as a gift. I spent hours poring over it and remember becoming fascinated trying to imagine different perspectives of the experience through the lens that a letter or a battle report offered.

Not too much later, when I was in the 4th grade, I encountered Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and fell in love with it. I quickly read the Illiad and the Odyssey next and was hooked by ancient Greece. I followed that up reading about the various city states, the culture, and, of course, their theater, which was always interwoven with their religions. That sparked an interest in ancient Greece that has continued over the course of my life.

In fact, my primary and enduring interests over the course of my life have been the ancient Greco-Roman world and cultures that are a part of my own heritage such as the Celts, the Angles, the Normans, the Gauls, and the Saxons. However, I’ve often wandered off on tangents for a period of time. For instance, I recall an interest in ancient Egyptian religious symbols and spiritual practices in my early preteen years that naturally veered into an exploration of the people and religion which led into the whole topic of Egyptology. Similarly, when I was exploring Shinto as a young adult I could only do so in the context of learning about Japan’s culture, art, and history. All these things are interwoven and cannot really be disentangled.

It also points to the manner in which I’ve often interacted with history. My interest in a specific culture or period has often been sparked by fiction, by literature and the arts, by my own heritage, and by religious and spiritual interests. It’s always been an interwoven tapestry for me. I’ve never studied some part of history for its own sake or somehow in isolation from the rest of my experience and life. I’m drawn into any study of history in order to understand or better understand that which has shaped me, is shaping me, or the experiences that call to me.

History is not a collection of “facts” (which is in itself a misleading term in this context) but a mosaic of culture, art, spirituality, conflict, and the practice of everyday life. When I use the word “history” that’s the interwoven tapestry of threads I have in mind.