January 21, 2021

Life, Writings and Theology of Saint Maximus the Confessor (Fr. George Florovsky)

By Fr. George Florovsky
 The Life of St. Maximus

We know little about St. Maximus’ worldly life. He came from an old, distinguished family and was, it seems, favored by Emperor Heraclius — possibly even related to him. He was born about 580 in Constantinople. He received an excellent education. His biographer writes that St. Maximus received the εγκύκλιος παίδευσις: Sherwood is correct in writing that "this would mean that his training lasted from about his sixth or seventh year till his twenty-first, and contained grammar, classical literature, rhetoric and philosophy (including arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, logic, ethics, dogmatics and metaphysics), and also that it must have included his first contact with Aristotle and the Neo-Platonists (through the commentaries of Proclus and lamblichus)." St. Maximus studied philosophy with a special love. Later on, St. Maximus’ great gift for dialectic and logic, and his formal culture with its great erudition, left their mark on his disputes with the Monothelites. His erudition was not merely restricted to ecclesiastical topics but included a wide range of secular knowl edge.

From his youth St. Maximus was distinguished not only by his love for philosophy but also by his humility, by his character in general. As a young man he served at the palace in the imperial chancellery. The noisy and turbid life of the palace could hardly have given satisfaction to the born contemplator, especially among the Monothelite intrigues which were then beginning. Very soon he abandoned the world and left for the secluded monastery in Chrysopolis on the Asian waters across from Constantinople, not far from Chalcedon "where philosophy was flourishing at that time." That he left the secular world, the world of imperial life and policy, to enter a monastery because and only because of the theological controversies then arising over Monenergism and Monothelitism, as his biographer suggests [Patrologia Graeca 90, 72], is stretching the evidence and neglecting the contemplative character of St. Maximus. His biographer gives a reason — St. Maximus had been yearning for a life of quiet, καθ’ ήσυχίαν. He remained on good terms with the imperial court, as his letters to John the Chamberlain evidence.

It appears that St. Maximus made this significant decision in 613/614. In 1910 Montmason in his La Chronologic de la vie de Saint Maxime le Confesseur had so structured the life of St. Maximus that his entry into the monastery took place in 630. That date was challenged in 1927 by Grumel in his "Notes d’histoire et de chronologic sur la vie de Saint Maxime le Confesseur" [in Echos d’Orient]. Grumel’s argument was convincing and the date of 613/614 is now commonly accepted. St. Maximus’ attitude towards his humble "ordeal" earned him the respect of his brethren in the mona stery. His biographer relates [Patrologia Graeca 90, 72] that St. Maximus stood throughout the night in prayer. St. Maximus’ biographer stresses the ascetical and devotional life of St. Maxima s at the monastery, claiming that the monks persuaded him to become their superior, their hegoumen. Scholars disagree. Some rejec± this as pious fiction — for example, von Balthasar. Some reject this claim based on the supposition that his great literary production could not have allowed him to manage a monastery. Such an argument does not necessarily follow from what we know of St. Maximus’ abilities in the imperial chancellery. There what was appreciated was his ability to make quick decisions, there he was respected for his rapid decisiveness. Whether he became the hegoumen is not important. But there is no substantial evidence to accept or to deny it. It is true that his signature ο the petition to translate the Acts of the Lateran Council into Greek reads Maximus monachus. It is also true that he is referred to as ευλαβέστατος μοναχός. But this evidence indicates no thing more than the fact that he was a monk. Perhaps a more accurate interpretation is that he may very well have been elected hegoumen by the monks and that he did not accept this holy office out of humility. Though the chronology of these secluded ye^rs still remains somewhat unclear, it is clear that from this time on his life is inseparably connected with the history of the dogmatic struggle against the Monothelites.

The dogmatic struggle began to intensify. The Persians were successfully On the offensive, and in 626 they had reached the walls of Constantinople. Indeed, in 626 Constantinople was faced with the advance of two enemies, the Avars and the Persians. At some point St. Maximus set out for the Latin West. The argument that his departure was forced by the invasion of the Persians may well be accurate. His path, however, was long and difficult — at one point when he was on Crete he was engaged in controversy with the Severians. It appears that he stayed in Alexandria for some period of time. In any case we know that he reached Latin Africa-Carthage. It was here, according to his biographer, that St. Maximus organized an Orthodox opposition to the Monothelites. "All inhabitants not only of Africa but also of the nearby islands revered Maximus as their mentor and leader." Apparently, St. Maximus did a great deal of travelling around the country, entered into contact with the bishops, established close contact with the imperial governors of Africa, and carried on an extensive correspondence.

The main event of this African period of St. Maximus’ life was his dispute with Pyrrhus, the deposed Monothelite Patriarch of Constantinople. In June of 645 the famous dispute took place. A detailed record of this dispute, made apparently by notaries who were present, has been preserved. Under the intellectual challenge of St. Maximus Pyrrhus yielded. He set off with St. Maximus for Rome where he publicly renounced the heresy of Monothelitism. His ordination was then recognized by Rome and he was received into the communion of the Roman Church. It appears that Rome also recognized him as the legitimate patriarch of Constantinople. Pyrrhus1 change did not last for long. At the council of 648 under Pope Theodore in Rome he was again excommunicated as someone who had fallen anew into heresy. In 652 Pyrrhus again became Patriarch of Constantinople.

In Rome St. Maximus experienced a great influence and authority. Under his influence Monothelitism was condemned at local councils in Africa in 646 [Mansi 10, 761/762]. In 649, again at the recommendation of St. Maximus, the newly elected Pope Martin I convened a large council [Mansi 10, 863-1170] in Rome, known commonly as the Lateran Council. In addition to the one hundred and fifty western bishops attending the council, there were thirty-seven Greek abbots who were at this time living in Rome. The Lateran Council promulgated a well-defined and decisive resolution about the unmingled natural will and energy in Christ. This was a sharp reply to the demand to sign the Typos of faith which had been sent from Constantinople. The Typos — τύπος πepί πίστεως — was issued in 648 by Constans II, the goal of which was to command silence on the dispute of the wills in Christ. The Typos was rejected at the Lateran Council, as was the earlier Ekthesis of Heraclius — the εκθεσις της πίστεως was an imperial edict drawn up by Patriarch Sergius to respond to the synodical letter by St. Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem, a letter which has been preserved in the acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. The Lateran Council also excommunicated and anathe — matized the Monothelite patriarchs Cyrus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, and Paul. The acts of the Lateran Council, together with an accompanying papal letter, were sent everywhere, "to all the faithful."

Severe retribution soon befell the defenders of orthodoxy, who had disobeyed the imperial will. The emperor Constans immediately reacted but encountered difficulty — the exarch sent to Rome had joined the papal opposition. Finally in 653 Pope Martin was seized by a military force, conveyed to Constantinople, tried in 654, and then exiled to Cherson in 655, where he died later that year. In Constantinople Pope Martin I, who had formerly been an apocrisiarius of the papal see at Constantinople, was imprisoned with common criminals, and was exposed to cold and hunger.

At the same time St. Maximus was taken. His trial did not take place until May of 655. He was tried [Migne, Patrologia Graeca 90, 109-129] in Constantinople as an enemy and criminal of the state, as a subverter of ecclesiastical and civil peace. The trial was murderous and tempestuous. The biography of St. Maximus preserves a detailed and vivid account of it, in the words of one of St. Maximus1 disciples, Anastasius — who was also arrested along with St. Maximus.

The political charges were not merely a pretext. The secular defenders of the heresy were more than anything irritated by St. Maximus’ spiritual independence and his steadfast denial of the emperor’s rights in questions of faith — the denial of imperial power by authority of the Church. They were also irritated by the fact that in his calm profession of innocence St. Maximus was fighting against a whole swarm of appeasers of the imperial office. This seemed to be self-importance, as if he were placing his own will above everything else, for he said: "I think not of the unity or division of Romans and Greeks, but I must not retreat from the correct faith ... It is the business of priests, not emperors, to investigate and define the salutary dogmas of the Catholic Church." An emperor of Christians is not a priest, does not stand before the altar, does not perform the sacraments, does not bear the signs of the priesthood.

They argued long and insistently with St. Maximus and, when he still proved adamant, they passed a sentence exiling him to a fortress in Byzya in Thrace. In captivity they continued to try to persuade him. In 656 a court bishop was sent by the new patriarch, Peter, but St. Maximus refused to change his mind. He was moved then to the monastery of St. Theodore at Rhegion where again the authorities prevailed upon him to change his mind, to surrender to the will of the emperor. Again he refused. They then sent him into exile for a second time, still in Thrace, but this time to Perberis where he stayed for the next six years. In 662 St. Maximus, his monk and disciple Anastasius, and Anastasius the apocrisiarius were brought back to Constantinople, where a council was to be held. Back in Constantinople St. Maximus and his disciples underwent bloody torture — the tongues and the right hands of the condemned seem to have been cut out. They were then sent to a more remote exile in Lazica — on the south east shore of the Black Sea. On August 13, 661 St. Maximus died, broken not only by age but also by the inhumane treatment he had received.

Many legends about the life of St. Maximus have been preserved. Very soon after his death his biography, or panegyric, was composed. After that a Memorial Record was written by Theodosius of Gangra, a holy monk from Jerusalem — perhaps it was he who composed the biography? Along with this, the records of St. Maximus’ disciple, Anastasius the apocrisiarius, and the latter’s letter to Theodosius about the trial and the last years of St. Maximus’ life, have been preserved. Theophanes also has much to say about St. Maximus in his Chronographia, much of which is close to biography.

It is obvious that the sufferings and the "ordeal" of the un -bending defender of the faith made a strong impression on his contemporaries. A vivid and reverential memory of St. Maximus was maintained at the place of his death in the Caucasus. With the victory over the Monothelites and the triumph of orthodoxy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680/681 St. Maximus’ great martyr’s ordeal was appreciated, and he was highly honored in Byzantium as a great teacher and preacher of Christ who incinerated the impudent paganism of the heretics with his fire-bearing word. He was respected both as a writer and thinker and as a mystic and ascetic. His books were the favorite reading both of laymen and monks. Anna Comnena, for example, tells us: "I remember how my mother, when she served dinner, would often bring a book in her hands and interpret the dogmatic places of the holy fathers, particularly by the philosopher and martyr Maximus."

The Writings of St. Maximus

St. Maximus’ compositions were preserved in numerous manuscript copies, not all of which have been published. His influence is felt in all areas of later Byzantine literature. He was a typical exponent of the traditions and strivings of Byzantine antiquity.

His stormy life of suffering did not prevent St. Maximus from writing a great deal. "He did not stop writing his compositions for even a short time," his biography tells us. He combined speculative inspiration with dogmatic steadfastness. He was not only a theologian but also a mystic and a teacher of contemplative "ordeal" and love.

His theology is first of all nourished from the depths of spiritual experience. He did not construct a theological system. Most of all he loved "to write chapters in the form of exhortations." Most of his writings are just that — theological fragments, "chapters," notes. He loved to write in fragments. He discourses only when he has to, and in debates — most frequently, he explains. He prefers to go into depth, to lay bare the heart of each theme, as opposed to covering things in breadth. In this way he was able to develop the dialectical substance of his conclusions. His insight is greater than his conclusions.

St. Maximus was extremely erudite but he was not merely a repository of patristic traditions. He lived in them, and they creatively come to life in his transforming synthesis. One feels in him most strongly the influence of the Cappadocians, especially the influence of St. Gregory of Nyssa. In his asceticism and mysticism he bases himself on Evagrius Ponticus and on the Corpus Areopagiticum. He continues along the path of the ancient Alexandrians.

It is characteristic for St. Maximus that he constructs not so much a system of dogmatics as a system of asceticism. It is the rhythm of spiritual life rather than a logical connection of ideas which defines the architectonics of his vision of the world, and one could say that his system has more of a musical structure than an architectural one. This is more like a symphony — a symphony of spiritual experience — than a system. It is not easy to read St. Maximus. Even St. Photius complained much about the inco -herence of his exposition and the difficulty of his language. St. Photius did add, however, that "his piety and his pure, genuine love for Christ shine everywhere."

St. Maximus’ language really is unwieldy and astringent, burdened by allegories and tangled up in rhetorical figures. At the same time, however, one constantly perceives the intensity and condensation of thought. "They say that the aloofness of thought and the profundity of this man drive the reader to a frenzy," Anna Comnena observes. The reader has to divine St. Maximus’ system in his sketches. When he does, the inner access to the integral world of St. Maximus’ inspired experience is revealed.

Among St. Maximus’ writings we must first of all mention his exegetical sketches. These are precisely sketches and notes, not coherent commentaries. They are not even exegeses but rather reflections on individual "difficult phrases" — or "aporii." Such are the Questions and Answers to Thalassius; other special Questions and Answers; the Epistle to Theopemptus Scholasticus; his Interpretation of the Fifty-Ninth Psalm; and a short exposition of the Lord’s Prayer — see the fragments in the catenae.

In his explanations of the texts St. Maximus always uses the allegory and "elevating" — "analogical" — method which irritated St Photius so much. St. Photius writes: "The solutions he thinks up for his questions are far removed from literal meaning and known history, and even from the questions themselves." This is too harsh. However, St. Maximus really does approach the Scriptures like a true Alexandrian and often makes us recall Origen. St. Maximus’ scholia to the Areopagiticum are of the same nature — as we already mentioned, it is difficult to pick them out of later codifications. Of the same nature is a special tract on difficult places in the Areopagiticum and on St. Gregory of Nazianzus.

St. Maximus wrote much on questions of spiritual life — the Ascetic Address, first of all, and then a number of collections of aphorisms or "chapters" of varied content: Four Hundred Chapters on Love; Two Hundred and Forty-Three Other Chapters; Two Hundred Theological and Oikonomic Chapters; and others. To this day, these collections have not been entirely studied. To these must be added the expansive collection of Common Places — selections from the Scriptures, the fathers, and others. It is probably known to us in a later reworking.

It is particularly necessary to mention the Mystagogia, a mystical, allegorical explanation of the mysterious meaning of religious rites, written in the spirit of the Areopagiticum. This book had an exceptional influence on later liturgical literature in Byzantine. Here is the same method of symbolic mystical perception that we find in his interpretations of the Scriptures. Strictly speaking, all of these writings of St. Maximus are in their own way "scholia" notes and discussions "apropos"

St. Maximus’ dogmatic and polemical compositions are of a special nature. In some sense he disputes with Monophysites in general and reveals the doctrine of two natures — these are primarily letters to a certain "celebrated" Peter; to the Alexandrian deacon Cosmas; one of the letters is to John Cubicularius; the letters to Julian, an Alexandrian scholastic; and to female hermits who had fallen away from the faith.

In others he develops the doctrine of two wills and energies. This, first of all, is the famous Dispute with Pyrrhus — a contemporary record — and then a number of dogmatic epistles: On the Two Wills of Christ, Our God — perhaps to Stephen, who was subsequently Bishop of Dar; another Letter to Stephen; and a number of letters to the Cypriot presbyter Marinus, and to other persons.

In these letters St. Maximus begins with an analysis of the Monothelite definitions and arguments, and reveals as a counterbalance the system of correct Christological concepts in their correlations and connections. Here he is mostly a "scholastic." At the same time he dwells in detail on his explanations of difficult and controversial texts in the Scriptures and in patristic testi -monies. The patristic material which he collects and explains is very complete.

St. Maximus does not give a systematic exposition of Christology. He speaks out in letters and in oral arguments, always apropos. He always strives solely to reveal and confirm a tradition of faith.

Most frequently he speaks of the Incarnation — but not only according to the conditions of the time. In his inner experience this dogma was fundamental. He touches upon other dogmatic themes cursorily. He speaks of the Trinitarian dogma in explanations written for Gregory the Theologian — in the Dialogues On the Holy Trinity and in one of the letters to Maximus On the Emanation of the Holy Spirit. We must also make note of other letters — to archbishop Joseph On the Soul’s Incorporeality, and to the presbyter John On Eternal Life. Anthropological questions were naturally raised at this time — in connection with the Christological disputes — Origenism, which was fading but had not yet completely died out, and the basis of asceticism. It would be incorrect to think that St. Maximus did not have a theological system. A great wholeness can be felt in his sketches. He always speaks on particular events, but his words are least of all incidental. They have been forged in silent meditation, in the mystical silence of inspired experience.

The Theology of St. Maximus

Revelation as the Central Theme in the 
Theology of St. Maximus the Confessor

St. Maximus’ whole system can be understood most easily from the idea of Revelation. This is that proto-fact to which any theological reflection goes back. God is revealed — here is the beginning of the world’s coming into being. The whole world is a revelation of God, and everything in the world is mysterious and therefore symbolic. The whole world is grounded in God’s thought and will. Therefore, cognition of the world is a disclosure pf this symbolism, a perception of Divine will and thought which !s inscribed in the world.

Further, the world is a revelation of the Logos. The Logos is the God of revelation. God the Logos is revealed in the world. This revelation is completed and fulfilled in the Incarnation. For St. Maximus, the Incarnation is the focus of the world’s existence — and not only in the plan of redemption but also in the primordial plan for the creation of the world. The Incarnation is willed along with creation itself, but not merely in foreknowledge of the fall. God created the world and is revealed in order to become a Man in this world.

Man is created so that God may become man and through the Incarnation man is deified. "He who founded the existence — origin, "genesis" — of all creation, visible and invisible, by a single act of his will, ineffably had, before all ages and any beginning of the created world, good counsel, a decision, that he himself should inalterably unite with human nature through a true unity of hypostases. And he inalterably united human nature with himself — so that he himself should become a man, as he himself knows, and so that he should make man a god through union with himself."

New Development of the Logos Doctrine and the
Doctrine of the Knowledge of God

The doctrine of the Logos, which had been shunted into the background in fourth century theology, again becomes widely developed in St. Maximus. In him the ancient tradition of the second and third centuries again comes to life. This tradition had, of course, never ceased in Alexandrian tradition — see St. Athanasius On the Incarnation, and St. Cyril of Alexandria, especially his interpretation of the Gospel of St. John. St. Maximus to some extent repeats Origen — more in his problems than in his answers. But the Logos doctrine has now been entirely freed from the ancient ambiguity, an ambiguity which was unavoidable before a precise definition of the Trinitarian mystery.

In any case, it is the idea of Revelation which defines the whole plan of St. Maximus’ reflections, as it did for the Apologists and the Alexandrians of the third century. However, all the originality and power of St. Maximus’ new Logos doctrine lies in the fact that his conception of Revelation is developed within Christological perspectives. St. Maximus is coming from Origen, as it were, but overcomes Origen and Origenism. It is not that Christology is included in the doctrine of Revelation, but that the mystery of Revelation is discernible in Christology. It is not that Christ’s person demands explanation, but that everything is explained in Christ’s person — the person of the God-Man.

In his theological thoughts St. Maximus sides with the Areopagiticum. In the doctrine of the knowledge of God he virtually repeats Evagrius. In his unlimited essence, in the ever-plentiful fulness of his existence, God is inaccessible to man and to all creation. The created mind only has access to knowledge of the fact that God exists — and exists as the First Cause of everything which has been created. And knowledge of God’s essence is totally inaccessible. "We believe that he exists, but in no way do we dare to investigate what his nature is, as does the demonic mind’ — fruitlessly, of course.

Created reason is worthy to bear witness to God only in denials, thereby confessing the complete inapplicability of any logical categories and concepts to Divine existence. For God is above everything, above any complexity and plurality. However, knowledge of God in his exalted existence is possible — not in the concepts of reason, but in supra-mental perception, in ecstasy.

Apophatic denial is itself at the same time renunciation — renunciation and the silencing of thought, renunciation and its liberation from the categorical stricture of discursive cognition. In other words, it is the emanation or frenzy of thought — ecstasy. The whole sense of apophatic theology is that it recalls this ecstatic experience — mystical theology.

As with Pseudo-Dionysius, apophatic theology for St. Maximus is not dialectic. This "not" is above dialectic antitheses and even higher than antinomies. This "not" demands total silence, and calls for the self-overcoming of thoughts which utter and are uttered. At the same time, it is a call to cognize God, but not as Creator, and not in those of his perfections which are revealed in deeds and in creation.

First of all, it is possible and necessary to cognize God "from the magnitude of his deeds." This is still preliminary knowledge. And the limit and goal of knowledge of God is to see God — so that in "ordeal" and in creative upsurge, through abnegation and love, the mind soars in the ever-peaceful darkness of Divine Mystery where it meets God face to face and lives in him. This is a kind of "return" of the mind — επιστροφή. God appears in the world, in certain cognizable forms, so that he can reveal himself to man; and man comes out to meet him, comes out of the world to find God as he is outside of the world. This is possible but only in ecstasy. In other words, through exceeding the measure of nature — "supra-naturally." By nature the created mind does not have the power to cognize God directly. However, this is given to the created mind from on high. "The soul can never break free to knowledge of God if God himself, by his blessed condescension towards the created mind, does not touch it and raise it to himself. And man’s mind could never manage to raise high enough to perceive any Divine illumination if God himself did not enrapture it — as much as the human mind can be enraptured — and did not enlighten it with Divine rays."

However, the Holy Spirit never works outside of man’s cognitive powers. Nor does the Holy Spirit abolish man’s cog -nitive powers or swallow them up with his activity. Rather, the Holy Spirit elevates them. Ecstasy is possible only through "ordeal." The path towards knowledge of God is a ladder which extends its summit into the Divine darkness, into a "formless and aimless place."

It is necessary to gradually forget about everything. One must forget about all creation. One must abstract oneself from everything created, even as something created by God. One must extinguish one’s love for creation, even though it was indeed created by God. In the "mystery of love" the mind becomes blind to everything besides God. "When the mind ascends to God through the attraction of love, it perceives neither itself nor anything which exists. Illumined by a measureless Divine light, it is insensible to everything created, just as a sensual glance does not notice the stars because of the sun’s radiance. Blessed is the man who continuously delights in Divine beauty while passing all creation by."

This is renunciation, not merely distraction. And it is the transformation of the cognizer himself. Ecstasy is a direct meeting with God, and therefore knowledge of his essence. At the same time it is the deification of the mind, the transformation of the very element of thought. The Holy Spirit envelops the whole soul, and, as it were, transfigures or "transposes" it. This is a state of beneficial adoption, and the soul is brought to the unity of the Father’s hidden existence.

In pure hearts God inscribes his letters through the Spirit as he once did on Moses’ tablets. Christ’s mind settles in saints — "not by deprivation of our own mental force, and not by personally or in essence moving to its place, but by illuminating the force of our mind with his quality and by bringing its activity into a oneness with himself — (see below on becoming like Christ and Christ’s mystical settling into human souls). "The illumined one manages to recline with the Bridegroom, the Logos, in the treasure house of mysteries." This is the highest and the last stage. The limit and goal of deification in the Incarnation of the Logos and in that knowledge which the human mind preserved in Christ by virtue of hvpostatic union. But it is also a return to the first, to the beginning. In this life few are permitted to reach these mysterious heights: great saints and seers, Moses on Mount Sinai, the Apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration — Tabor, St. Paul when he was carried away to the third heaven. The completeness of knowledge of God will be realized and will become accessible only beyond the bounds of this world, in the future age. However, it is precisely in ecstasy that the justification for the cognizing "ordeal" lies.

The way to ecstasy is "pure prayer" — here St. Maximus follows Evagrius Ponticus. This, first of all, is the perfect self-discipline and nakedness of the spirit — its being bared of any thought, of all mental images in general. Such nakedness is a grace and a gift. "The grace of prayer joins our souls with God, and by this joining it separates it from all thoughts. And by living with God it becomes God-like." The mind’s nakedness means rising higher than any images and a corresponding transformation of the mind itself, which also attains simplicity, uniformity, and formlessness. "And when in prayer you have a mind estranged from matter and images, know that you have attained the same measure of apatheia and perfect love.” The moving force of the “ordeal” is indeed love — αγάπη. “Love is such a disposition of the soul when it prefers nothing which exists to the knowledge of God. and he who has a predilection for anything earthly cannot enter this condition of love.” St. Maximus often speaks of the highest stages of love as Divine Eros — ό θείος έρως.

Apophatic theology only testifies to these ineffable mysteries of holy frenzy and love. In this sense all apophatic expressions are symbolic through and through. Moreover, knowledge of God is always a continuous and endless path where the end always means the beginning, and where everything is for the time being only partly in a mirror or in divination.

However, the basic mystery of "mystical theology" is revealed to everyone and for all, for it is the primary dogma of the Christian faith. This is the mystery of Trinity and all the pathos of knowledge of God is in the comprehension of this mystery. For it is a knowledge of God in his own essence. This mystery is uttered and told in words, but it must be comprehended in experience as the mystery of perfect unity — here St. Maximus follows the Cappadocians, especially St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and also Evagrius Ponticus. In other words, it must be comprehended through the experience of deification, through life in God, through the appearance of the Trinity in the cognizing soul itself. And once again, this will be allowed only sometime in that last deification — with the perfect revelation of the Trinity.

The mystery of the Trinity is a mystery of the inner Divine Life. It is God outside of Revelation, Deus Absconditus. However, it is recognized only through Revelation, through theophany, through the appearance and descent of the Logos into the world. God the Trinity is cognized in the Logos and through the Logos. Through the Logos the whole world is mysteriously permeated by the rays of the Trinity. One can recognize the inseparable actions of the Three Hypostases in everything. Everything is and lives intelligently. In Divine Existence we contemplate the Wisdom which was born without beginning and the Life which is imparted eternally. Thus the Divine Unity is revealed as the Trinity — the Tri-Hypostatic monad; the "unlimited uniting of the Three Unlimited Ones."

It is not "one in another," and not "one and another," and not "one above another" — but the Trinity is also at once a Unity. God is entirely the Trinity without blending. This removes both the limitedness of Hellenic polytheism, and the aridity of Judaic monotheism which gravitates towards a kind of atheism. Neither the Hellene nor the Jew knows about Jesus Christ. This means that contradictions in doctrines about God are eliminated through Christ — in the revelation of the Trinity.

It is especially necessary to note that St. Maximus taught about the Spirit’s procession from the Father "through the Son." This is nothing more than a confirmation of the ineffable — but irreversible — order of hypostases in the perfect consubstantiality of the Trinitarian existence. It is very curious that St. Maximus had to speak out on the Western filioque — in a letter to the Cypriot presbyter Marinus, which is preserved only in fragments which one read in in the Florentine Cathedral. Reassuring the Easterners, St. Maximus explained that "the Westerners do not represent the Son as the cause of the Spirit, for they know that the Father is the single cause of the Son and the Spirit — the former through birth; the latter by procession. They merely show that the Holy Spirit proceeds through the Son in order to signify affinity and insepar — ability of essence." Here St. Maximus is completely within the compass of the ancient Eastern tradition.

The mystery of Trinity is beyond knowledge. At the same time, it contains the buttress of knowledge. Everything in the world is a mystery of God and a symbol — a symbol of the Logos, for it is Revelation of the Logos. The whole world is a Revelation — a kind of book of the unwritten Revelation. Or, in another simile, the whole world is the attire of the Logos. In the variety and beauty of sensual phenomena, the Logos plays with man, as it were, to fascinate and attract him so that he raises the curtain and begins to see the spiritual sense under the external and visible images.

God the Logos is God of Revelation, Deus Revelatus, and everything that is said about the Godhead in his relation with the world is said first of all about God the Logos. The Divine Logos is the beginning and the end goals for the world — αρχή καί τέλος — its creative and preservative force, the limit of all created strivings and "movements." And the world exists and stands precisely through this communion with the Divine Logos, through the Divine energies, through a kind of participation in the Divine perfections. At the same time it is moving towards God, towards God the Logos. The whole world is in motion, is striving. God is above movement. It is not he who is moving, but the created and roused world which he created which moves towards him. Here the thought is similar to that found in the Corpus Areopagiticum.

The problem of knowledge is to see and recognize in the world its first-created foundations, to identify the world as a great system of God’s deeds, wills, and prototypes. The mind must leave the perceptible plane, must liberate itself from the conventionalities of external, empirical cognition, and rise to contemplation, to "natural contemplation” — φυσική θεωρία — that is, to contemplation of “nature” in its last Divine definitions and foundations. For St. Maximus "contemplation" is precisely this search for the Divine Logos of existence, the contemplation of the Logos in creation as Creator and Founder. Again this is possible only through "ordeal." Only a transformed mind can see everything in the Logos and begin to see the light of the Logos everywhere. The Sun of Truth begins to shine in the purified mind, and for the latter everything looks different.

It is not becoming for man to insolently avoid these indirect paths of knowledge and willfully force his way to the Unap — proachable and Uncontainable. Spiritual life has its gradualness. "Contemplation" is the highest stage in spiritual coming-into-existence, in spiritual birth and growth. It is the penultimate — and unavoidable — stage on the very threshold of mysterious frenzy which enraptures the soul in the transsubstantiated darkness of the Trinnitanan reality. And conversely Revelation is a kind of step down from the "natural mystery" of the Godhead, from the fullness of the Divine Trinity to the heterogeneity and multitudi — nousness of creation. Following St. Gregory and Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Maximus speaks of a charitable effusion or imparting of Good — a Neoplatonic image (see Origen on the Logos as "One and Many").

The path of Revelation and the path of knowledge correspond to one another. It is a single path, but it leads in two directions — apocalypsis and gnosis; descent and ascent. And knowledge is man’s reply, man’s response. Cognition of nature as God’s creation has its own special religious significance. In contemplation the soul is pacified — but contemplation itself is possible through apatheia. A new motive is creatively introduced into the harmony of the cosmos.

The world is creatural that is, it was created and came into being, it was created by the will of God. The will of — God is God’s very relationship to the world in general, the point of contact and meeting. For St. Maximus, will always signifies a relationship to "something else." Properly speaking, God wills only about the world. One must not speak of an intra-Trinitarian will, for God’s will is always the indivisible will of the Holy Trinity.

According to St. Maximus the world’s createdness means first of all limitedness and finiteness — limited, because definite. The world is not without beginning, but begins. St. Maximus resol -utely objects to the conjecture about the world’s eternity, or its "co-eternity" with God — έ£ άϊδίον. Here he hardly had in mind only Proclus — see, for example, John Philoponus1 book On the Eternity of the World Against Proclus. St. Maximus, one must think, had Origen in mind as well. "Do not ask: How is it that, being eternally Good, God creates now? How and why is it so recent! Do not look into this."

This is a direct challenge to Origen’s quandaries: how can one imagine Divine nature to be "inactive and idle?" Is it possible to think that goodness at one time did not do good, and that Omnipotence had nothing? And does God really "becom" the Creator and begin to create? St. Maximus makes a strict distinction between God’s will about the world and the actual existence of the world. This will, of course, is from eternity — God’s eternal counsel. In no way, however, does this signify the eternity of the world itself — of the "nature" of the world. "The Creator drew out knowledge of everything which exists, which knowledge had preexisted in him from eternity, and realized it when he willed’’ The origin of the world is the realization of God’s eternal plan for it. In other words, it is the creation of the created substratum itself. "We say that he is not only the Creator of quality, but also of qualitized nature. It is for this reason that creations do not coexist with God from eternity."

St. Maximus emphasizes the limitedness of creatures and, on the contrary, he recalls God’s limitlessness. "For the unstudied wisdom of the limitless essence is inaccessible to human understanding." The world is "something else," but it holds together with its ideal connections. These connections are the "actions" or the "energies" of the Logos. In them God touches the world, and the world comes into contact with the Godhead. St. Maximus usually speaks of Divine "logoi or words” — λόγοι. This is a very complex, polysemantic, and rich concept which goes back to the early theology of the Apologists and is continued by the Cappadocians, Evagrius Ponticus, and others — λόγοι σπερματικοί — in the Greek East, and St. Augustine continues the idea of Tertullian in the Latin West — rationes seminales. These are first of all Divine thoughts and desires, the pre-determinations of God’s will — προορισμοί — the “eternal thoughts of the eternal Mind" in which he creates or invents the world and cognizes the world. Like some creative rays, the "logoi" radiate from the Divine center and again gather in it. God the Logos is a kind of mysterious circle of forces and thoughts, as in the thought of Clement of Alexandria. And secondly, they are prototypes of things, "paradigms." In addition, they are dynamic prototypes. The "logos" of something is not only its "truth" or "sense," and not only its "law" or "definition" (oros), but primarily its forming principle. St. Maximus distinguishes the "logos of nature" or law, the "logos of providence" and the "logos of judgment” — λόγος της κρίσεως. Thus the fate of all things and everything is taken in, from their origin to the resolution of the world process.

In ontology St. Maximus is close to St. Gregory of Nyssa. For him the perceptible world is immaterial in its qualitative foundations. It is a kind of mysterious "compression" — or even "condensation" — of the spiritual world. Everything in the world is spiritual in its depths. One can recognize the fabric of the Logos everywhere. There are two planes in the world: the spiritual or that which is comprehended by the mind — τα νοητά, and the perceptible or corporeal. There is a strict and precise correspondence between them. The perceptible world is not a passing phantom, the disintegration or disparagement of reality, but belongs to the fullness and integrity of reality. It is an image, a “type” — τύπος — or symbol of the spiritual world. In essence, the world is united and one, "for the whole spiritual world is mysteriously and symbolically — "in symbolic eidos” — reflected in the perceptible world — τυπόυμενος φαίνεται — for those who know how to see. The perceptible world by its foundations — τοΐς λόγοις — is entirely contained in the world which is comprehended by the mind — ένυπάρχων. Our world consists of that world, its logoi. And that world consists of ours, which has images — τοις τύποις?"

The connection or link between the two worlds is unbreakable and non-blending. St. Maximus defines it as an "identity through hypostases." "The world comprehended by the mind is found in the perceptible world, as the spirit is in the body, while the perceptible world is joined with the world comprehended by the mind like the body is joined with the soul. Both worlds comprise a single world, as a single man is comprised of a soul and a body."

By itself the "material essence" — that is, matter — is the beginning of "non-existence" — μη ον. However, it is entirely permeated with “spiritual logoi" and phenomena which are well reinforced in the comprehension of the mind, in "noumena." To that extent the whole material world is in communion with the Logos, and only through this communion does it quit non-existence. The reality comprehended by the mind exists outside of time. This does not, however, mean “in eternity” but rather “in the ages” — εν αίώνι. The reality comprehended by the mind is not without beginning, but “originates existence in the ages” — εν αΐώνι. It begins to be, originates, starts, comes into existence from non-existence, but it is not put an end to through destruction. God the Creator grants it indestructibility. In this lies the "non-finiteness" and "timelessness" of mind-comprehended existence — that is, the fact that it cannot be captured in time. However, εν αιώνι in no way ever means aei. St. Maximus defines it thus: "Eon is time without movement, and time is eon measured by movement." For all that, their mutual correspondence and commensurability — "symmetricalness," writes St. Maximus — is not removed. The genuine eternity of the Godhead is non-commensurate with the eons. Here, any "how" or "when" is unquestionably inapplicable.

At the top of the created ladder stands the angelic world — the world of pure spirits. St. Maximus speaks of the angelic world in the same way as does the Corpus Areopagiticum, and he does not say very much. It is not the angelic world which is the focus of creation, precisely because the angels are incorporeal — only the fallen spirits are drawn into matter by virtue of their impious lust and passion.

Only man, who actually closes both worlds in himself — the spiritual, "incorporeal" world and the material world — can be the focus of creation. This thought is developed from St. Gregory of Nyssa. In his doctrine about man St Maximus expresses the symbolic motif with special force. By virtue of his bi-unity man is primarily a symbolic being. The principle of mutual symbolic reflection of some parts of the world into others is very characteristic of St. Maximus’ whole system. Essentially, it is nothing more than the principle of harmony and concord we see in Pseudo-Dionysius. In St. Maximus1 thought, however, it is greater than dynamism. Concord is given and assigned. The world is harmonious, but it must be even more harmonious and self-disciplined. This is the task of man, who has been placed at the center point of creation. This is the content of the created process. Potentially the whole world is reflected and, as it were, inscribed in created reason — here is based the possibility for knowledge, for cognition in general.

By itself, however, human reason can cognize nothing. The possibility of cognition is realized only in an efficacious relationship with the external world. St. Maximus always lays stress on man’s connection with his surroundings because he sees in man a microcosm, the middle and focus of created existence in general.

Man’s goal lies in embracing the whole world, in union — ένωσις, and in uniting it in himself, in re-uniting it with the Logos which has contained from eternity the life-giving foundations of all kinds of existence. Man must unite everything in himself and through himself unite with God. He has been called to this from his creation, and in this summons is the mystery of God-Manhood.

Man is created as a microcosm — "a small world in a great one." The mystery of creation is revealed in man. At the same time it is man who is a living image of the Logos in creation. Man is an image of God and in him are mysteriously concentrated all the Divine forces and energies which are revealed in the world. He himself must become a "mental world." By his very arrangement man is called to deification and to a process whereby the deification of all creation is accomplished precisely in him. For the sake of this, the created world was "thought up" and created.

First of all, man is summoned to unite. He must take away and extinguish in himself all "divisions of created nature" — "divisions" — διαιρέσεις, not "differences,” the foundation of which are in the Logos. Here the influence is from Philo’s doctrine of λόγος-το μευς. In himself man must overcome the division of sexes, for in his destiny he is one — "united man." In this respect St. Maximus is reminiscent entirely of St. Gregory of Nyssa and, together with St. Gregory, he rejects the Origenist supposition about the pre-existence of souls. Man was never "incorporeal” — άσαρκος or ασώματος, although by its nature the soul does not depend on the body — and is therefore imperishable — and the soul possesses a capability for cognition of God which is equal to that of the angels.

But man is not a soul inserted in a body — he is not composed of soul and body. The soul arises and is born along with the body. From the beginning man was created as he is now — perhaps "in foreknowledge" of the fall, as in the thought of St. Gregory of Nyssa and in Nemesius of Emesa’s On Human Nature [περι φύσεως άνθρώπου]. Nemesius’ book, incidentally, was often quoted as St. Gregory of Nyssa’s πepί κατασκευήw ανθρώπου. Nemesius’ work was heavily used by St. John of Damascus and by Latin medieval theologians, especially by Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas.

Without sin, however, the lower would be subordinated to the higher. Sin destroyed this possible and originally intended symphony and harmony. Disharmony began — and in it is all the poignancy of the fall — for it is a direct antithesis to man’s calling. Man had to unite the whole world in himself, and direct the whole totality of his powers to God. Through a realization of a genuine hierarchy and coordination of the cosmic forces, man should have turned the whole world into an integral and united organism. Then inundating streams of grace would have poured forth over the world, and God would have appeared entirely in everything, giving creation immutable and eternal bliss.

It is this goal which was not fulfilled. The fall broke the chain of existence — into the world came death, which disunites and decays. This did not alter the plan and structure of the world. The tasks remained the same. Unrealized through the creation of the first man, it is settled by Divine force, through the "renewal of nature," in the New Adam, in the Incarnation of the Logos.

It is characteristic of St. Maximus that he judges the Old Adam by the New Adam. He judges the "beginning" by the "end" — "teleologically," as he himself observes. He judges and divines man’s calling by the completeness of the God-Man. For human nature was predestined to it from the beginning, according to God’s original plan and original will. In this sense, man is mainly a Revelation of God. This is the created likeness of the Logos. This points out the Incarnation of the Logos beforehand as the fulfillment of God’s eternal counsel on the world. And in the image of Christ are combined the fullness of the Godhead and the fullness of creation. According to St. Maximus the Incarnation of the Logos enters into God’s original will in the creation of the world. God’s wisdom distinguishes creatures, while Divine Love ioins them together, and to God. The Logos becomes flesh, becomes man, and creation ascends to a likeness of God.

"Incarnation" and "deification" — σάρκωσiw και θέωσιw — are two linked movements. In a certain sense the Logos is always becoming incarnate, and in everything, for everything in the world is a reflection of the Logos, especially in man, who was placed on the edge of the world as the receiver of God’s grace. The Incarnation of the Logos crowns God’s descent into the world, and creates the possibility for the opposite movement. God becomes a man, becomes incarnate, through his love for man. And man becomes God through grace, is deified through his love for God.

In love originates the "beautiful inter-revolution" — καλή άντιστροφή. Christ the God-Man is the beginning and the end of all oikonomia — the center and the focus of all ages and all kinds of existence. Divine oikonomia is independent of human freedom, of its choices and concord, for it is God’s initial creative plan. And it would have been realized even apart from the fall. "The Logos became flesh" not merely for redemption. In actual history God’s supervision is realized in a fallen and dissolute world, and the God-Man proves to be the Redeemer, the Sacrificial Lamb.

The history which has come about is the history of a fallen world which has been restored from the fall, which has been healed of evil and sin. But the mystery of the God-Man, the mystery of Divine Love is wider and deeper than redemptive mercy. The whole Revelation is the Incarnation of God, and the Incarnation of the Logos. In this sense the whole Revelation is anthropomorphic. This relates directly to the Scriptures. They are all written about him — about Christ the God-Man, not only about the Logos. Therefore, a direct and literal understanding of the Scriptures is insufficient and even wrong. For history itself is only a symbol which appears and covers spiritual reality. The same also applies to the liturgy, where every action is a mystery, which symbolically signifies and realizes definite events in the invisible "mind-comprehended" plan. Therefore, understanding the Scriptures literally and directly is like murdering Christ, who resides under the letter of the Scriptures. And it is belated Judaism — indeed, the "letter" of the Law is abolished with the arrival of truth and grace. Literalism in exegesis is Judaistic insensitivity to the Incarnation. For, on the whole, the Scriptures are a kind of Incarnation of the Logos. This is the "sense, the force of all meaning and images of the Scriptures, and the cognition of visible and invisible creatures." The wise fathers who were anointed by the Spirit learn directly from the Logos. From the Logos also come the spiritual illuminations of the ancient patriarchs and all the saints. Thus St. Maximus partly revives the ancient idea of the "seeds of the Logos."

St. Maximus’ whole doctrine about the knowledge of God is essentially Christocentric. First, the whole problem of knowledge is to recognize the realized God-Man as the basic theme of created existence and life. Second, knowledge itself is possible only because God the Logos descends in certain cognitive images, as a forewarning of his pre-willed Incarnation. Man is created in God’s image, and therefore the truth is in man’s image.

The God-Man

The Incarnation of the Logos is the basis and goal of Revelation — its basic theme and meaning. From the beginning God the Logos appoints Incarnation for himself so that the consecration and deification of all creation, of all the world, is accomplished in the union of the God-Man.

For man is a microcosm. He stands on the border of worlds and unites in himself all planes of existence. He is called to unite and gather everything in himself, as St. Gregory of Nyssa taught. In the prospects of this universal consecration of existence, the speculative correctness of strict, precise dyophysitism is particularly clearly evident and comprehensible. This is not only a soteriological axiom or postulate. St. Maximus does not only show the fullness, the "perfection" of Christ’s human nature from the necessity of redemption — "what is not assumed is not healed." He does indeed repeat these words of St. Gregory of Nazianzus. For the world was created only in order that in the fulfillment of its fate God should be in everything and that everything should commune with him through the Logos Incarnate. Hence, it is understandable that in the Incarnation the whole totality of created nature — πάντα τα ημών — must be assumed by the Logos and assimilated "without any omission."

In the fallen world the Incarnation turns out to be redemption, salvation. But from time immemorial, it was willed not as a means of salvation, but as the fulfillment of created existence in general, as its justification and foundation. It is for this reason that the redemption itself is by no means exhausted by some negative factors alone — liberation from sin, condemnation, decay and death. The main thing is the very fact of inseparable union of natures — the entrance of Life into created existence. For us, however, it is easier to understand the Incarnation as the path to salvation. It is this aspect which is the most important thing of all, for we must, first of all, be redeemed in Christ and through Christ.

The mystery of God-Manhood has been active in the world from the beginning. St. Maximus distinguishes two moments and periods: the mystery of the Divine Incarnation and the "grace of human deification." The Old Testament is the still uncompleted history of the Church. The historic event of the Gospel is the focus and the division of two epochs, the summit and mystical focus of oikonomia. This is the fulfillment, the crowning of the revelations of the Logos in the world the Logos created, in the Law and Scripture the Logos gave to man.

Christ is born of a Virgin. Therefore, first of all, he is consubstantial with us — "the same in nature." But he is born not of seed, but by an immaculate Virgin Birth, a birth which was "controlled not by the law of sin but by the law of Divine truth." Therefore he is free of sin — the hereditary sin which is transmitted first of all in the "illegality" of carnal conception, echoing especially the thought of St. Gregory of Nyssa. He receives the primordial, still chaste, human nature, as it was created by God from time immemorial, as Adam had it before the fall. And with this he "renews" nature, displays it beside the sin "of which decrepitude consists." However, for the sake of our salvation the Lord primordially subordinates himself to the order of sufferings and decay. He voluntarily deigns to accept mortality and death itself, from which he could be entirely free, being beyond sin. The Lord subordinates himself to the consequences of sin, while staying not privy to sin itself. In this is his healing penance.

He becomes a man "not according to a law of nature," but according to the will of oikonomia. "Innocent and sinless, he paid the whole debt for mankind, as if he himself were guilty, and thereby returned them anew to the original grace of the kingdom. He gave himself for us at the cost of redemption and deliverance, and for our pernicious passions he gave with his life-giving suffering — the curative healing and salvation of the whole world."

Christ enters the "suffering" or "passionate" order of things, lives in it, but inwardly remains independent of it and free. He is "clothed" in our nature’s capacity for suffering — this phrase is more accurate than "passion" — through which we are attracted to sin and fall under the power of the evil one. But he remains passionless — that is, immobile or non-suffering, "non-passive," free and active as regards "reproachful" or "anti-natural" or "para-Physical" incentives. This is "imperishability of the will," "volition." Through abstinence, long-suffering, and love, Christ warded off and overcame all temptations, and displayed in his life every virtue and wisdom.

This imperishability of the will is reinforced later by the imperishability of nature — that is, the resurrection. The Lord descends even to the gates of hell, to the very region of death, and deposes or weakens it. Life proves to be stronger than death Death is conquered in resurrection, as in the abolition of any suffering, weakness and decay — that is, in a land of "transformation" of nature into immortality and imperishability. The series of stages is: existence; true existence or virtue; and eternal existence which is in God, which is "deification." At the same time there is a series of redeeming actions: union with God in the Incarnation, imperishability of will in the righteousness of life, and imperishability of nature in the resurrection.

Throughout, St. Maximus emphasizes the integrating activity of the God-Man. Christ embraced and united everything in himself. He removed the cleavages of existence. In his impassive birth he combined the male and female genders. Through his holy life he combined the universe and paradise. Through his ascension, he combined earth and heaven, the created and uncreated. And he traces and reduces everything to the proto-beginning or proto-cause. Not only because he is the Logos, and creatively embraces everything and contains it within himself but also by his human will, his human volition, which brings about God’s will, which organically coincides with it and receives it as its own inner and intimate measure or model.

After all, the fall was a volitional act, and therefore an injury to the human will, a disconnecting of human will and God’s will, and a disintegration of human will itself, among passions and subordinating external impressions or influences. Healing must penetrate to the original wound and the original ulcer of sinfulness. Healing must be the doctoring and restoration of the human will in its fullness, self-discipline, integrity, and accord with God’s will — here there is the usual antithesis: Adam’s disobedience and Christ’s obedience and submissiveness. St. Maximus extends this with his ontological interpretation.

St. Maximus speaks the language of Leontius. He opposes nature (and essence), as something general and merely conceivable — able to be contemplated with the mind — to hypostasis, as some -thing concrete and real — πραγματικώς υφιστάμενον. For him hypostasity is not exhausted in features or “peculiarities” but is first of all independent existence — καθ’ έαυτό. “Non-un-hypostasity” or reality does not unfailingly signify hypostasity; that is, independence, but can also indicate "inner-hypostasity" — that is, existence in another, and with another . Only the concrete or individual is real. As for Leontius, hypostasis is signified not so much by individualizing features as by an image of existence and life. Hypostasity is not a special and superfluous feature, but a real originality. Therefore, "non-self-hypostasity" by no means limits or decreases the fullness or "perfection" of nature. The fullness of nature is determined and described by general features, "essential" or "natural" traits — they are "tokens of perfection," of completeness or fullness.

The Incarnation of the Logos is the reception and inclusion of human nature into the unalterable hypostasis of the Logos. Christ is united, a "united hypostasis," and it is this which is the hypostasis of the Logos. It is for just this reason that it is said: the Logos became flesh, for the Logos is the subject. As St. Maximus explains, "became flesh" precisely signifies acceptance into hypostasis, and "origin" or genesis through such acceptance.

In a certain sense, through the Incarnation the hypostasis of the Logos changes from simple to complex — "compound;" συνθετος. However, this complexity merely signifies that the single hypostasis is at once and inseparably the hypostasis; that is, the personal center, for both of the two natures. The complexity is in the union of natures which remain without any change in their natural characteristics. The Incarnation is "God’s ineffable humility," his kenosis, but it is not the "impoverishing of the Godhead." And the human in the hypostasis of the Logos does not cease being "consubstantial with," "of the same essence with" us.

St. Maximus defines "hypostatic union" precisely as the union or reduction of "different essences or natures" in a unity of person — hypostasis. The natures remain different and dissimilar. Their “differentness” does not cease with union, and is also preserved in that indissoluble and unflagging inter-communion, inter-penetration — περιχώρησις eις άλλήλας, which is established by the union. "In saying that Christ is of two natures, we mean that he consists of Divinity and humanity as a whole consists of parts; and in saying that after the union he is in two natures, we believe that he abides in the Godhead and in Manhood, as a whole consists of parts. And Christ’s "parts" are his Divinity and Humanity, of which and in which he abides." What is more, he is not only "of two" or "in two" but simply "two natures." Since there is no mixing, it is necessary to count. Christ’s human nature is consubstantial with ours, but at the same time it is free of original sm — this is also connected with the immaculate conception of Christ and the virgin birth. In other words, primordial human nature is displayed and realized anew in Christ in all its chastity and purity.

And by virtue of this hypostatic nature all that is human in Christ was permeated with Divinity, deified, transformed — here the image of the red hot iron is used. Here the human is given a new and special form of existence, and this is connected with the very purpose of the coming of the Logos — after all, he "became flesh" in order to renew decayed nature, for the sake of a new form of existence. The deification of the human is not its absorption or dissolution. On the contrary, it is in this likeness to God, or likening to God, that the human genuinely becomes itself. For man is created in the image of God, and is summoned to the likeness of God. In Christ is realized the highest and utmost measure of this likening, which fortifies the human in its genuine natural originality. Deification signifies the indissoluble connection, perfect accord and unity. First of all, there is inseparability — always "in communion with one another." By virtue of hypostatic union Christ,while being God, is "incarnate but unaltered," and always acts in everything "not only as God or according to his Divinity but at the same time as a man, according to his humanity." In other words, all of Divine Life draws humanity into itself and manifests itfcelf or flows out only through it. This is a "new and ineffable form for revealing Christ’s natural actions" — in inseparable union, however, without any change or decrease in what is characteristic for each nature, "immutably."

The possibility for such a union is founded in the natural "non-non-divinity" of the human spirit which is the intermediary link in the union of the Logos with animated flesh, an idea taken from the thought of St. Gregory of Nazianzus. The form of Christ’s activity in humanity was different from ours, higher than it, and often even higher than nature, for he acted entirely freely and voluntarily, without hesitation or bifurcation, and in immutable harmony, and even union of all desires with the will of the Logos. And again, this was more the fulfillment of human measure than its abolition. God’s will, which motivates and forms human volition, is accomplished in everything. However, this did not eliminate human volition itself. It befits man to do God’s will, accepting it as his own, for God’s will reveals and builds the tastes and paths which most correspond to the goals and meaning of human life.

St. Maximus sees first of all the unity of life in the unity of person. Because this unity is realized in the two natures so fully, human nature is generally a likeness of Divine nature. Recalling man’s likeness to God makes it much easier for St. Maximus to disclose and defend Orthodox Dyophysitism. This was also an important argument against Monophysitism in general, with its anthropological self-depreciation or minimalism. In St. Maximus there was no longer that vagueness which remained in Leontius in connection with the analogy of soul and body. St. Maximus flatly rejects the possibility of mixing or of the conjunction of hypcstases for a certain time, then their new separation or restoration. Therefore he categorically denies even the logical possibility of the pre-existence of Christ’s humanity before the Incarnation. In general, he uses the comparison with the human composition with very great restraint. He always emphasizes that we are speaking of the Incarnation of the Logos, and not the deification of man. By these same motives he brusquely rejects the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls as being completely incompatible with the true hypostatic unity of each person.

In the doctrine of the two wills and two energies in Christ Orthodox Dyophysitism becomes totally complete and definite. Only an open and direct confession of natural human energy and will in Christ removes any ambiguity in the doctrine of the God-Man. The metaphysical premises of St. Maximus’ discussion of two energies can be expressed in the following way. First, will and energy are essential traits of spiritual nature — they are natural traits. Therefore, the two natures unavoidably entails a two-ness of natural energies, and any wavering in acknowledging their two-ness signifies indistinctness in the confession of the two natures. Secondly, one must clearly and precisely distinguish natural will as the basic trait or characteristic of spiritual existence — θέλημα φυσικόν — and as selective volition, volitional choice and variation between possibilities which differ in significance and quality — θέλημα γνωμικον.

St. Maximus dwells on these preliminary definitions in great detail, for it is here that the basic disagreement with the Monophysites was revealed. The Monophysites claimed a union of volition and energy in Christ, a union of personal or hypostatic will, for Christ is one, his will is one. Consequently, one volition and one will. Does not unity of person include unity of will? And does not the assumption of two volitions weaken the union of the person of the God-Man? The Monophysites’ misunderstanding revealed an authentic theological question: what can the two wills and two energies mean given the unity of the willing subject? To start with, there are essentially two questions here. The concept of hypostatic will" can also be ambiguous: it means either the absorption or disintegration of human will in the Divine dynamic unity of volition; or the assumption of some "third" will, which corresponds to a "complex hypostasis" of the God-Man, as a special principle apart from and equal to the natures being unified.

St. Maximus first of all dismisses this last supposition: the whole is not some third thing — it does not have a special existence apart from its components; the wholeness signifies only the new and special form of existence of these components, but at the same time no new source of will and energy arises or is revealed.

The unity of hypostasis in Christ determines the form of the self-disclosure of the natures, but does not create any special "third" independent reality. The hypostasis of the God-Man "has only that which is characteristic of each of his natures. What is more, the hypostasis of Christ is, after all, the hypostasis of the Logos, which is eternal and unalterable, and which became the hypostasis for the humanity it received. Consequently, unity of "hypostatic volition" can practically mean only the unity of the will of God, which absorbs human will. This would clearly damage the fullness or "perfection" of the human composition in Christ. Least of all can one speak of a temporary and "relative assimilation" of human will by the Logos in the order of oikonomic adaption. This means introducing Docetism into the mystery of the Incarnation.

Will is a trait or characteristic of reasoning nature. St. Maximus defines it as "the force of striving for what conforms to nature, a force which embraces all traits or characteristics which essentially belong to the nature." One must add: the force of a reasoning soul, a reasoning striving, which is "verbal" or "logical," and a free and "masterful striving" — κατ’ έξουσιαν. Will, as the capacity to desire and freely decide, is something innate. A "reasoning" nature cannot be anything but volitional, for reason is essentially "despotic," a "dominating" principle; that is, a principle of self-determination, the capability of being defined by one’s self and through one’s self. Here is the boundary which divides "reasoning" beings from "non-reasoning" or "non-verbal" ones, who are blindly allured by nature’s might. They objected to St. Maximus by asking: but is there really no nuance of necessity or inevitability in the very concept of "nature," which cannot be eliminated? So the concept of "natural will" includes an internal contradiction. St. Athanasius was reproached for the same thing in his day; and Theodoret reproached St. Cyril for this as well.

St. Maximus resolutely deflects this reproach. Why is nature a necessity? Does one really have to say that God is forced to be, that he is good by necessity? In created beings "nature" determines the purposes and tasks of freedom, but does not limit it. Here we arrive at a basic distinction: will and choice — γνώμη. One could say volition and desire, or willfulness, almost arbitrariness. Freedom and will are not arbitrariness at all. Freedom of choice not merely does not belong to the perfection of freedom. On the contrary, it is diminishing and a distortion of freedom. Genuine freedom is an undivided, unshakable, integral striving and attraction of the soul to Goodness. It is an integral impulse of reverence and love. "Choice" is by no means an obligatory condition of freedom. God wills and acts in perfect freedom, but he does not waver and does not choose. Choice — προαιρεσις — which is properly "preference," as St. Maximus himself observes, presupposes bifurcation and vagueness — the incompleteness and unsteadiness of the will. Only a sinful and feeble will wavers and chooses.

According to the idea of St. Maximus the fall of the will consists precisely in losing integrity and spontaneity, in the fact that the will changes from intuitive to discursive, and in the fact that volition develops into a very complex process of search, trial, and choice. In this process that which is personal and special is attendant. Thus do personal desires take shape. Here incommensurate attractions clash and struggle. But the measure of perfection and purity of will is its simplicity — that is, precisely its integrity and uniformity. This is only possible through: "Let Thy will be done!" This is the highest measure of freedom, the highest reality of freedom, which accepts the first-created will of God and therefore expresses its own genuine depths. St. Maximus always speaks of the reality and efficacy of the human will in Christ with special stress; otherwise all oikonomia would turn into a phantom. Christ, as the "new man," was a complete or "perfect" man, and accepted all that was human in order to heal it. But it was the will, the desire, which was the source of sin in the Old Adam, and therefore it was the will which demanded doctoring and healing most of all. Salvation would not have been accomplished if the will had not been accepted and healed.

However, all of human nature in Christ was sinless and viceless, for this is the nature of the Primordial one. And his will was the primordial will, which was still untouched by the breath of sin. In this is all the originality of Christ’s human will — it differs from ours only "as regards the inclination to sin." There are no waverings or contradictions. Inwardly, it is unified and inwardly it conforms to the will of the Godhead. There is no clash or struggle between the two natural wills — and there must not be! For human nature is God’s creation, God’s will realized. Therefore, in it there is nothing — and cannot be anything — contrary to or opposing God’s will. God’s will is not something external for human will, but its source and goal, its beginning and its telos. Of course, this coincidence or accord of wills is not their mixing.

In a certain sense human actions and will in Christ were higher than nature or above it. "For through hypostatic union it was entirely deified, for which reason it was also completely not privy to sin." Through hypostatic union with the Logos everything human in Christ was strengthened and transformed. This transformation is proclaimed first of all in perfect freedom. Human nature in Christ is taken out from under the power of natural necessity, under which it found itself only by virtue of sin. If it remains within the bounds of the natural order, that is not so under compulsion but voluntarily and competently. The Savior voluntarily and freely takes upon himself all the weaknesses and sufferings of man in order to free him from them — like fire melts wax, or the sun drives away the fog.

St. Maximus distinguishes a dual assumption — the same distinction appears later in St. John of Damascus. First, there is natural or essential assumption. The Logos accepts the entire fullness of human nature in its primordial innocence and guiltlessness, but in that feeble condition into which it fell through sin, with all the weaknesses and flaws which are the consequences of sin or even retribution for sin but are themselves not anything sinful — the so-called "unreproachable passions" such as hunger and thirst, fear, fatigue. At the same time, though, the acceptance of weaknesses and disparagement are acts of free subordination, for in incorrupt nature there is no need to be feeble or under someone’s power. It is especially necessary to observe that St. Maximus directly ascribes omniscience to Christ through humanity as well. Indeed, as he understands it, "ignorance" was one of the most shameful flaws of human nature in sin. Secondly, there is relative or oikonomic assumption — acceptance in love and compassion. Thus the Savior accepted sin and man’s guilt, his sinful and guilty feebleness. In the portrayal by St. Maximus Christ’s human nature proves to be particularly active, efficacious, and free. This concerns the redemptive sufferings more than anything else. This was free passion, the free acceptance and fulfillment of the will of God. In the Savior’s chaste life the restoration of the image of God in man was accomplished — through human will. And by his free acceptance of cleansing — not punitive — suffering, Christ destroyed the power of the Old Adam’s free desire and sin. This was not retribution or punishment for sin, but the movement of saving Love.

St. Maximus explains Christ’s redeeming work as the restoration, the healing, the gathering of all creation in ontological, not moral, terms. But it is Love which is the moving force of salvation. The Love displayed on the Cross most of all. Christ’s work will be fulfilled in the Second Coming. The Gospels lead to this, to the "spiritual" appearance of the Logos, the God-Man, just as the Old Testament led to the Logos Incarnate. Here St. Maximus follows Origen’s motif.

Man’s Path

Man has been created in freedom. He had to come into being in freedom, and he fell in freedom. The fall is an act of will; and sin is primarily in the will — it is a condition, or form, or arrangement of the will. Man is a free being. This means that he is a volitional being. Sin is a false choice and false contrariness and arbitrariness of the will. Evil is the feebleness and insufficiency of the will. Evil is of an "elliptical" nature. Here St. Maximus comes very close to St. Gregory of Nyssa and the thought expressed in the Corpus Areopagiticum as well. Evil does not exist by itself. Evil is really the free perversion of reasoning will, which turns aside from God, which circumvents God, and thus turns to non-existence. Evil is "non-existing" primarily as this striving or this will to non-existence.

The fall manifests itself primarily in the fact that man falls into the possession of passion. Passion is a sickness of the will. It is the loss or limitation of freedom. The hierarchy of the soul’s natural forces is perverted. Reason loses the capability and power to control the soul’s lower forces — man passively — that is, "passionately" — subordinates himself to the elemental forces of his nature, and is enticed by them — he spins in the disorderly movement of these forces. This is connected with spiritual blindness. The feebleness, the weakness of the will is connected with the ignorance of reason — άγνοια, as the opposite of γνώσις. Man forgets and loses the ability to contemplate and recognize God and the Divine. His consciousness is overcrowded with sensual images.

Sin and evil are movements downward, away from God. Man not only does not transform and animate the world or nature, where he was placed as priest and prophet, not only does not raise nature above its level; but rather descends himself, and sinks below his measure. Called to deification, he becomes like the dumb beasts. Called to existence, he chooses non-existence. Created from a soul and body, man loses his integrity in the fall, and splits in two. His mind grows coarse, and becomes overcrowded with earthly and earthy and sensual images. And his very body becomes coarse.

In these general conclusions about the nature and character of evil St. Maximus is merely repeating generally accepted opinions. The only thing of his that is original is his insistent stressing of volitional factors. This allows him to develop the ascetic doctrine of the "ordeal" as the transformation of the will with greater consistency. In general, in his anthropology St. Maximus is closest to St. Gregory of Nyssa. For sin — that is, the "sin of volition" — man was "vested in leathern garments." This is the feebleness of nature — its passivity, coarseness, and mortality. Man is drawn into the very maelstrom of natural decay. His passivity is a certain immanent exposure of passion, an unmasking of its inner contradictions. The decay of man is proclaimed most clearly in his sinful birth, a birth from a seed, from male lust and voluptuousness like the way of the dumb beasts. Here St. Maximus follows St. Gregory of Nyssa. It is through this sinful birth that the decay and feebleness of nature spreads and, as it were, accumulates in the world. For St. Maximus “birth” — γέννησις as opposed to γένεσις — is a synonym of original sin and sinfiilness. Objectively, sin is the quality of having no exit from passion — a fatal circle: from passionate birth in lawlessness and sin and through decay to decayed death. This first of all must be healed through a new animation, through Christ’s entering the region of death.

Man’s freedom did not, however, fade away in the fall and in sin — it merely grew weak. Rather, inertia of nature increased very much after the fall — it was shot through and through with the sprouts of "unnatural" or "para-physical" passions and grew heavy. But the capacity for free movement, for circulation and return, did not dry up and was not taken away. Here is the pledge of resurrection and liberation from under the power of decay and sin. Christ delivers and frees, but everyone must accept and experience this deliverance within himself, creatively and freely. It is for this reason that this is liberation, a way out of slavery and the oppression of the passions to freedom — a shift form passivity to activity — that is, from passivity (being included in the rotation of non-verbal nature) to mobility, to creativity and the "ordeal."

St. Maximus always makes a clear distinction between these two factors: nature and volition or will. Christ heals nature once and for all, without the actual participation of individual persons, and even independently of their possible participation — even sinners will be resurrected. But everyone must be liberated in a personal "ordeal." Everyone is called to this liberation — with Christ and in Christ.

Christian life begins with a new birth, in the baptismal font. This is the gift of God. It is participation in a pure and chaste birth of Christ from the Virgin. However, one must approach baptism with faith, and only through faith does one receive the gifts of the Spirit which are offered. In baptism forces or energies — δύναμις — for a new life or the possibility of a new life are offered. Realization is the task of free "ordeal." Man is given the "grace of innocence" — της άναμαρτησίας. He can simply no longer err, but he must also actively not sin. He must become perfect. He must fulfill the commandments and activate good principles in himself.

Grace through the sacraments frees man, tears him away from the First Adam, and unites him with the Second Adam. It raises him above nature’s measures — for deification has already begun. This is, however, only the fulfillment of man’s most natural calling, for he was created to outgrow himself, to become higher than himself. It is precisely for this reason that the activity of grace cannot be only external, and is not forced. Grace presupposes exaction and susceptibility. It awakens freedom, and arouses and animates volition. It is "volition" which is the repository of grace. St. Maximus considers the synergism between "volition" and "grace" to be self-evident. The gifts which are given in the sacra -ments must be kept and nurtured. Only through volition can they manifest themselves and change into the activity of the New Man.

The sacraments and the "ordeal" — these are two indissoluble and indivisible factors of Christian life. Again, the way of Divine descent and human ascent, the mysterious meeting of God and man, is in Christ. This relates both to the personal life of every Christian. In every soul Christ has to be born and "become incarnate" anew — as St. Paul writes in Galatians 2:20: "but Christ… lives in me." And it relates to the Church as the Body of Christ. In the Church the Incarnation continues and is fulfilled. But God, when he humbles himself and descends, must be recognized and acknowledge. In this is the theme of "ordeal" and history — movement towards a meeting, abnegation for the sake of deification.

The "ordeal" is, first of all, a struggle with passions, for the goal of the "ordeal" is precisely apatheia. Passion is a false arrangement of will directed to the lower, to the sensual, instead of to the spiritual, the higher. In this sense it is a perversion of the natural order, a distortion of perspective. Evil is the preference for the sensual. And precisely in the quality of being falsely preferred the sensual or visible becomes sinful, dangerous, venomous, evil. The "visible" must signify and manifest the "invisible" — that is, the spiritual. It is in such a symbolic transparency that the whole sense and justification of its existence lies. Consequently, the "visible" becomes senseless when it becomes non-transparent, when it covers and conceals the spiritual, when it perceives itself as something final and self-sufficient. Not the visible as such, but an excessive and fallacious evaluation of the visible is what is an evil and a sin.

Passion is such an over-evaluation, or preference, a certain riveting to or affection for the sensual world. "Passion is the unnatural movement of the soul, either through illogical and nonsensical love or foolhardy hatred for something sensual, or for the sake of something sensual. Or again: evil is a sinning judgment about cognized things which is accompanied by their unseemly use." St. Maximus repeats the customary ascetic outline of the development of passion: around the sensual image which is introduced into soul. Fallacious points of crystallization arise in man’s spiritual life, as it were. For this reason, the whole spiritual structure gets out of order. One can distinguish three types of passion: pride (carnal), violence (or hatred), and ignorance (spiritual blindness). But the world of passions is very motley and heterogeneous. There are two poles in it: pleasure and glory. At the same time St. Maximus always stresses that man constantly finds himself, if not under the sway of, then under the secret influence of demonic actions. Diverse demons swirl or hover around every soul, trying to entice it, interest it with the sensual, and lull the mind and spiritual susceptibility. This demonic influence is a very mighty factor. But all die same, the outcome of the struggle always depends on the will and on the ultimate choice.

Evil itself, and passion, are of a dynamic nature. It is a false assessment of things, and therefore false and harmful behavior is false and harmful because it leads us away from our genuine goals into the emptiness and impasses of non-existence. It is aimless, and therefore realizes nothing. On the contrary, it loses us and breaks us down. In other words, it is discord, disorder, disintegration. One could say it is illegality, lawlessness — ανομία. Law in general forms a counterbalance to illegality and lawlessness. Partly this is the "natural law" which is inscribed in man’s very nature as a demand to live "in conformity with nature." Through contemplation of the world one can understand that this "natural law" is God’s will and measure, which has been established for that which exists.

Law is order, measure, harmony, coherence, and structure. However, it is very difficult for man in his fallen feebleness to be guarded by this "natural law" alone. He was given a written law, the law of the commandments. In content this is the same law of nature, but it is expressed and exposed differently. It is simpler, more comprehensible, and more accessible. For precisely this reason, however, it is insufficient. It is only a prototype — a prototype of the Gospel and the spiritual law, which is both deeper and higher than nature and leads man directly to God. Rather, these are three different expressions of a single law, a single assignment and calling of human life. The very motif of the law as a measure, more internal than external, is important.

One of the tasks of the "ordeal" is the organization of the soul. Victory over the passions is primarily organization. This is the formal aspect. In essence, it is purification, catharsis, and liberation from the sensual fetters and weaknesses. However, catharsis, too, is organization — the levelling and restoration of the true hierarchy of values. Ascetic "doing" — πραξις — or "practical philosophy" is the overcoming or eradication of passion in the human soul. In it, the main thing is not definite external actions, but inner struggle. First of all desire and lust must be controlled — set into the strict structure of the soul, so to speak. These lower, but natural, forces of the soul must be directed towards goals that are genuine and Divine through the power of reasoning discretion. The mind must become really "dominating" in man, and the focus of all the soul’s powers. And the mind itself must obtain its focus and support in God. This is the factor of abstinence. Here one frequently must resort to drastic surgical methods of healing. One is forced to cut off and eradicate inclinations and predilections, the "free passions" — that is, the predilections of the will. There is another aspect, as well — the "involuntary passions," sufferings. Mark the Hermit has written insightfully on the "free" and "involuntary" passions. Rather — temptation or testing through suffering, grief from suffering. In essence, this is an evil and worldly grief — concealed, unsatisfied and nagging lust, the desire for enjoyments. One has to endure these "involuntary passions," these sufferings, without grieving for the deprivation of enjoyments.

It is even harder to overcome hatred and rage. To court mildness and temperance it takes even longer. This is a kind of insensitivity to irritations. Thus the passionate forces of the soul are subdued, but even more remains. One must bar the way to temptations. This entails, on the one hand, exercising the senses and, on the other hand, a mental battle, purifying and overcoming one’s thoughts. It is here that the ascetic problem is solved, for otherwise the danger of sin is always generated anew. One must drive thoughts away while focusing one’s attention on something else, discipling one’s mind in spiritual sobriety and prayer — or else one must, in any case, neutralize them while cultivating a kind of indifference towards them in one’s self. Here "doing" turns from negative to positive. One must not only cut off the passions, but aiso create good. And apatheia does not end with mere suppression of the passions but also signifies a certain positive state of the soul. "Doing" begins with fear of God and is accomplished in fear. Love, however, drives fear away — rather, it transforms it into reverential trembling.

At the same time the mind begins to see clearly, and matures into contemplation in order to become capable of rising higher Apatheia and gnosis together lead to Divine Love. There are stages in it, and it is the very element of "ordeal," success, and perfection. And the courting of pure and indivisible love is the limit and task of ascetic "doing." Love flares up and absorbs all spiritual movements to the extent that it increases the "ordeal" is crowned with and ends in love. Love is free. Ascetic "doing," ascetic activity is the overcoming and extinguishing of sinful pride, and it is concluded in love. Love is complete abnegation and self-lessness," when the soul places nothing higher than knowledge of God." St. Maximus calls this love άγάπη. Later, Divine eros blazes up on the very heights of mysterious life. Love begets knowledge, "gnosis" This knowledge is contemplation, "natural contemplation" — that is, the judgment of Divine measures of existence. There are five basic themes of knowledge or contem -plation: knowledge of God; knowledge of the visible; knowledge of the invisible; knowledge of God’s providence; and knowledge of God’s judgment. This enumeration of five "contemplations" seems to go back to Origen and is also found in Evagrius Ponticus. Again, there are stages here. At first, only the foundations — logoi — of natural existence are cognized, then the intellectual world is comprehended. Only towards the end does the mind which is hardened in prayerful "ordeal" know God. "Theological knowledge" or "unforgettable knowledge" is realized only in a protracted contemplated "ordeal."

By contemplation St. Maximus generally understands not the simple perception of things as they are given in daily experience, but a unique spiritual intuition and a gift of beneficial illumination. Contemplation is cognition in the Logos, the perception of the world in God, or of God in the world, as it is implanted in incomprehensible Divine simplicity. Only through spiritual illumination does the mind obtain the capacity for recognizing the energies of the Logos which are hidden and secret under sensual covers. Contemplation is inseparable from prayer. In the contemplative penetration to the sources and creative foundations of existence, the human mind becomes like the Divine mind — it becomes a small logos as it reflects the great Logos.

This is the second stage of spiritual restoration — apokatastasis. But it is not yet the summit or the limit of spiritual ascent. In contemplation, the mind cognizes the intellectual or mental world and God as Creator, Provider, and Judge. However, the mind must leave the mental or intellectual world and ascend even higher to the mysterious darkness of Divinity itself. This is the goal and problem of the "ordeal" — meeting with God and tasting, or rather, pre-tasting Divine bliss. This is the level and condition of pure prayer. The mind rises higher than forms and ideas, and commun -icates with Divine unity and peace. It cognizes the transsubstantial Trinity in this world, and is itself renewed in the image of the Trinity. On the heights the hermit becomes the temple and cloister of the Logos. It finds repose on the all-good couch of God, and the mystery of ineffable unity is accomplished. This is marriage and betrothal to the Logos. In essence the Christian travels his whole path together with Christ, for he lives in Christ, and Christ in him. Fulfillment of the commandments unites with Christ, for they are his energies. Contemplation leads to Christ, the Logos Incarnate, as to the source and focus of an ideal world.

St. Maximus speaks much and in great detail about Christ mysteriously moving in and living in believing souls. Here he is leaning on St. Gregory of Nazianzus, especially St. Gregory’s Orations for Christmas and Easter. This is one of St. Maximus1 motives of asceticism — a life in Christ. Another motive also goes back to St. Gregory: the contemplation of the Trinity. Here, though, St. Maximus is closer to Evagrius Ponticus. Through Evagrius, he received Origen’s legacy. He handled it, however, freely. He bore Origen’s experience and piety in mind, and transformed it in his own synthesis. In addition, he resolutely rejected Origen’s metaphysical conjectures and conclusions. In general, St. Maximus was not very original in his asceticism. All of his ideas can be found in earlier teachers and writers. St. Maximus wants only to repeat accepted doctrine, but he gives a synthesis and not a compilation.

Man’s fate is decided in the Church. The Church is the image and likeness of God because it is united: "for through the grace of faith, it accomplishes in believers the same unblended unity which the Creator, who contains everything, produces in different existing things through his endless insight and wisdom." The Church unites all believers in itself. Rather, Christ himself unites and reunites with himself his creations, which have received their very existence from him. At the same time the Church is the image and likeness of the whole world, a kind of microcosm. The Church is man’s likeness, a kind of "macro-humanity" as it were. The Church takes shape and grows until it accommodates all who are called and foreordained. Then the end of the world will come.Then time and all movement will cease. Everything will stop, for it will settle. The world will die, for it will grow decrepit. Its visible side will die, but it will be resurrected anew from the obsolete on the day of the expected resurrection. Man will rise in the world or with the world, as a part with the whole, as the great in the small. Resurrection will be a renewal and an animation. Decay will no longer exist. God will be everything in everything. Everything will become a perfect symbol of the single God -head.Everything will manifest God alone. Nothing will remain outside of God — έκτος Θεου.

St. Maximus recalls the well-known analogy of white hot iron. However, in this Divine flame neither nature, nor man, nor even man’s "despotism" or freedom will be consumed. In his eschatological reflections St. Maximus is very close to St. Gregory of Nyssa and, through him, close to Origen. His whole scheme of thought is the same: disintegration and restoration of the primordial harmony — that is, apokatastasis, but an apokatastasis of nature, not of freedom. "Nature" will be restored in its entirety. This does not yet mean, however, that freedom, too, will be redefined as good. It does not yet mean, for freedom or will is a special reality which in no way is reducible to anything else. One may think that St. Maximus learned about this originality and the irrationality of the will from the experience of ascetic struggle. To recognize good does not mean to love or choose it. Man is also capable of not falling in love with the recognized good. Here St. Maximus directly parts with St. Gregory of Nyssa.

The Logos will be everything for everybody, but it will not be a blessed Sabbath and repose for everybody. For the righteous the fire of Divinity will be revealed as an enlightening light. For the impious it will be revealed as a singeing, burning flame. For people contending and mustering their natural powers in the "ordeal" it will be joy and repose. For the unprepared it can prove to be only unrest and pain. All nature will be restored in its primordial and natural measures in the unflagging apokatastasis. God in his immeasurable love will embrace all creation, the good and the evil. But not everyone will be allowed to share in his love and joy, and not everyone who is allowed will share in the same or similar ("analogical") way. St. Maximus makes a distinction between deification through grace — κατά χάριν — and union or unification without grace — παρά την χάριν. Everything which exists communes with God to the extent that it has its very existence from him and is kept by his acting powers.

This is, however, still not beneficial communion. In fulfilling the fates God will restore the full entirety of his creation not only in existence but also in eternal existence. But not in good-existence, for good-existence cannot be given from without, cannot be given without the demanding and accepting of love. God will give to sinners and return everything they lost through sin, restoring their souls in the fullness of their natural forces and capabilities. They will receive the capacity for spiritual knowledge and moral evaluation. They will cognize God. Perhaps they will even lose memory of sin and come to God in a certain understanding — τη έπιγνώσει. However, they will not receive communion with his blessings — ου τη μεθεξει των αγαθών. Only the righteous are capable of savoring and enjoying. Only they receive communion with Life, while people of evil will who have collapsed in their thoughts and desires are far from God, are devoid of Life, and constantly decay and constantly die. They will not taste Life, and will be tormented by belated repentance, by the consciousness of the senselessness of the path they took to the very end. This will be ineffable sorrow and sadness. According to St. Maximus’ notions, it is not God but the sinner himself who prepares his own torment and grief on judgment day. For bliss and joy are possible only through the free concordance of human will with the Divine will, through a free and creative fulfillment of the Divine definitions, through illumination and transformation of the will itself in creation of his commandments.

St. Maximus does not assume that clear cognition of the truth must inevitably determine the will to truth. St. Maximus flatly rejects Origen’s conception of the apokatastasis. Certainly, evil and sin are only in the will, but this does not mean that they will disperse like phantoms. As an ascetic and a theologian who defended the reality of human freedom and human will in Christ, St. Maximus could not help but be at variance with Origen and the Origenists in their intellectualism.

In the distinction of fate beyond the grave is the final basis and justification for the "ordeal." With a composing force it enters the last judgment. For man is called to creativity and work, called to the task of installing God’s will in his own. Only people of good will, people of righteous aspiration, will find satisfaction in God’s destiny, and the limit and fulfillment of their lives in the love and joy of communion with God. For the others, God’s will will remain an external act.

Deification is the goal of creation, and for its sake everything which came into being was created. And everything will be deified — God will be everything, and in everything. This will not, however, be violence. Deification itself must be accepted and experienced in freedom and love. St. Maximus came to this conclusion from a precise Christological doctrine of two wills and two energies.

The Sixth Ecumenical Council

Emperor Constans II (641-668) was murdered in his bath in 668. His son, Constantine IV (668-685) reversed the religious policy of Constans II. He managed to remain on good terms with Pope Vitalian (657-672), Pope Adeodatus (672-676), Pope Donus (676-678), and with Pope Agatho (678-681). St. Maximus the Confessor was soon to be vindicated by the definition of faith of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. The acts are preserved in the Greek original (Mansi 11, 195-922) and in two Latin versions. Unlike the swiftness of Justinian’s Fifth Ecumenical Council, the Sixth Ecumenical Council lasted approximately ten months, from November of 680 until September of 681.

In his letter to Emperor Constantine IV Pope Agatho, after writing that it was difficult to find competent persons to send to the council, gives a confession of faith from the Roman Apostolic see.

"We confess the holy and inseparable Trinity; that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to be one divinity, of one nature and essence. We will confess also that the Trinity has one natural will, power, operation, dominion, majesty, potency, and glory. And whatever is said of the same Holy Trinity essentially in singular number we understand to refer to the one nature of the three consubstantial Persons … But when we make a confession concerning one of the same three Persons of that Holy Trinity, of the Son of God or God the Logos, and of the mystery of his adorable oikonomia according to the flesh, we assert that all things are double in the one and the same our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to the evangelical tradition … We confess his two natures, his divine and his human [nature], of which and in which he, even after the wonderful and inseparable union, exists. And we confess that each of his natures has its own natural property and that the divine has all things that are divine without any sin. And we recognize that each one [of the two natures] of the one and the same Incarnate … Logos of God is in him unconfusedly, inseparably and unchangeably … For we equally detest the blasphemy of division and of co-mixture. For when we confess two natures and two natural wills and two natural operations in our one Lord Jesus Christ, we do not assert that they are contrary or opposed one to the other (as those who err from the path of truth and accuse the apostolic tradition of doing. Far be this impiety from the hearts of the faithful!), nor as though separated ... in two persons or subsistences, but we say that as the same our Lord Jesus Christ has two natures so also he has two natural wills and operations, the divine and the human: the divine will and operation he has in common with the consubstantial Father from all eternity; the human, he has received from us, taken with our nature in time. This is the apostolic and evangelical tradition, which the spiritual mother of your most felicitous empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, holds. This is the pure expression of piety. This is the true and immaculate profession of the Christian religion, not invented by human cunning, but which was taught by the Holy Spirit through the princes of the apostles. This is the firm and irreprehensible doctrine of the holy apostles..."

This lengthy letter by Pope Agatho to Emperor Constantine IV contains a full expression of the Roman primacy, a full expression of Rome’s consciousness of its position in the Church.

"For this is the rule of the true faith, which this spiritual mother of your most tranquil empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, has both in prosperity and in adversity always held and defended with energy; which, it will be proved, by the grace of Almighty God, has never erred from the path of the apostolic tradition, nor has she been depraved by yielding to heretical innovations, but from the beginning she has received the Christian faith from her founders, the princes of the apostles of Christ, and remains undefiled unto the end, according to the divine promise of the Lord and Savior himself, which he uttered in the Holy Gospels to the prince of his disciples, saying: ‘Peter, Peter, behold, Satan has desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not. And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.’ Let your tranquil Clemency therefore consider, since it is the Lord and Savior of all, whose faith it is, that promised that Peter’s faith should not fail and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren, how it is known to all that the apostolic pontiffs, the predecessors of my littleness, have always confidently done this very thing."

In the remainder of his lengthy letter Pope Agatho presents and comments upon Biblical texts which reveal two wills in Christ. He then presents catenae of quotations from the fathers which support the doctrine of two wills in Christ, followed by his commentary on the catenae. Throughout Pope Agatho interlaces the primacy of Rome and Rome’s acceptance of "the five holy ecumenical councils." Since the Apostolic See of Rome holds such a confession of faith, since the Apostolic See of Rome "cannot err" — no mention is made of Pope Honorius — Pope Agatho urges the emperor that this confession of faith be accepted by the entire Church.

Pope Agatho also held a council in Rome. The pope sent a letter from this council with his legates. In this letter there is a fuller confession of faith.

"We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in his Only-Begotten Son who was begotten of him before all ages; very God of very God, Light of Light, begotten not made, being of one essence with the Father, that is of the same essence as the Father; by him were all things made which are in heaven and which are in earth. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, and with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified. The Trinity in unity and Unity in Trinity; a unity so far as essence is concerned, but a Trinity of Persons or Hypostases [Subsistences]. And therefore we confess God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, not three gods, but one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, not a subsistence of three names but one essence of three hypostases [subsistences]. And of these Persons one is the essence, or substance or nature, that is to say one is the Godhead, one the eternity, one the power, one the kingdom, one the glory, one the adoration, one the essential will and operation of the same Holy and inseparable Trinity, who has created all things, has made disposition of them, and still contains them."

"Moreover, we confess that one of the same Holy Consubstantial Trinity, God the Logos, who was begotten of the Father before the ages, in the last days of the world for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of our Lady, the holy, immaculate, ever-virgin and glorious Mary, truly and properly the Mother of God, that is to say, according to the flesh which was born of her. And truly became man, the same being very God and very man. God of God his Father, but man of his Virgin Mother, incarnate of her flesh with a reasonable and intelligent soul: of one essence with God the Father concerning his Godhead, and of one essence with us concerning his manhood, and in all points like us except without sin. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered, was buried and rose again; ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and he shall come again to judge both the living and the dead, and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

"And this same one Lord of ours, Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, we acknowledge to exist of and in two natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivis -ibly, inseparably, the difference of the natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the properties of each nature being preserved and concurring in one Person and one Hypostasis [Subsistence], not scattered or divided into two Persons, nor confused into one composite nature. But we confess one and the same Only-Begotten Son, God the Logos, our Lord Jesus Christ, not one in another nor one added to another, but himself the same in two natures — that is to say in the Godhead and in the manhood even after the hypostatic union. For neither was the Logos changed into the nature of flesh nor was the flesh transformed into the nature of the Logos, for each remained what it was by nature. We discern by contemplation alone the distinction between the natures united in him of which unconfusedly, inseparably and unchangeably he is composed. For one is of both and through one both because there are together both the height of the divinity and the humility of the flesh, each nature preserving after the union its own proper character without any defect, and each form acting in communion with the other what is proper to itself. The Logos working what is proper to the Logos, and the flesh what is proper to the flesh; of which the one shines with miracles, the other bows down beneath injuries. Therefore, as we confess that he truly has two natures of essences, the Godhead and the manhood, unconfusedly, indivisibly, and unchangeably [united], so also the rule of piety instructs us that he has two natural wills and two natural operations, as perfect God and perfect man, one and the same our Lord Jesus Christ. And this the apostolic and evangelical tradition and the authority of the Holy Fathers (whom the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church and the venerable Councils receive) has plainly taught us."

The letter continues by emphasizing that was always the faith, and that this faith was set forth at the Lateran Council over which Pope Martin I presided. There is then an apology for the delay in sending the legates. It is to be noted that Pope Agatho mentions that he had hoped that his "brother bishop, Theodore, the archbishop and philosopher of the island of Great Britain" would be able to attend the council to be held in Constantinople. This is St. Theodore of Tarsus (602-690), the Greek subdeacon who was recommended by the African monk Hadrian to fill the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. It is obvious that Pope Agatho wanted to send a respectable delegation to Constantinople. The letter con -eludes with emphasis on the Roman primacy. "But we, although most humble, yet strive with all our might that the commonwealth of your Christian empire may be shown to be more sublime than all the nations, for in it has been founded the See of Blessed Peter, the prince of the Apostles, by the authority of which, all Christian nations venerate and worship with us, through the reverence of the blessed Apostle Peter himself." The Greek text has a slightly different ending.

At the seventh session of the Sixth Ecumenical Council direct action in response to Pope Agatho’s letters and profession of faith was taken. The emperor is recorded as saying: "Let George, the most holy archbishop of this our God-preserved city, and let Macarius, the venerable archbishop of Antioch … say if they submit to the force — ει στοιχοΰσι τη δυνάμει — of the suggestions sent by the most holy Agatho, Pope of Old [omitted in Latin text] Rome and by his Council." The answer was affirmative for George and the bishops subject to the patriarchate of Constantinople. "I have diligently examined the whole force of the suggestions sent to your most pious Fortitude by both Agatho, the most holy Pope of Old Rome, and by his Council, and I have scrutinized the works of the holy and approved Fathers which are stored in my venerable patriarchate, and I have found that all the testimonies of the holy and accepted Fathers, which are contained in those suggestions, agree with and in no particular differ from the holy and accepted Fathers. Therefore, I give my submission to them and thus I profess and believe." The text of assent from the bishops subject to Constantinople is: "And we, most pious Lord, accepting the teaching of the suggestion sent to your most gentle Fortitude by the most holy and blessed Agatho, Pope of Old Rome, and of that other suggestion which was adopted by the council subject to him, and following the sense contained there, so we are minded, so we profess, and so we believe that in our one Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, there are two natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, undividedly, and two natural wills and two natural operations. And all who have taught and who now say that there is but one will and one operation in the two natures of our one Lord Jesus Christ our true God, we anathematize." Patriarch Macarius of Antioch refused to agree. "I do not say that there are two wills or two operations in the oikonomia of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, but one will and one theandric operation." Patriarch Macarius and his followers, representing the Monothelites, presented their position during the fifth and sixth sessions. Action against Patriarch Macarius began only at the eleventh session and continued into the twelfth session. At the thirteenth session Patriarch Macarius was deposed and sentence against the Monothelites was decreed.

"After we had reconsidered, according to our promise which we had made to your Highness, the doctrinal letters of Sergius, at one time patriarch of this imperial, God-protected city to Cyrus, who was then bishop of Phasis and to Honorius, once Pope of Old Rome, as well as the letter of Honorius to the same Sergius, we find that these documents are quite foreign to the apostolic dogmas, to the declarations of the Holy Councils, and to all the accepted Fathers, and that they follow the false teachings of the heretics. Therefore, we entirely reject them and execrate them as harmful to the soul. But the names of those men whose doctrines we execrate must also be thrust forth from the Holy Church of God; namely, that of Sergius, one time bishop of this God-preserved imperial city who was the first to write on this impious doctrine. Also that of Cyrus of Alexandria, of Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, who died bishops of this God-preserved city, and were like-minded with them. And that of Theodore, once bishop of Pharan, all of whom the most holy and thrice blessed Agatho, Pope of Old Rome, in his suggestion to our most pious and God-preserved lord and mighty Emperor, rejected because they were minded contrary to our orthodox faith, all of whom we define are to be subjected to anathema. And with these we define that there shall expelled from the Holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was one time Pope of Old Rome because of what we found written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines. We have also examined the synodal letter of Sophronius of holy memory, some time Patriarch of the Holy City of Christ our God, Jerusalem, and have found it in accordance with the true faith and with the apostolic teachings, and with those of the holy approved Fathers. Therefore, we have received it as orthodox and as salutary to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and have decreed that it is right that his name be inserted in the diptychs of the Holy Churches."

In its lengthy definition of faith the Sixth Ecumenical Council reaffirms the Nicene Creed, the Creed of the Second Ecumenical Council, and then recites the definition of faith of the Council of Chalcedon to which it then adds: "Defining all this we likewise declare that in him are two natural wills and two natural operations indivisibly, inconvertibly, inseparably, unconfusedly, according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers. And these two natural wills are not contrary the one to the other — God forbid! — as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will. For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius." The definition then continues, concluding with: "For we will not admit one natural operation in God and in the creature, as we will not exalt into the divine essence what is created nor will we bring down the glory of the divine nature to the place suited to the creature. We recognize the miracles and the sufferings as of one and the same [Person], but of one or of the other nature of which he is and in which he exists, as Cyril admirably says. Preserving, therefore, the unconfusedness and indivisibility, we make briefly this whole confession, believing our Lord Jesus Christ to be one of the Trinity and after the Incarnation our true God, we say that his two natures shone forth in his one hypostasis in which he both performed the miracles and endured the sufferings through the whole of his oikonomic conversation — δι’ ολης αυτόυ της οίκονομικης αναστροφής — and that not in appearance only but in very deed, and this by reason of the difference of nature which must be recognized in the same Person, for although joined together yet each nature wills and does the things proper to it and that indivisibly and unconfusedly. Therefore, we confess two wills and two operations, concurring most fitly in him for the salvation of the human race."

The final statement is the prohibition of bringing forward, writing, composing, thinking, or teaching a different faith. It is this for which St. Maximus the Confessor suffered.
From The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth to Eighth Century.