Byzantine Christian Monk, Theologian and Scholar
Saint Maximus the Confessor
Byzantine Christian Monk, Theologian and Scholar
At one pole is self-love at the other is deifying love.
At the outset of this prayer, then, we honor the coessential and supra-essential Trinity as the creative cause of our coming into existence. Secondly, we are taught to proclaim the grace of our adoption, since we have been found worthy of addressing our Creator by nature as our Father by grace. Thus, venerating this title of our begetter by grace, we strive to stamp our Creator?s qualities on our lives, sanctifying His name on earth, taking after Him as our Father, showing ourselves to be His children through our actions, and through all that we think or do glorifying the author of this adoption, who is by nature Son of the Father.
A man writes either to assist his memory, or to help others, or for both reasons; or else he writes in order to injure certain people, or to show off, or out of necessity.
A monk is a man who has freed his intellect from attachment to material things and by means of self-control, love, psalmody and prayer cleaves to God.
A person of this land makes himself a pattern of virtue for God, if it may be put in this way; for by saying ?Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?, he exhorts God, who is beyond imitation, to come and imitate him; and he begs God to treat him as he himself has treated his neighbors. For he wishes to be forgiven by God as he himself has forgiven the debts of those who have sinned against him; hence, just as God dispassionately forgives His creatures, so such a person must himself remain dispassionate in the face of what happens to him and forgive those who offend him. He must not allow the memory of things that afflict him to be stamped on his intellect lest he inwardly sunders human nature by separating himself from some other man, although he is a man himself. When a man?s will is in union with; the principle of nature in this way, God and nature are naturally reconciled; but, failing such a union, our nature remains self-divided in its will and cannot receive God?s gift of Himself.
A pure intellect sees things correctly. A trained intelligence puts them in order. A keen hearing takes in what is said. He who is lacking in these three qualities insults the person who has spoken.
According to the first interpretation proposed for the preceding section of the prayer, the words ?this day? symbolize the present age; and the person who prays in this age for the incorruptible bread of wisdom, from which we were cut off by the original transgression, delights in one thing only: the attainment of divine blessings. It is God who by nature bestows these blessings, but it is the recipient?s free will that safeguards them. Similarly, such a person knows only one pain: the failure to attain these blessings. It is the devil who prompts this failure, but it is the person himself who makes it an actuality, because of his weakness of will with regard to the divine, and because he does not hold fast to the precious gift for which he has prayed. But if someone is not in the least concerned with anything in the visible world, and consequently is not overcome by any bodily affliction, then such a person truly and dispassionately forgives those who sin against him; for no one can rob him of the good to which he aspires and which by nature is unassailable.
All the discourses of our Lord contain these four elements: commandments, doctrines, threats and promises. With the help of these we patiently accept every kind of hardship, such as fasting, vigils, sleeping on the ground, toil and labor in acts of service, insults, dishonor, torture, death and so on. ?Helped by the words of Thy lips,? says the psalmist, I have kept to difficult paths? (Ps. 17:4. LXX).
?Shun evil and do good? (Ps. 34:14), that is to say, fight the enemy in order to diminish the passions, and then be vigilant lest they increase once more. Again, fight to acquire the virtues and then be vigilant in order to keep them. This is the meaning of ?cultivating? and ?keeping? (cf. Gen. 2:15).
?The shadow of death? is human life. Therefore if a man is with God and God is with him, clearly he is able to say, ?Though I walk through the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me?.
A man who is truly without possessions is one who has renounced all his worldly goods and has absolutely nothing on earth except his body; and who, breaking his attachment to the body, has entrusted himself to the care of God and of the devout.
"A faithful friend is a strong defense," for when his friend is prospering he is a good counselor and sympathetic collaborator, and when he is in distress he is his sincerest supporter and most sympathetic defender.
No, he (The emperor is not a priest) isn't, because he neither stands beside the altar, and after the consecration of the bread elevates it with the words. Holy things for the holy, nor does he baptize, nor perform the rite of anointing, nor does he ordain and make bishops and presbyters and deacons; nor does he anoint churches, nor does he bear the symbols of the priesthood, the omophorion and the Gospel book, [as he bears the symbols] of imperial office, the crown and the purple.
A faithful friend is a strong defense, for when his friend is prospering he is a good counselor and sympathetic collaborator, and when he is in distress he is his sincerest supporter and most sympathetic defender.
Nothing in theosis is the product of human nature for nature cannot comprehend God. It is only the mercy of God that has the capacity to endow theosis unto the existing... In theosis man (the image of God) becomes likened to God, he rejoices in all the plenitude that does not belong to him by nature, because the grace of the Spirit triumphs within him, and because God acts in him.
"But I say to you," the Lord says, "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you." Why did he command these things? So that he might free you from hatred, sadness, anger and grudges, and might grant you the greatest possession of all, perfect love, which is impossible to possess except by the one who loves all equally in imitation of God.
The extremities of the earth, and all in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord look directly towards the most holy Roman Church and its confession and faith, as it were to a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it the bright radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers according to what the six inspired and holy councils have purely and piously decreed, declaring most expressly the symbol of faith. For from the coming down of the incarnate Word amongst us, all the Churches in every part of the world have held that greatest Church alone as their base and foundation, seeing that according to the promise of Christ our Savior, the gates of hell do never prevail against it, that it has the keys of a right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and only religion to such as approach with piety, and shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks injustice against the Most High.
A crown of goodness (cf. Ps. 65:11) is a pure faith, adorned with eloquent doctrine, and with spiritual principles and intellections, as if with precious stones, and set as it were on the head of the devout intellect. Or rather, a crown of goodness is the Logos of God Himself, who encircles the intellect as if it were a head, protecting it with manifold forms of providence and judgment - that is, with mastery of the passions that lie within our control and with patient endurance of those we suffer against our will; and who makes this same intellect more beautiful by enabling it to participate in the grace of deification.
The Lord gave clear evidence of His supreme power in what He endured from hostile forces when He endowed human nature with an incorruptible form of generation. For through His passion He conferred dispassion, through suffering repose, and through death eternal life. By His privations in the flesh He re-established and renewed the human state, and by His own incarnation He bestowed on human nature the supra-natural grace of deification.
A sure warrant for looking forward with hope to deification of human nature is provided by the incarnation of God, which makes man god to the same degree as God Himself became man. For it is clear that He who became man without sin (cf. Heb. 4:15) will divinize human nature without changing it into the divine nature, and will raise it up for His own sake to the same degree as He lowered Himself for man's sake. This is what St. Paul teaches mystically when he says, '…that in the ages to come He might display the overflowing richness of His grace' (Eph. 2:7).
The person who loves God cannot help loving every man as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified. But when they amend their lives, his delight is indescribable and knows no bounds. A soul filled with thoughts of sensual desire and hatred is unpurified. If we detect any trace of hatred in our hearts against any man whatsoever for committing any fault, we are utterly estranged from love for God, since love for God absolutely precludes us from hating any man.
As the memory of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not bring about the illumination of knowledge in the soul.
The world has many poor in spirit, but not in the right way; and many who mourn, but over money matters and loss of children; and many who are meek, but in the face of impure passions; and many who hunger and thirst, but to rob another's goods and to profit unjustly. And there are many who are merciful, but to the body and to its comforts; and clean of heart, but out of vanity; and peacemakers, but who subject the soul to the flesh; and many who suffer persecution, but because they are disorderly; many who are reproached, but for shameful sins.
Consequently a human being is blessed who has virtues, whether or not he has any other blessings besides. If he has virtues and other advantages too, he is blessed in a general sense, as one said who was wise in divine matters. If he has virtues alone and for their own sake, he is blessed in a more circumscribed sense. For some things are thought of in a more circumscribed way, as when we think of two cubits, others in a more general way, as when we think of a heap. For you can take away two measures from a heap, and will be left with a heap. If you take away all bodily and external advantages from the condition of general blessedness, an leave nothing whatever but the virtues, it remains a state of blessedness. For virtue, by itself, is sufficient for happiness. Therefore every bad person is wretched, even if he has all the so-called blessings of the earth, if he is deprived of virtues. And every good person is blessed, even is deprived of all earthly blessings, since he has the radiance of virtue. It is because of this that Lazarus rejoiced, at rest in the bosom of Abraham.
There is no hardship more oppressive to the soul than slander, whether one is slandered in his faith or in his conduct. And no one can disdain it except the one who like Susanna looks to God who alone can rescue in need, as he rescued her, and to reassure men, as he did in her case, and to encourage the soul with hope.