Posts Tagged Maximus the Confessor
From “The Writings of Maximus the Confessor” by Saint Maximus –
“Perfect silence alone proclaims Him, and total and transcendent unknowing brings us into His presence.”
One of my main goals in writing is to discover and bring the ancient theology and doctrines of the early charismatic Christian church to the contemporary Charismatic Renewal Movement.
There is a clear disconnect between the doxis of Western Latin Christianity and the praxis of the contemporary Charismatic Renewal Movement which operates in the gifts and fruit of the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Renewal Movement certainly has the basic praxis (how beliefs are practiced, embodied and realized in conduct) of the early charismatic Apostolic church, but does not have a corresponding supportive, complementary doxis (religious beliefs, worship, doctrines, and creeds) which explains and supports that praxis.
The world needs to see lives transformed, but it also needs to know why and how they have been transformed. To do this, the world must see a complementary balance of belief and action at work. But, just as vital, the world must see something else in mutual support and balance: orthodoxy and orthopraxis– that is, right belief and right action.
A key essential in an orthodoxy which supports a Renewal Movement (apostolic church) orthopraxis is an understanding of the Essence and Energies of God and the distinction between them. It is only in understanding Essence (transliterated ousía in Greek) and Energies (transliterated enérgeia in Greek) of God that we can reconcile the seeming paradox of the unknowable transcendence of God with the universal, yet very personal indwelling presence and power of God in all humankind.
Throughout this discussion, I will rely heavily on the writings of 20th century theologians including Vladimir Lossky, Christos Yannaras, and Fr. John Meyendorff. They, in turn, refer to the authority of many early Church Fathers including St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Macarius the Great (all 4th century); St. Dionysius the Aeropagite (5th century); St. Maximus the Confessor (7th century); St. Symeon the New Theologian (11th century); and last, but not least, St. Gregory Pálamas (14th century). I make all of these citations so that the reader may understand that the theology and doctrines on the Essence and Energies of God are both ancient and continuously attested to throughout the Patristic literature up to this day. These citations also make it clear that none of what you are about to read is my original work or thoughts.
To be continued…
The same Christological framework makes it inevitable to distinguish between the transcendent essence, or nature of God, and His energies. Indeed, in Christ His two natures – so precisely defined at Chalcedon as both “inseparable” and “unconfused” – remain distinct. Therefore deification of communion between divinity and humanity does not imply a confusion of essences or natures. It remains nevertheless real communion between the Uncreated and His creature, and real deification – not by essence, but by energy. The humanity of Christ, “enhypostasized” by the Logos, is penetrated with divine energy, and Christ’s body becomes the source of divine light and deification. It is “theurgic”, that is, it communicates divine life to those who are “in Christ” and participate in the uncreated energies active in it.” (Meyendorff)
Theologian Christos Yannaras uses an analogy from Maximus the Confessor to further explain the distinction between essence and energies:
St. Maximus the Confessor uses as an image and an example of such communion the human voice, which being one is participated in by many, and is not swallowed up by the multitude. If by taking this example we can arbitrarily consider human reason as essence, then we can say that the voice represents the energy of the essence of reason, the possibility for us to participate in the essence of reason as the voice reveals and communicates it, to participate, all of us who hear the same voice, in the same essence of the one reason — without this communion becoming our identification with the essence of reason, and without the fragmentation of the essence in as many parts as there are participants in the reason through the voice. Reason, expressed personally, remains unified and indivisible, while at the same time, it is singularly participated by all.” ~ From “The Distinction Between Essence and Energies and its Importance for Theology”
To be continued…
“How is unceasing prayer possible? When we are singing the Psalms, when we are reading the Scriptures, when we are serving our neighbor, even then it is easy enough for the mind to wander off after irrelevant thoughts and images.
Yet the Scriptures do not require impossibilities. St. Paul himself sang the Psalms, read the Scriptures, offered his own apostolic service, and nonetheless prayed uninterruptedly.
Unceasing prayer means to have the mind always turned to God with great love, holding alive our hope in Him, having confidence in Him whatever we are doing and whatever happens to us.
That is the attitude that the Apostle had when he wrote: ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”…
Thanks to this attitude of mind, Paul prayed without ceasing. In all that he did and in all that happened to him, he kept alive his hope in God.”
– St. Maximos…
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“Flee from self-love, the mother of malice, which is an irrational love for the body. For from it are born the three chief sinful passions: gluttony, avarice, and vainglory, which take their causes from bodily needs, and from them all the tribe of the passions is born. This why we must always oppose self-love and fight against it. Whoever rejects self-love will easily conquer all the other passions with the help of God: anger, despondency, rancor, and the others. But whoever is retained by self-love will even unwillingly be conquered by the above-named passions.”
– Saint Maximus the Confessor
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. This quote is from the latter work. It affirms the primacy of experience in an authentic spiritual life.
“The scriptural Word knows of two kinds of knowledge of divine things. On the one hand, there is relative knowledge, rooted only in reason and ideas, and lacking in the kind of experiential perception of what one knows through active engagement; such relative knowledge is what we use to order our affairs in our present life. On the other hand, there is that truly authentic knowledge, gained only by actual experience, apart from reason and ideas, which provides a total perception of the known object through a participation by grace. By this latter knowledge, we attain, in the future state, the supernatural deification that remains unceasingly in effect.” ~ Ad Thalassium 60