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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Church's Mystagogy and Its Cosmic Mediation

by Daniel Haynes
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                    Man is a hungry being. But he is hungry for God. Behind all the hunger of our life is God. All desire in finally a desire for Him…All that exists lives by eating…But the unique position of man in the universe is that he alone is to bless God for the food and the life he receives from Him. He alone is to respond to God’s blessing with his blessing…The world was created as the ‘matter,’ the material of one all-embracing Eucharist, and man was created as the priest of this cosmic sacrament.[1]






Understanding the nature of the Church catholic is often a seemingly endless task of reflection. The early Church wrestled with the question of ecclesial identity, and they proffered many visions of its constitution and worship. Most famous in the canon of theological reflection on the Church is the visualization of the two great cities in St. Augustine’s magnum opusThe City of God. In the midst of the varying aspects of Patristic ecclesiology, the Church Fathers consistently affirmed that the e)kklesi# was rooted in the kafalh\ of Christ. St. Maximus the Confessor, arguably one of the greatest of Byzantine theologians,[2]affirms that authority of doctrine is determined “of a council or of a father, or of Scripture.”[3]In his public debate with the Abbot Pyrrhus in July 645, Maximus demanded that, “First let them prove this on the basis of the determinations of the fathers.”[4]Those who accept this authority, “graze on the divine and pure pasture of the doctrine of the church.”[5]Theological qualifications and determinations of doctrine could not be written off as merely “logomachy,” as Pyrrhus proclaimed in his dispute with St. Maximus, because they were the essence of the faith and the salvation of the Church.[6]It was for the Church that in 662 CE St. Maximus, along with Pope Martin, were mutilated, exiled, and soon after martyred for orthodoxy.
Maximus’ immense contribution to Christian theology was his dyothelite Christology of the two wills in Christ. This was opposed to the monothelite position of the one will, or single theandric activity in Christ supported by the Ekthesis of 638 and later Typos of 647/48. Maximus' doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum or “exchange of properties” affirms that in the person of Jesus Christ there is a fully human nature and a fully divine nature each with their own properties, neither of which are diminished by the union (ντίδοσις) in the Incarnation. In the mysterious paradoxical unity-in-diversity of the God-man Jesus Christ, Maximus saw the grounding metaphysical principle of the whole cosmos. This grounding principle of the Incarnation also brought with it the eschatological fulfilment of all creation: supernatural deification (qe/wsij).[7]Christo-centric metaphysics is not relegated to only the world in Maximus’ thought, but it can also found in deep contemplation upon the liturgy and participation in the sacraments. It is this interconnection between the world and the Church in Maximus’ thought that Hans Ur von Balthasar terms a “cosmic liturgy”.  The liturgy he says:
Is a midpoint, around which everything revolves, from which—as the single bright point into which one cannot look—everything is explained...Only because the liturgy is everywhere presupposed as the act that makes real the universal presence of the hypostatic Christ—at the midpoint between God and creation, heaven and earth, new age and old, Church and world.[8]
            Some commentators[9]accuse Maximus’ ecclesiology, particularly in his work Church’s Mystagogy, of merely imitating the Pseudo-Dionysian Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and overly spiritualizing the sacramental nature of the Church in a Gnostic fashion. Certainly Maximus’ contemplations about the Church and the Divine Liturgy contains both of these elements, but is this the whole picture? The purpose of this paper will be to re-affirm[10]both the theurgic-sacramental and physical-structural realism of Maximus’ ecclesiology as balance to the symbolic interpretation of the liturgy in the Church’s Mystagogy. This journey into the cosmic liturgy of the Confessor will begin with an examination of his cosmic Christo-centric metaphysics and the emphasis he places upon the divine hominization of Christ in the Incarnation. We will then move into discussion of his incarnational understanding of the Church in its sacramental life. The Christological background will allow us to analyze his liturgical theurgy as a counter to the Gnostic[11]spiritualization claims.

    II.         Christo-centric Cosmic Metaphysics
At the center of Maximus’ metaphysics and cosmology is “the cosmic mystery of Jesus Christ.”[12]God’s divine philanthropia in the economy of salvation is rooted in the Incarnation, which is the beginning (a)pxh`), middle (meso/thj) and end (te/los)of all creation in its recapitulation (a)nakefalaiwsij)[13]and deification (qewsij).[14] The mystery of Christ is a mystery which “circumscribes all of the ages, and which reveals the grand plan of God, a super-infinite plan infinitely pre-existing the ages.”[15]It is the “preconceived goal for which everything exists, but for which itself exists on account of nothing.”[16]God’s providential plan for the Incarnation precedes temporal language of before or after creation, and we should not read any strict logical linear necessity of the Incarnation into this phrasing; as Maximus strongly emphasises that it is a divine gift based on the Father’s “goodness.”[17]Even the fall and original sin do not dictate Christ’s coming in the flesh for our sakes,[18]but the mystery of the Incarnation is the very revelation of created being in its metaphysical principles.  
Ambiguum 7 and the Quaestiones ad Thalassium 60 contain a very focused discussion on how the mystery of the Incarnation interconnects with cosmology. Maximus begins the Ad Thalassium 60 by commentating on the passage in 1 Peter 1:20, “of Christ, as of a pure and spotless lamb, who was foreknown before the foundation of the world, yet manifested at the end of time for our sake.” He raises the pertinent question, “By whom was Christ foreknown?” Maximus responds by saying that the mystery was known to the Father by his “approval” (eu)dokia), to Jesus Christ the son by the “carrying out” (au)tourgia) of the economy, and to the Holy Spirit by his “cooperation” (suve)rgia).[19]The Incarnation was not foreknown by the Trinity in essence—as Christ is in his essence God—but by his human nature in the economy of salvation. Maximus states, “For truly he who is the Creator of the essence of created beings by nature had also to become the very author of the deification of creatures by grace, in order that the giver of well-being might appear also as the gracious giver of eternal well-being.”[20]The divine union of God and flesh that was conceived before the ages began reaches its fulfilment at the coming of Jesus. Maximus sees this providential revelation of the Incarnation as happening in order “that naturally mobile creatures might secure themselves around God’s total and essential immobility.”[21]So, we have the cosmic mystery of Jesus Christ both as revelation of created being and revelation of our eschatological rest in God, our “mystical resurrection”—what Maximus elsewhere calls the eighth day of creation.[22]Maximus beautifully summarizes the mystery of the Incarnation in a passage from the Chapters on Knowledge:
The mystery of the Incarnation of the Word bears the power of all the hidden meanings and figures of Scripture as well as the knowledge of visible and intelligible creatures. The one who knows the mystery of the cross and the tomb knows the principles of these creatures. And the one who has been initiated into the ineffable power of the Resurrection knows the purpose for which God originally made all things.[23]

How does the Incarnation relate to metaphysics in the way that Maximus describes? Maximus articulates a three-fold embodiment[24]of the Logos in Ambiguum 33: Christ is incarnated in the cosmos through the principles of created being, He is incarnated in Holy Scripture as the Word, and He is incarnated in the actual historical Jesus.[25]The third embodiment we have just discussed, the second embodiment and the first embodiment requires further elucidation.
            Although Maximus emphasizes the analogy of created being in his Christian metaphysics, he always prefaces such discussions about knowledge of God in an apophatic way through the via negativa. The Confessor introduces his work on the Church’s Mystagogy with this fundamental point:
In this way he can in no way be associated by nature with any being and this because of his superbeing is more fittingly referred to as nonbeing. For since it is necessary that we understand correctly the difference between God and creatures, then the affirmation of superbeing must be the negation of beings, and the affirmation of beings must be the negation of superbeing. In fact both names, being and nonbeing, are to be reverently applied to him although not at all properly. In one sense they are both proper to him, one affirming the being of God as cause of beings, the other completely denying in him the being which all beings have, based on his pre-eminence as cause. On the other hand, neither is proper to him because neither represents in any way an affirmation of the essence of the being under discussion as to its substance or nature.[26]
Maximus stresses the unknowability of God’s essence, yet he also accentuates the ability to participate (me/qexij) in the divine life of the Trinity and know God in the economy of salvation in an experiential way.[27]In essence, the creation participates in the imparticipatable[28]. Maximus teaches a Christian metaphysic that escapes Neo-Platonic emanationism but still affirms the one Logos that created existence participates in.
            In Ambiguum 7, Maximus attacks the substance of the Origenist myth of an original fall of souls from a primitive henad before the creation due to a desire of something other than God.[29]The Origenist cosmology contains the triad of rest—movement—creation, while the Confessor reverses this order to be creation (ex nihilo)—movement—rest.[30]It is impossible, says Maximus, “to have movement before something has come into being.”[31]
It is also untenable to hold that rest can occur before movement, for “unless that which is ultimately desirable is possessed, nothing else is of such a nature as to bring to rest what is being driven by desire.”[32]If souls were driven by desire for something other than God and subsequently fell into movement, then Maximus posits that there is nothing to prevent this from happening ad infinitum.[33]From this foundation of a Christian theology of creation ex nihilo, Maximus builds his doctrine of the Logos and logoi
.[34]
            There are many places in the Confessor’s corpus where the doctrine of the Logos and logoi are prominent, but for our study we will look at Ambiguum 7 and the Centuriae de Charitate 4.4. In the Chapters on Love, Maximus discusses how the providential plan of God to create—and create in the cosmos in this particular way—is a matter of His free-will. “When he willed it, the Creator gave substance to and produced his eternally pre-existing knowledge of beings.”[35]This frees God from any kind of necessity in creation, and it also circumvents the Christian problem of the Platonic Ideas that exist separate from God; as in the Demiurge of Plato’s Timaeus. The logoi are not eternal ideas in the mind of God, but simply the blueprint of the creation rooted in his divine will. Maximus takes this understanding of the logoi or “predeterminations” from Pseudo-Dionysius’ The Divine Names 5.8, where he calls them “divine wills”. In fact, if a particular example of a logoi in creation were to cease to exist, then they would no longer exist in God (in his will).[36] In Ambiguum7 after Maximus completes his critique of the Origenist myth, he advances his metaphysics of the Logos/logoi. There is one Logos but many logoi. This is evident, Maximus argues, from the “incomparable differences among created things.”[37]Every created thing is unique in its own identity, but diversifies in their individuation. All of the logoi are held together in Christ before the creation of the universe, and they come to be in existence by His “gracious will”. Maximus states that “by his Word and by his Wisdom he made all things and is making all things, universals as well as particulars, at the proper time.”[38]In reverse fashion, the many logoi are held in the one Logos. “The many logoi are the one Logos to whom all things are related and who exists in himself without confusion, the essential and individually distinctive God, the Logos of the Father.”[39]
 Two critical aspects of the Confessor’s metaphysics in this text are the concepts of expansion and contraction. Both of these concepts are used by Maximus in his ontology of universal and particulars in a type of Porphyrian tree[40](genera and species), which relates tacitly to his Christian exemplarism[41]with the Logos/logoi distinction; although these are not to be confused with each other.[42]Torstein Tollefsen describes the process of expansion as “God, by the logoi of specific and generic being, distributes essences from the highest to the lowest kind of beings. This distribution culminates in the concrete plurality of created particulars.”[43]With contraction, Torstein Tollefsen states that, “created beings are brought together in community within species and genera and in the end are unified in the highest logos of essence.”[44]Expansion and contraction are to be seen as ontological movements within the greater metaphysical drama of the Logosand the logoi. In the first chapter of the Church’s Mystagogy, Maximus uses the image of a circle with rays/lines radiating out from the center point. The rays are diverse, but the one circle of God encapsulates them and creates the limits of created order in which to bring them back to himself. Unity-in-plurality are held together and kept apart in an interdependent way. What is opened up to created beings in time is the distension (dia/stasij) of grace where one chooses to live by their guiding logos or not. By choosing their logosof being, the mystery of the Incarnation is brought to fruition within the cosmos as a type of embodiment:
By his gracious condescension God became man and is called man for the sake of man and by exchanging his condition for ours revealed the power that elevates man to God through his love for God and brings God down to man because of his love for man. By this blessed inversion, man is made God by divinization and God is made man by hominization. For the Word of God and God wills always and in all things to accomplish the mystery of his embodiment.[45]
What is the extent of “accomplish[ing] the mystery of his embodiment”, and how might it enlighten our reading of the Mystagogy? In discussing the corrections of the Origenist myth of the primitive henad and the Logos/logoi distinction there is the affirmation of the body (both in Christ and in humanity). Maximus core offensive against an overly Gnosticizing of the body stems from two crucial metaphysical principles: denying that we can know a human being part from the hypostasis of soul and body together by nature[46]; and that Christ’s “holy flesh” extends to humanity’s flesh a radically new way of being human to unite the divisions that we ourselves have brought into created reality. In Ambiguum 7 Maximus states that:
For the soul, after the death of the body, is not simply called soul, but the soul of a human being, indeed the soul of a certain human being. Even after it has departed the body, the whole human is predicated of it as part of its species according to its condition.[47]
The Confessor’s anthropology is rooted in his Christology, in that Christ’s flesh gives humanity deification and the amalgamation of the divisions in creation (logoi). Maximus articulates that, “the whole [human], as the object of divine action, is divinized by being made God by the grace of God who became [human].”[48]God united our nature to His in a “single hypostasis”[49]that carries with it the dual affirmation of no confusion and division, and likewise the Christian’s union with Christ brings about the capacity to mediate the re-unification of the cosmos. With this holy union of heaven and earth, Maximus enumerates—following a quote from Pseudo-Dionysius[50]—that:
The logoi of everything that is divided and particular are contained, as they say, by the logoi of what is universal and generic, and the most universal and generic logoi are held together by wisdom, and the logoi of particulars, held fast in various ways by the generic logoi are contained by sagacity...For the wisdom and sagacity of God the Father is the Lord Jesus Christ who holds together the universals of being by the power of wisdom, and embraces their complementary parts by the sagacity of understanding, since by nature he is the fashioner and provider of all, and through himself draws into one what is divided, and abolishes war between beings, and binds everything into peaceful friendship and undivided harmony, both what is in heaven and what is on earth (Col. 1:20).[51]
By reconstituting earthly divisions through his own body, and “having sanctified the world we inhabit by his own humanly-fitting way of life,”[52]Jesus Christ then opens the door for humanity to bridge cosmic divisions (without loss of particularity) by mediating the spiritual purpose of creation through the body back up into one all embracing ascension and deification. Maximus sees the purpose of Christ’s ascension[53]as not de-emphasizing the body, but that only through the body God’s purpose of redemption is accomplished.[54]Maximus compliments the bodily emphasis in Ambiguum7, when he talks about uniting the logoithrough practicing the virtues, which are Christ himself.[55]He says that, “There can be no doubt that the one Word of God is the substance of virtue in each person. For our Lord Jesus Christ himself is the substance of all virtues.”[56]So, Maximus envisages that the first type of embodiment that we mentioned earlier as taking place both cosmically in created reality and on the level personal transformation and lived experience. It is the Chalcedonian unity between the divine and human in Christ that makes it all possible, and the Confessor upholds that it is the body that plays the mediatory role for humanity.    
  III.         The Mystagogy of the Church and Liturgical Theurgy
With an understanding of the participatory metaphysics in the background of Maximus’ theology, we can now look with greater clarity at how the Confessor interprets the structure of the Church and its sacred liturgy. The Church’s Mystagogy does not propose a straightforwardly practical answer to the question, ‘What is the Church?’, but it does mortar rich layer upon rich layer of interpretive reading of the Church through the liturgy. Maximus does not make much direct commentary on the liturgy and its theurgic elements because he states that he does not intend to duplicate what the divine interpreter Dionysius the Areopagite has already done in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. The holy father wishes instead to discuss “those things which God in his goodness wanted him [Dionysius] to leave for others: for the interpretation and exercise of the habit of these things in accordance with their desire for divine things.”[57]Maximus’ invocation in the Mystagogyis for his reflection to lead the reader to truly contemplate the mysteries of Christ behind the liturgy, to draw by love and desire into divine things, and to encourage the reader to unite the logoiof their existence with the Logosthrough moral virtue and sacramentality. In such readers “the beaming ray of ceremonies, once grasped, becomes understood in proportion to them and draws to itself those who are seized by this desire.”[58]The brilliance of the Confessor’s contribution in the Mystagogy is the fact that he melds the Pseudo-Dionysius sacramentality with the Alexandrian depth of symbol, and he then roots both of these in the cosmic mystery of Jesus Christ.[59]E. Steitz praises Maximus’ use of Alexandrian reflection in the Mystagogy:
Maximus’ Mystagogia is in this context the most fragrant flower in the whole Alexandrian garden; the basic views of Alexandrian theology reappear here again, but in such a concentrated and organized form that one may say: What the earlier representatives of this school had only hinted at, in individual, deeply significant aphorisms, here has become a system, whose structural artistry reminds us of the fine architectonic schemes of scholasticism.[60]
In the first chapter on the Church’s Mystagogy, the Logos/logoi language re-emerges in a consideration of how holy Church is an image and figure of God. God’s providence is affirmed as in him “all things combine with all others in an unconfused way by the singular indissoluble relation to and protection of the one principle and cause.”[61]This new reality of unity-in-diversity in Christ does not demolish the particular uniqueness of each member of the Church, but it transcends them and reveals as the whole reveals its parts. Maximus further comments:
It is in this way that the holy Church of God will be shown to be working for us the same effects as God, in the same way as the image reflects is archetype. For numerous and of almost infinite number are the men, women, and children who are distinct from one another and vastly different by birth and appearance, by nationality and language, by customs and age, by opinions and skills, by manners and habits, by pursuits and studies, and still again by reputation, fortune, characteristics, and connections: All are born into the Church and through it are reborn and recreated in the Spirit...It is through it that absolutely no one at all is in himself separated from the community since everyone converges with all the rest and joins together with them by the one, simple, and indivisible grace and power of faith...Thus to be and appear as one body formed of different members is really worthy of Christ himself, our true head.[62]
Maximus now brings his attention to the symbolic meaning of the Church as an image of three persons: one of the cosmos, one of an individual human being, and one of Scripture. These discussions relates to the “three universal laws” that the Confessor considers in other works like the Ad Thalassium.  Maximus states, “By universal laws here I mean the natural law, the scriptural law, and the law of grace.”[63]Through the contemplation of nature (qewri/a fusixh/), as we saw in the above discussion of the Logos and logoi, one comes to see how the creation participates in the one Logos while retaining its unique particularity.
This natural law is symbolized as an image of the Church in chapter three of the Mystagogy. The Confessor divides the holy Church up into two dimensions: the sanctuary which represents heaven and the nave signifies the earth. It is interesting that Maximus begins his discussion with the physical brick and mortar of a church building. Perhaps this emphasizes the created/human pole of his Christology? It is impossible to say with certainty, but the previous reflection on the Confessor’s positive affirmation of created existence could lean towards such an interpretation. These two facets of the Church, the sanctuary assigned to priests and ministers and the nave assigned to all the faithful are both unified in their diversity:
The nave is the sanctuary in potency by being consecrated by the relationship of the sacrament toward its end, and in turn the sanctuary is the nave in act by possessing the principle of its own sacrament, which remains one and the same in its two parts.”[64]
It is the double nature of the Church that Maximus sees the cosmos as divided into its visible and invisible aspects. This reflection is tied to his dyothelite Christology of the two natures in one hypostasis, to his union without confusion, to the Church that participates in the inparticipatable. Correspondingly, the two other “human” images in the Mystagogy, an individual man and Scripture also take on this dual nature of visible and invisible essences. Maximus states that, “Man is a mystical church, because through the nave which is his body he brightens by virtue the ascetic force of the soul by the observance of the commandments in moral wisdom.”[65]The Confessor is drawing on St. Paul’s affirmation 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit. Scripture likewise is to be taken in the Pauline two-fold sense of law and spirit—old and new. Maximus combines the images of a human being, the cosmos and Scripture into one image of the Church:
The Church is a spiritual man and man is a mystical Church so is the entire holy Scripture taken as a whole a man with the Old Testament as body and the New Testament as spirit and mind...the historical letter of the entire holy Scripture, Old Testament and New, is a body while the meaning of the letter and the purpose to which it is directed is the soul.[66]
What Maximus accomplishes in this first section of the Mystagogy is to symbolize how the Church in its building and structure is related to the Incarnation and the overcoming of division that it brings. In Difficulty 41, the Confessor is commentating on Gregory Nazianzen’s famous 39th Oration used during the feast of Holy Theophany where he says, “and natures are instituted afresh, and God becomes man.”[67]The advent of the Incarnation of Christ brings with it the surmounting of five divisions: between created and uncreated, the intelligible and the sensible, heaven and earth, paradise and the inhabited world, male and female. Andrew Louth points out that Maximus is drawing out the reconciliation of these five divisions in the Mystagogy, except that in the difficulty the focus is cosmic and not on the human person.[68]Although the cosmic mystery of Jesus Christ can be contemplated in other ways than in the Church or participating in the Liturgy, the Church in the Mystagogy remains the central image for Maximus of where the reconciliation and recapitulation of the Cosmos takes place. This is why Maximus exhorts every Christian (following Pseudo-Dionysius) never to fail to do this, “to frequent God’s holy church and never to abandon the holy synaxis accomplished therein because of the holy angels.”[69]For all of the symbolizing in the Mystagogy, there is a real place for sacramentalism in the cosmic drama. It is important to remember that the Confessor is not supplanting the Ecclesial Hierarchy of Pseudo-Dionysius in its sacramentalism and theurgy, but he is adding a cosmic dimension to the Incarnation and liturgy.[70]
After meditating on the way in which the brick and mortar of the Church can be conceived in numerous dyothelite ways, Maximus goes into a reflection upon the liturgy itself. This section of the Mystagogy is brief, but it contains affirmations for the thesis that there is sacramental and theurgic dimension to Maximus’ ecclesiology. The Confessor does not use the word qeourgi/a in the Mystagogy itself, but he does use a synonym mustagwgi¿a (mystagogy/mystical) in chapter twenty-one. In the Quaestiones ad Thalassium 22, Maximus uses qeourgi¿aj twice in the context of not being able to “induce” deification of our own accord (tou=to pasxo/ntwn qeourgi¿aj) for it is an act of God by grace. This usage in the Ad Thalassium is in accord with the way in which Pseudo-Dionysius uses qeourgi/a in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. Dionysius uses qeourgi/a 13 times in the EH, and they all mostly refer to the works or actions of God or Christ[71](e.g., a)ndrika\j  ¹Ihsou= qeourgiaj¿: EH 83.20). They are also used as adjectives (generally in the plural), which differ from Pagan uses which general use it as a noun (e.g., a theurgist).[72]
Dionysius is careful to use qeourgi/a when speaking about God’s acts in the liturgy and using i¸erourgi¿a (rites/service) for the celebration of the actual liturgy.[73] Andrew Louth argues that instead of the theurgic acts celebrated in the Christian liturgy being efficacious as theurgy in the traditional Pagan sense of being performed, they are efficacious in being understood (he is following Rorem’s thesis here).[74]Performing the sacred rites, “provides a display of sacred symbols, the understanding of which raises us to contemplation.”[75]Louth further adds that this is not the complete story, and that if a thorough analysis is done on the Ecclesial Hierarchy, one will find that divine uplifting (a)nagwgh/) in the liturgy to contemplation is paired with the results of the uplifting: koinwni/a and qe/osij.[76]These are the gifts from God by grace that are given to the celebrant to be offered back in praise. In this reading of theurgy in Pseudo-Dionysius, there is a real sense in which sacramentalism can be both participatory and efficacious when taken as a whole. Does Maximus’ Mystagogy also contain these Pseudo-Dionysian elements of Christian theurgy? 
Though the number of references in the Mystagogy to this type of Christian theurgy are fewer and farer between, there are several of them that address our inquiry. As quoted earlier, in Mystagogy 2 Maximus describes the symbolic nature of the nave and sanctuary. “The nave is the sanctuary in potency by being consecrated by the relationship of the sacrament toward its end (mustagwgi¿aj i¸erourgou/menon).” This is a rare use of the word mustagwgi¿a (a synonym in Neo-Platonic literature for qeourgi/a)for Maximus. It is also coupled with i¸erourgi¿a, which Pseudo-Dionysius uses more often for the celebration of the liturgy itself. Another usage of i¸erourgi¿a is in Mystagogy 21, “The profession ‘One is Holy’ and what follows, which is voiced by all the people at the end of the mystical service (mustikh=j i¸erourgi¿aj), represents the gathering and union beyond reason and understanding.” At the beginning of this chapter Maximus is speaking about the singing of the hymn ‘One is Holy,’ and how it represents the contemplative ascent, but at the end of the chapter Maximus mentions the Eucharist and how it changes the participant:
After this [the profession of the ‘One is Holy’], as the climax of everything, comes the distribution of the sacrament (musthri¿ou), which transforms into itself and renders similar to the causal good by grace and participation those who worthily share in it. To them is there lacking nothing of this good that is possible and attainable for men, so that they also can be and be called gods by adoption through grace because all of God entirely fills them and leaves no part of them empty of his presence.[77]
Maximus is describing the gift of adoption and deification that is received during the Eucharist, which models the Christian theurgy found in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. This also would confirm the emphasis mentioned earlier of the body and created existence in the process of cosmic deification. Connected with the gift of deification in the Eucharist is also the Pseudo-Dionysian “fellowship” result of the divine acts of God found in Mystagogy 24. “By Holy communion of the spotless and life-giving mysteries we are given fellowship (koinwni/a) and identity with him by participation in likeness, by which man is deemed worthy from man to become God.” Not only is there koinwni/a in the Eucharistic service, but Maximus affirms an efficacious deifying principle at work at the time of singing the holy synaxis:
Likewise because of the grace of the Holy Spirit which is always invisibly present, but in a special way at the time of the holy synaxis. This grace transforms and changes each person who is found there and in fact remolds him in proportion to what is more divine in him and leads him to what is revealed through the mysteries (musthri¿wn) which are celebrated, even if he does not himself feel this because he is still among those who are children in Christ.”[78]

      I.         Conclusion
Though the general reading of the Church’s Mystagogy is oriented towards the spiritual contemplation of the invisible pole of reality, there is another theurgic, participatory and deifying pole of visible reality. Maximus’ theurgy is not based upon any kind of magical manipulative rites, but on a Christian version that is rooted in Pseudo-Dionysian celebration over the acts of God in worship that result in contemplative uplifting, koinwni/a, and deification. Much like Maximus’ Christo-centric cosmology, his ecclesiology and theurgy takes on dyothelite form as it reflects the cosmic mystery of Jesus Christ. Although there is a share in the gifts of God in the liturgy now in this life, Maximus’ desideratum is to:
Pass from the grace which is in faith to the grace of vision, when our Savior Jesus Christ will indeed transform us into himself by taking away from us the marks of corruption and will bestow on us the original mysteries which have been represented for us through sensible symbols here below.[79]
The symbols and images contained in the Mystagogy of the Church according to St. Maximus are far from a Gnostic spiritualization. His brilliance in the Mystagogy comes from the central place of dyothelite Christology in his ecclesiology, and the beautiful symmetry in which the cosmic mystery of Jesus Christ, which unites all logoi together, is woven throughout his meditation on the liturgy. His Christo-centric metaphysics calls the Church not only to share in the life of the Trinity through koinwni/a, adoption and deification, but also to mediate the recapitulation of all creation into the headship and body of Christ. This mediation is not only accomplished through the contemplation of visible and invisible reality—of the Logos and the logoi—but it is also brought about through the breaking of bread and the worship of God. Maximus’ ecclesiology calls the Church to the mission of mediation both in the cosmos and in the Church so that in the words of the Apostle, “Christ might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10).



[1]                Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World
[2]                Andrew Louth makes this ascription for the holy father in “St. Denys the Areopagite and St. Maximus the Confessor: a Question of Influence,” p 166.
[3]                Opiscula 15 (PG 91:180)
[4]                Dis pyrrus (PG 91: 296-97)
[5]                Ep 12 (PG 91:500)
[6]                Jaroslav Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700), vol 2 in The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: 15-16.
[7]                Maximus, Ques. Ad Thal., 60.78
[8]                Hans Ur Von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy, 316.
[9]                Find reference in Von Balthasar
[10]              Von Balthasar makes this claim in Cosmic Liturgy, 316.
[11]              Throughout this paper I will use the terms Gnostic and Neo-Platonic as they relate to their most extreme forms. Maximus transforms both of these traditions in a Christian direction—particularly Christological.
[12]              This is the title of Paul Blowers recent collection of translations of the Confessor’s texts in the Popular Patristic Series, On The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003. This is also the title of Ad Thalassium 60. In this paper, I will use Blower’s translations for Ambigua 7 and 8, Ad Thalassium 60 and 61, and Opusculum 6. For the Chapters on Love, Chapters on Knowledge, and The Church’s Mystagogy, I will use George Berthold’s translation found in the Classics of Western Spirituality series, Maximus the Confessor: Selected Writings, New York: Paulist Press, 1985. For Ambiguum 41, I will use Andrew Louth’s translation, Maximus Confessor, London: Routledge Press, 1996. My own translations will be duly noted.
[13]              Ad Thalassium 60.75 (find CCSG reference)
[14]              Ad Thalassium 22 (CCSG 7:139, 60-64)
[15]              Ad Thalassium 60.75 (find CCSG)
[16]              Ad Thalassium 60.75
[17]              Ad Thalassium 60.79
[18]              This does not mean that Maximus ignores the fall or original sin, nor disconnect the Incarnation from these purposes. In Ad Thalassium 61.99, Maximus states that “beginning with the mystery of God’s becoming human...the time arrived...for the judgement of the house of God to begin. It is the time for sin to be condemned.” Maximus see the Incarnation and cross as enacting the power to condemn sin’s very nature in us and to destroy its lasting eternal effects on us through resurrection. The Fall is still to be seen in God’s mysterious economy of salvation, but the Incarnation enlightens and reveals the ultimate purpose of deification for the creation and humankind’s economic role as mediator of this cosmic recapitulation.
[19]              Ad Thalassium 60.75
[20]              Ad Thalassium 60.79
[21]              Ad Thalassium 60.76
[22]              Chapters on Knowledge 1.60
[23]              Chapters on knowledge 1.66, pp. 139-40
[24]              Cf. Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator, 1995, 77.
[25]              I am indebted to Torstein Tollefesen for pointing out this passage in his book The Christocentric Cosmology of St. Maximus Confessor, 66-67.
[26]              The Church’s Mystagogy, intro, pg. 185-186.
[27]              In Ad Thalassium 60, Maximus states that there are two kinds of knowledge: relative knowledge rooted in reason and ideas, and experiential knowledge. The latter kind of knowledge is withheld in totem for the “supernatural deification” at the resurrection. Maximus does not dismiss relative knowledge, but sees it as a motivator of desire for participatory knowledge. (60.77) find CCSG reference.
[28]         This is a phrase taken from a conversation with John Milbank about his critique of the Eastern Orthodox distinction of the essence and energies of God.
[29]              Origen states in De Principiis. 2.9.1 that, “In that commencement, then, we are to suppose that God created so great a number of rational or intellectual creatures (or by whatever name they are to be called), which we have formerly termed understandings, as He foresaw would be sufficient. It is certain that He made them according to some definite number, predetermined by Himself…These, then, are the things which we are to believe were created by God in the beginning, i.e., before all things”(ANF vol. 4, pp. 290). Origen uses the term “Primitive Monad” to describe this original unity before Creation; Evagrius uses Henad. See John Bamberger’s discussion in Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos, Cistercian Studies Series: Number Four (Spencer, MA: Cistercian Publications, 1970) pp. lxxv-lxxix. Also Guillaumont analyzes this briefly in Evagrius, who re-emphasized this Origenistic idea later in the fourth century; see Les 'Kephalaia Gnostica' D'evagre Le Pontique, ed. R. Griffin, F. Nau, vol. 28 of Patrologiae Orientalis (Paris, 1897-).Later in De Principiis 2.9.8, Origen discusses how just like there will be a final judgment of all, so there must have been a previous judgment in this pre-existent state that initiated the fall.
[30]              Cf. Sherwood Polycarps lengthy discussion on this in The Earlier Ambiguum, 1955, 92-3.
[31]              Ambiguum 7 (PG 91:1072A)
[32]              Ambiguum 7 (PG 91:1069B)
[33]              Ambiguum 7 (PG 91:1069C
[34]              For discussion on the logoi see I.H. Dalmais, “La théorie des ‘logoi’ des créatures chez S. Maxime le Confesseur, ” Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 36 (1952) : 244-49 ; make reference for Thunberg and Tollefsen. 
[35]              Cent. De Char. 4.4
[36]         Find the reference from Tollefsen on this point.
[37]              Ambiguum 7 (PG 91:1077C)
[38]              Ambiguum 7 (PG 91:1077C)
[39]              Ambiguum 7 (PG 91: 1077C)
[40]              Make note for Tollefsen
[41]         Ibid.,
[42]              Make note for Torstein Tollefsen, 77-80
[43]              Tollefsen, 79
[44]              Tollefsen, 79.
[45]              Ambiguum 7, (PG 91:1084B)
[46]         For a detailed discussion of this innovation in Maximus’ thought in comparison to other Byzantine thinkers, see Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator, pp. 99
[47]         Ambiguum 7 (PG 91: 1101B), pg. 73.
[48]         Ambiguum 7 (PG 91: 1088C), pg. 63.
[49]         Ambiguum 7 (PG 91: 1097B), pg. 70.
[50]              De Divinus Nominibus 13.2 (PG 3: 980A)  
[51]         Ambiguum 41 (PG 91: 1313A-B), pp.161
[52]         Ambiguum 41 (PG 91: 1309B), pp. 159
[53]         Ambiguum 41 (PG 91: 1309B), pp. 159
[54]         Ian McFarland has a penetrating analysis of the meaning of the ascension in the Abiguum41. See “Fleshing Out Christ: Maximus The Confessor’s Christology in Anthropological Perspective,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 49.4 (2005), pp. 417-36.
[55]         Ambiguum 7 (PG 91: 1084A), pp. 58
[56]         Ambiguum 7 (PG 91: 1084A), pp. 58
[57]              Mystagogy, 184
[58]              Mystagogy 184.
[59]              Von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy, 316-318.
[60]              E. Steitz, “Die Abendemahlslehre der griechischen Kirche in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung”, Jahrbϋcher fϋr deutsche Theologie, II (1866): 238. Quoted by Von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy, 317.
[61]              Mystagogy 186.
[62]                            [62] Mystagogy, 187.
[63]              Ad Thalassium 64, pp167.
[64]              Mystagogy, 188.
[65]              Mystagogy, 190
[66]              Mystagogy, 195.
[67]              Louth, difficulty 41, p158
[68]              Louth, “Denys and St. Maximus” 174.
[69]              (myst 205).
[70]              Louth, denys st. Maximus, 174.
[71]              Louth, denys and pagan theurgy, 434.
[72]              Louth, denys and theurgy, 434.
[73]              Louth, denys, 435.
[74]              Louth, denys, 435.
[75]              Louth, denys, 435.
[76]              Louth, denys, 437
[77]              Mystagogy 21
[78]              Mystagogy 24.
[79]         Mystagogy 24.

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