Byzantine Christian Monk, Theologian and Scholar
Saint Maximus the Confessor
Byzantine Christian Monk, Theologian and Scholar
Let our intelligence, then, be moved to seek God, let our desire be roused in longing for Him, and let our incensive power struggle to keep guard over our attachment to Him. Or, more precisely, let our whole intellect be directed towards God, tensed by our incensive power as if by some nerve, and fired with longing by our desire at its most ardent. For if we imitate the heavenly angels in this way, we will find ourselves always worshipping God, behaving on earth as the angels do in heaven. For, like that of the angels, our intellect will not be attracted in the least by anything less than God.
If you are about to enter the realm of theology, do not seek to descry God?s inmost nature, for neither the human intellect nor that of any other being under God can experience this; but try to discern, as far as possible, the qualities that appertain to His nature - qualities of eternity, infinity, indeterminateness, goodness, wisdom, and the power of creating, preserving and judging creatures, and so on. For he who discovers these qualities, to however small an extent, is a great theologian.
If you wish to find the way that leads to life, look for it in the Way who says, ?I am the way, the door, the truth and the life? (John 10:7; 14:6), and there you will find it. Only let your search be diligent and painstaking, for ?few there are that find it? (Matt. 7:14) and if you are not among the few you will find yourself with the many.
If you?ve known yourself, you will understand many, great and wonderful things. Because, thinking that you know doesn?t let you progress in knowing.
Impassioned or dispassionate thoughts in the intellect: angels, demons, the winds and diet. It is said that angels change it by thought, demons by touch, the winds by varying, and diet by the quality of our food and drink and by whether we eat too much or too little. There are also changes brought about by means of memory, hearing and sight - namely when the soul is affected by joyful or distressing experiences as a result of one of these three means, and then changes the body?s temperament. Thus changed, this temperament in its turn induces corresponding thoughts in the intellect.
In everything that we do God searches out our purpose to see whether we do it for Him or for some other motive.
In His love for man God became man so that He might unite human nature to Himself and stop it from acting evilly towards itself, or rather from being at strife and divided against itself, and from having no rest because of its instability of its will and purpose.
In its natural state, the human intelligence is subject to the divine intelligence and itself rules over the non-intelligent element in us. Let this order be maintained in all things, and there will be no evil among creatures nor anything which draws us towards evil.
In Psalm 23, ?green pasture? represents the practice of the virtues; ?water of refreshment?, spiritual knowledge of created things.
In the beginning, passion and pain were not created together with the body; nor forgetfulness and ignorance together with the soul; nor the ever-changing impressions in the shape of events with the mind. All these things were brought about in man by his disobedience.
If there are some men you hate and some you neither love nor hate, and others you love strongly and others again you love but moderately, recognize from this inequality that you are far from perfect love. For perfect love presupposes that you love all men equally.
If we live in the way we have promised, we will receive, as daily and life-giving bread for the nourishment of our souls and the maintenance of the good state with which we have .been blessed, the Logos Himself; for if was He who said, ?I am the bread that came down from heaven and gives life to the world?, (cf. John 6:33-35). In proportion to our capacity the Logos will become everything for us who are nourished through virtue and wisdom; and in accordance with His own judgment He will be embodied differently in each recipient of salvation while we are still living in this age. This is indicated in the phrase of the prayer which says, ?Give us this day our daily bread? (Matt. 6:11).
I believe that the expression ?this day? refers to the present age. It is as if one should say, after a clearer understanding of the context of the prayer, ?Since we are in this present mortal life, give us this day our daily bread which Thou hast originally prepared for human nature so that it might become immortal (cf. Gen. 1:9); for in this way the food of the bread of life and knowledge will triumph over the death that comes through sin.? The transgression of the divine commandment prevented the first man from partaking of this bread (cf. Gen. 3:19). Indeed, had he taken his fill of this divine food, he would not have been made subject to death through sin.
I have the faith of the Latins; but the language of the Greeks.
If a man does not love someone, it does not necessarily mean that he hates him; and conversely, if he does not hate him, it does not necessarily mean that he loves him, since he can be neutral towards him, that is, neither love him nor hate him. For the disposition to love is created only in the five ways listed in the ninth text of this Century, one commendable, one of an intermediate kind, and three reprehensible.
If a man is not envious or angry, and does not bear a grudge against someone who has offended him, that does not necessarily mean that he loves him. For, while still lacking love, he may be capable of not repaying evil with evil, in accordance with the commandment (cf. Rom. 12:17), and yet by no means be capable of rendering good for evil without forcing himself. To be spontaneously disposed to ?do good to those who you hate you? (Matt. 5:44) belongs to perfect spiritual love alone.
If by nature the good unifies and holds together what has been separated, evil clearly divides and
If the purpose of the divine counsel is the deification of our nature, and the aim of divine thoughts is to supply the prerequisites of our life, it follows that we should both know and carry into effect the power of the Lord?s Prayer, and write about it in the proper way. And since you, Sir, in writing to me your servant have been inspired by God to mention this prayer in particular, it is necessarily the subject of my own words as well; hence I beseech the Lord, who has taught us this prayer, to open my intellect so that it may grasp the mysteries contained in it, and to give me words equal to the task of elucidating what I have understood. For hidden within a limited compass this prayer contains the whole purpose and aim of which we have just spoken; or, rather, it openly proclaims this purpose and aim to those whose intellects are strong enough to perceive them. The prayer includes petitions for everything that the divine Logos effected through His self-emptying in the incarnation, and it teaches us to strive for those blessings of which the true provider is God the Father alone through the natural mediation of the Son in the Holy Spirit. For the Lord Jesus is mediator between God and men, as the divine apostle says (cf. 1 Tim; 2:5), since He makes the unknown Father manifest to men through the flesh, and gives those who have been reconciled to Him access to the Father through the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph. 2:18). It was on their behalf and for their sake that without changing He became man, and is now the author and teacher of so many and such great new mysteries as yet beyond our understanding.
God, Who created all nature with wisdom and secretly planted in each intelligent being knowledge of Himself as its first power, like a munificent lord gave also to us men a natural desire and longing for Him, combining it in a natural way with the power of our intelligence. Using our intelligence, we struggle so as to learn with tranquility and without going astray how to realize this natural desire. Impelled by it we are led to search out the truth, wisdom and order manifest harmoniously in all creation, aspiring through them to attain Him by Whose grace we received the desire.
Guard yourself from that mother of vices, self-love, which is mindless love for the body. For it gives birth with specious justification to the three first and most general of the impassioned thoughts. I mean those of gluttony, avarice and self-esteem, which take as their pretext some so-called need of the body. All further vices are generated by these three. You must therefore be on your guard, as we have already said, and fight against self-love with great vigilance. For when this vice is eradicated, all the others are eradicated too.
He who anoints his intellect for spiritual contest and drives all impassioned thoughts out of it has the quality of a deacon. He who illuminates his intellect with the knowledge of created beings and utterly destroys false knowledge has the quality of a priest. And he who perfects his intellect with the holy myrrh of the knowledge and worship of the Holy Trinity has the quality of a bishop.
He who combines the practice of the virtues with spiritual knowledge is a man of power. For with the first he withers his desire and tames his incensiveness, and with the second he gives wings to his intellect and goes out of himself to God.
He who drives out self-love, the mother of the passions, will with God?s help easily rid himself of the rest, such as anger, irritation, rancor and so on. But he who is dominated by self-love is overpowered by the other passions, even against his will. Self-love is the passion of attachment to the body.
He who knows the Holy Trinity, the Trinity?s creation, and providence, and who has brought his soul?s passible aspect into a state of dispassion, is with God.
He who prays to receive this daily bread, however, does not automatically receive it all as it is in itself: he receives it in accordance with his receptive capacity. For the Bread of Life in His love gives Himself to all who ask, but He does not give to all in the same way. He gives liberally to those who have done great things, and more sparingly to those who have achieved less. Thus He gives to each person in accordance with the receptive capacity of his or her intellect.