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Maximus the Confessor

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Saint Maximus
Maximus Confessor.jpg
Icon of St. Maximus
Confessor, Theologian, Homologetes
Born c. 580, Constantinople or Palestine
Died 13 August 662, exile in Georgia (Eurasia)
Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy ; Roman Catholicism ; Anglicanism ; Lutheranism
Canonized pre-congregation
Feast 13 August (Gregorian Calendar), 21 January or 13 August (Julian Calendar)

Maximus the Confessor (also known as Maximus the Theologian and Maximus of Constantinople) (c. 580 – 13 August 662) was a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar. In his early life, he was a civil servant, and an aide to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. However, he gave up this life in the political sphere to enter into the monastic life.

After moving to Carthage, Maximus studied several Neo-Platonist writers and became a prominent author. When one of his friends began espousing the Christological position known as Monothelitism, Maximus was drawn into the controversy, in which he supported the Chalcedonian position that Jesus had both a human and a divine will. Maximus is venerated in both Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity. His positions eventually resulted in exile, soon after which he died. However, his theology was vindicated by the Third Council of Constantinople and he was venerated as a saint soon after his death. His feast day is 13 August (or 21 January).

LifeEdit

Early lifeEdit

Very little is known about the details of Maximus' life prior to his involvement in the theological and political conflicts of the Monothelite controversy. Maximus was most likely born in Constantinople even though a biography written by his Maronite opponents has him born in Palestine.[1] His position as the personal secretary to Heraclius has been taken as an indication that Maximus was born into Byzantine nobility.[2][3] For reasons unknown, Maximus left public life and took monastic vows at the monastery of Philippicus in Chrysopolis, a city across the Bosporus from Constantinople (later known as Scutari, the modern Turkish city of Üsküdar).Maximus was elevated to the position of Abbot of the monastery.[3] "Theology without practice is the theology of demons". (Most famous quote)

When the Sassanid Empire conquered Anatolia, Maximus was forced to flee to a monastery near Carthage. It was there that he came under the tutelage of Saint Sophronius, and began studying the Christological writings of Gregory of Nazianzus and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. It was also during his stay in Carthage that Maximus began his career as a theological and spiritual writer.[1] Maximus was also held in very high esteem by the exarch and the population as a holy man, ostensibly becoming an influential unofficial political advisor and spiritual head in North Africa.

Involvement in Monothelite controversyEdit

While Maximus was in Carthage, a controversy broke out regarding how to understand the interaction between the human and divine natures within the person of Jesus. This Christological debate was the latest development in disagreements that began following the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and were intensified following the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The Monothelite position was developed as a compromise to appease those whose Christology was declared heresy at Chalcedon. The Monothelites adhered to the Chalcedonian definition of the hypostatic union: that two natures, one divine and one human, were united in the person of Christ. However, they went on to say that Christ had only a divine will and no human will (Monothelite is derived from the Greek for "one will").

Hexagram-Constans II and Constantine IV-sb0995

A coin showing Constans II with his son.
Emperor Constans II supported Monothelitism, and had Maximus exiled for his refusal to agree to Monothelite teachings.

The Monothelite position was promulgated by Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople and by Maximus' friend and successor as the Abbot of Chrysopolis, Pyrrhus.[4] Following the death of Sergius in 638, Pyrrhus succeeded him as Patriarch, but was shortly deposed due to political circumstances. During Pyrrhus' exile from Constantinople, Maximus and the deposed Patriarch held a public debate on the issue of Monothelitism. In the debate, which was held in the presence of many North African bishops, Maximus took the position that Jesus possessed both a human and a divine will. The result of the debate was that Pyrrhus admitted the error of the Monothelite position, and Maximus accompanied him to Rome in 645.[5] However, on the death of Emperor Heraclius and the ascension of Emperor Constans II, Pyrrhus returned to Constantinople and recanted of his acceptance of the Dyothelite ("two wills") position.

Maximus may have remained in Rome, because he was present when the newly elected Pope Martin I convened the Lateran Council of 649 at the Lateran Basilica in Rome.[6] The 105 bishops present condemned Monothelitism in the official acts of the synod, which some believe may have been written by Maximus.[7] It was in Rome that Pope Martin and Maximus were arrested in 653 under orders from Constans II, who supported the Monothelite doctrine. Pope Martin was condemned without a trial, and died before he could be sent to the Imperial Capital.[8]

Trial and exileEdit

Maximus' refusal to accept Monothelitism caused him to be brought to the imperial capital of Constantinople to be tried as a heretic in 658. In Constantinople, the Monothelite position had gained the favor of both the Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople. Maximus stood behind the Dyothelite position, and was sent back into exile for four more years.

In 662, Maximus was placed on trial once more, and was once more convicted of heresy. Following the trial Maximus was tortured, having his tongue cut out, so he could no longer speak his rebellion and his right hand cut off, so that he could no longer write letters .[9] Maximus was then exiled to the Lazica or Colchis region of modern-day Georgia and was cast in the fortress of Schemarum, perhaps Muris-Tsikhe near the modern town of Tsageri.[10] He died soon thereafter, on 13 August 662.[11] The events of the trials of Maximus were recorded by Anastasius Bibliothecarius.

LegacyEdit

Maksim ispovednik

Maximus the Confessor and His Miracles. An early 17th-century Stroganov school icon from Solvychegodsk.

Along with Pope Martin I, Maximus was vindicated by the Third Council of Constantinople (the Sixth Ecumenical Council, 680–681), which declared that Christ possessed both a human and a divine will. With this declaration Monothelitism became heresy, and Maximus was posthumously declared innocent of all charges against him.

Maximus is among those Christians who were venerated as saints shortly after their deaths. The vindication of Maximus' theological position made him extremely popular within a generation after his death, and his cause was aided by the accounts of miracles at his tomb.[12] In the Roman Catholic Church the veneration of Maximus began prior to the foundation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

TheologyEdit

As a student of Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus was one of many Christian theologians who preserved and interpreted the earlier Neo-Platonic philosophy, including the thought of such figures as Plotinus and Proclus. Maximus' work on Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite was continued by John Scotus Erigena at the request of Charles the Bald.[13]

The Platonic influence on Maximus' thought can be seen most clearly in his theological anthropology. Here, Maximus adopted the Platonic model of exitus-reditus (exit and return), teaching that humanity was made in the image of God, and the purpose of salvation is to restore us to unity with God.[14] This emphasis on divinization or theosis helped secure Maximus' place in Eastern theology, as these concepts have always held an important place in Eastern Christianity.[15]

Christologically Maximus insisted on a strict Dyophysitism, which can be seen as a corollary of the emphasis on theosis. In terms of salvation, humanity is intended to be fully united with God. This is possible for Maximus because God was first fully united with humanity in the incarnation.[13] If Christ did not become fully human (if, for example, he only had a divine and not a human will), then salvation was no longer possible, as humanity could not become fully divine.[16]

Regarding salvation, Maximus has been described as believing in believed in apokatastasis, the idea that all rational souls will eventually be redeemed, like Origen and St. Gregory of Nyssa.[17] While this claim has been disputed,[18] others have argued that Maximus shared this belief in universal reconciliation with his most spiritually mature students.[19]

Other than the work by another Christian universalist, Scotus in Ireland, Maximus was largely overlooked by Western theologians until recent years.[20] The situation is different in Eastern Christianity, where Maximus has always been influential. The Eastern theologians Simeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas are seen as intellectual heirs to Maximus. Further, a number of Maximus' works are included in the Greek Philokalia - a collection of some of the most influential Greek Christian writers.

WritingsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Berthold, George C. (1997). "Maximus Confessor". in Everett Ferguson. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0815316631. 
  2. See "Maximos, St., Confessor" in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross (London: Oxford Press, 1958) (ISBN 0-1921-1522-7).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wikisource-logo.svg M. Gildas (1913). "St. Maximus of Constantinople". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/St._Maximus_of_Constantinople. Retrieved 2008-12-24.  "This great man was of a noble family of Constantinople."
  4. Wikisource-logo.svg "St. Maximus of Constantinople". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/St._Maximus_of_Constantinople. : "The first action of St. Maximus that we know of in this affair is a letter sent by him to Pyrrhus, then an abbot at Chrysopolis ..."
  5. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073 (online edition)§111, accessed 15 January 2007.
  6. "Maximus the Confessor", in The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, ed. Jerald Brauer (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971) (ISBN 0-6642-1285-9). This is generally known as the First or Second Lateran Synod, and is not recognized as an Ecumenical Council.
  7. For example, Gerald Berthold, "Maximus Confessor" in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, (New York:Garland, 1997) (ISBN 0-8153-1663-1).
  8. David Hughes Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of the Saints (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1987) (ISBN 0-1986-9149-1) p.288. This made Martin the last Bishop of Rome to be venerated as a martyr.
  9. Gerald Berthold, "Maximus Confessor" in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, (New York:Garland, 1997) (ISBN 0-8153-1663-1).
  10. George C. Berthold (1985), Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings, p. 31. Paulist Press, ISBN 0809126591.
  11. For example, see Catholic Forum. The injuries Maximus sustained while being tortured and the conditions of his exile both contributed to his death, causing Maximus to be considered a martyr by many.
  12. For example, from the biography provided by the Orthodox Church in America: "Three candles appeared over the grave of St Maximus and burned miraculously. This was a sign that St Maximus was a beacon of Orthodoxy during his lifetime, and continues to shine forth as an example of virtue for all. Many healings occurred at his tomb."
  13. 13.0 13.1 Wikisource-logo.svg "St. Maximus of Constantinople". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/St._Maximus_of_Constantinople. 
  14. "Maximos, St., Confessor" in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross (London: Oxford Press, 1958) (ISBN 0-1921-1522-7). One sees this especially in Maximus' Mystagogy and Ambigua.
  15. "Maximus the Confessor" in Michael O'Carroll, Trinitas: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Holy Trinity (Delaware:Michael Glazier, Inc, 1987) (ISBN 0-8146-5595-5).
  16. "Maximos, St., Confessor" in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross (London: Oxford Press, 1958) (ISBN 0-1921-1522-7).
  17. "Apokatastasis" Theandros: An Online Journal of Orthodox Christian Theology and Philosophy. Accessed Aug. 12, 2007. Wikisource-logo.svg "Apocatastasis". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Apocatastasis. 
  18. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor (Ignatius Press, 2003), 355-356. ISBN 0-8987-0758-7.
  19. John C. Médaille. "The Daring Hope of Hans Urs Von Balthasar". Accessed Aug. 12, 2007.
  20. The Oxford Dictionary of the Saints (David Hugh Farmer), which does not have an entry for Maximus, is an excellent example of how the West overlooked Maximus for years. The Systematic Theology of Robert Jenson, written in the late 1990s, is an example of how Western theologians are rediscovering Maximus. See also "Maximus the Confessor" in Michael O'Carroll, Trinitas: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Holy Trinity (Delaware:Michael Glazier, Inc, 1987) (ISBN 0-8146-5595-5); O'Carroll names Hans Urs von Balthasar as a "pioneer" in the Western rediscovery of Maximus.

Further readingEdit

Collections of Maximus' writingsEdit

  • Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality). Ed. George C. Berthold. Paulist Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8091-2659-1.
  • On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St. Maximus the Confessor (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press "Popular Patristics" Series). Ed. & Trans Paul M. Blowers, Robert Louis Wilken. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8814-1249-X.
  • St. Maximus the Confessor: The Ascetic Life, The Four Centuries on Charity (Ancient Christian Writers). Ed. Polycarp Sherwood. Paulist Press, 1955. ISBN 0-8091-0258-7.
  • Maximus the Confessor and his Companions (Documents from Exile) (Oxford Early Christian Texts). Ed. and Trans. Pauline Allen, Bronwen Neil. Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-1982-9991-5.

On the theology of Saint MaximusEdit

  • Balthasar, Hans Urs (von). Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor. Ignatius Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8987-0758-7.
  • Cooper, Adam G. The body in St Maximus Cofessor: Holy Flesh, Wholly Deified. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-19-927570-X.
  • Loudovikos, Nikolaos, Protopresbyter. He Eucharistiake Ontologia: Ta Eucharistiaka Themelia Tou Einai, Hos En Koinonia Ginnesthai, Sten Eschatologike Ontologia Tou Hagiou Maximou Tou Homologete. Published in Greek. Translated Title: Eucharistic Ontology: The Eucharistic Fundaments of Being as Becoming in Communion, in the Eschatological Ontology of St. Maximus the Confessor. Ekdoseis Domos, Athens, Greece, 1992. ISBN 960-7217-72-1.
  • Nichols, Aidan. Byzantine Gospel: Maximus the Confessor in Modern Scholarship. T. & T. Clark Publishers, 1994. ISBN 0-5670-9651-3.
  • Thunberg, Lars. Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor. Second Edition. Open Court, 1995. ISBN 0-8126-9211-X
  • Tollefsen, Torstein Theodor. The Christocentric Cosmology of St Maximus the Confessor. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-19-923714-2.

External linksEdit

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