St. Maximus the Confessor: “…and having entered the dark cloud”

St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 – 662) was a 7th century Christian monk, theologian, and scholar who many contemporary scholars consider to be the greatest theologian of the Patristic era.  Two of his most famous works are “Ambigua” – An exploration of difficult passages in the work of Pseudo-Dionysius and Gregory of Nazianzus, focusing on Christological issues, and “Questions to Thalassius” or “Ad Thalassium” – a lengthy exposition on various Scriptural texts.  The following quote comes from Maximus’ “Two Hundred Chapters on Theology”, probably written after both Ambigua and Ad Thalassium, in about AD 633.

“The great Moses, having pitched his tent outside the camp, that is, having established his will and intellect outside visible realities, begins to worship God; and having entered the dark cloud [γνόφον], the formless and immaterial place of knowledge, he remains there, performing the holiest rites.

The dark cloud [γνόφος] is the formless, immaterial, and incorporeal condition containing the paradigmatic knowledge of beings; he who has come to be inside it, just like another Moses, understands invisible realities in a mortal nature; having depicted the beauty of the divine virtues in himself through this state, like a painting accurately rendering the representation of the archetypal beauty, he descends, offering himself to those willing to imitate virtue, and in this shows both love of humanity and freedom from envy of the grace of which he had partaken.”

~ from: Two Hundred Chapters on Theology, 1.84, 1.85.

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