January 17, 2015

Perfect Love According to St. Maximus the Confessor

Selections from the Centuries on Love by St. Maximus the Confessor:

- Love is a holy state of soul, disposing it to value knowledge of God above all created things.

- Love of God loves always to give wings to the mind to speak of God and Divine things; and love of neighbor disposes it always to think well of him.

- The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created by God, and pursues such knowledge ardently and ceaselessly.

- Through genuine love for God we can drive out the passions. Love for God is this: to choose Him rather than the world.

- Men love one another, commendably or reprehensibly, for the following five reasons: either for the sake of God, as the virtuous man loves everyone and as the man not yet virtuous loves the virtuous; or by nature, as parents love their children and children their parents; or because of self-esteem, as he who is praised loves the man who praises him; or because of avarice, as with one who loves a rich man for what he can get out of him; or because of self-indulgence, as with the man who serves his belly and his genitals. The first is commendable, the second is of an intermediate kind, the rest are dominated by passion.

- He who is not indifferent to fame and pleasure, as well as to love of riches that exists because of them and increases them, cannot cut off occasions for anger. And he who does not cut these off cannot attain perfect love.

- A pure soul is one freed from passions and constantly delighted by divine love.

- Fear of God is of two kinds. The first is generated in us by the threat of punishment. It is through such fear that we develop in due order self-control, patience, hope in God and dispassion; and it is from dispassion that love comes. The second kind of fear is linked with love and constantly produces reverence in the soul, so that it does not grow indifferent to God because of the intimate communion of its love. "The first kind of fear is expelled by perfect love when the soul has acquired this and is no longer afraid of punishment (cf. I John 4:18). The second kind, as we have already said, is always found united with perfect love. The first kind of fear is referred to in the following two verse: 'Out of fear of the Lord men shun evil' (Prov. 16:6), and 'Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (Ps. 111:10). The second kind is mentioned in the following verses: 'Fear of the Lord is pure, and endures forever' (Ps. 19:9. LXX), and 'Those who fear the Lord will not want for anything' (Ps. 34:10. LXX).

- For him who is perfect in love and has reached the summit of dispassion there is no difference between his own and anothers, or between Christians and unbelievers, or between slave and free, or even between male and female. But because he has risen above the tyranny of the passions and has fixed his attention on the single nature of man, he looks on all in the same way and show the same disposition to all.

- The person who loves God cannot help loving every man as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified.

- He who loves God cannot but love every man as himself, although the passions of those who are not yet purified find no favor with him. Therefore, when he sees them converted and reformed, he rejoices with great and ineffable joy.

- Love for God always aspires to give wings to the intellect in its communion with God; love for one's neighbor makes one always think good thoughts about him.

- He who loves God neither distresses nor is distressed with anyone on account of transitory things."

- Do not condemn today as base and wicked the man whom yesterday you praised as good and virtuous, changing love to hatred, because he has criticized you, but even though you are still full of resentment, commend him as before, and you will soon recover your same saving love

- You have not yet acquired perfect love if your regard for people is still swayed by their characters - for example, if, for some particular reason, you love one person and hate another, or if for the same reason you sometimes love and sometimes hate the same person.