FishEaters Traditional Catholic Forums

Full Version: St. Maximus On Deification
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
I've been reading St. Maximus the Confessor lately, and I was wondering what everyone else thinks of him. As I recall, the last time he was mentioned around here several posters raised some objections to his theology and especially to the whole idea of deification. I'm thinking over all of Maximus's points, but his account of deification does seem rather compelling.

Of course, for Maximus deification is possible because God took on human nature. As a result of the Incarnation he argues, man can become God through grace:
St. Maximus Ambiguum 7 Wrote: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 Maximus, we are directed here by a sort of "natural desire for the supernatural" that leads us back to our origin in God. Maximus's distinction between the Logos and logoi, the logoi being in some way similar to Platonic forms, also comes into play here as we ascend to God partly through coming to know the logoi of created things. Through this process, the intellect, which is the Image of God in man, eventually comes to know and rest in God. It is also through the logoi that we learn about virtue, as our logos holds our true end. Maximus argues that virtue is a participation in God and, in a way, leads to the incarnation of God in man and the deification of man:
St. Maximus Ad Thalassium 22 Wrote:Meanwhile, the modes of the virtues and the principles of those things that can be known by nature have been established as types and foreshadowings of those future benefits. It is through these modes and principles that God, who is ever willing to become human, does so in those worthy. And therefore whoever, by the exercise of wisdom, enables God to become incarnate within him or her and, in fulfillment of this mystery, undergoes deification by grace, is truly blessed, because that deification has no end.

Of course, Maximus thinks we ultimately end in direct perception and experience of God, which replaces any rational or conceptual understanding of Him. He also claims that the perfection of love is what finally leads us to God.

Another interesting point is that St. Maximus believe that not just man, but the entire universe, through man, will be deified. This will be so because man, as a composite of soul and body, serves as a sort of mediator between the spiritual and the physical:
St. Maximus Ambiguum 7 Wrote:God who dwells in the soul uses it as an instrument to relate to the body and through the intimate bond between body and soul makes it possible for the body to share in the gift of immortality. The result is that what God is to the soul the soul becomes to the body, and the one God, Creator of all, is shown to reside proportionately in all beings through human nature. Things that are by nature separated from one another return to a unity as they converge together in the one human being. When this happens, God will be all in all, permeating all thing and at the same time giving independent existence to all things in himself. Then no existing thing will wander aimlessly or be deprived of God's presence.
 

Although Maximus also thinks that we lost this role in the Fall and that it was only restored with the Incarnation. 

That's just a brief overview of some of the important points I picked up on. I'm obviously leaving out a lot, but are there any important points I failed to mention? And is St. Maximus's vision of deification and restoration sound, or did he perhaps take the whole thing too far?

I've read Maximos for quite awhile, a great favorite of mine, his centuries on love and theology.

But I haven't gone into something so deep as this. Could you include some more quotes?
Theosis isn't some weird esoteric thing, that's Christianity.  St. Thomas is just as much about deification, even if he goes about it a different way, and speaks of it as the Beatific Vision.  Similarly for St. Bernard, St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure or any Doctor of the Church.  Deification is what it's all about.
Catholic Encyclopedia Wrote:His style is unfortunately very obscure, but he is accurate in his thought and deeply learned in the Fathers. ... He was essentially a monk, a contemplative, a mystic, thoroughly at home in the Platonism of Dionysius. But he was also a keen dialectician, a scholastic theologian, a controversialist. His influence in both lines has been very great. His main teaching may be summed up under two heads, the union of God with humanity by the Incarnation, and the union of man with God by the practice of perfection and contemplation.

I have only read bits and pieces. I have him on my reading list. Reading the passages suggests that the above is correct, but not as a detriment, but that the work takes deeper thought and contemplation to understand. The thing with mysticism is that the content could well be completely true and orthodox, but the expression is subjective. The things you see through contemplation are not always easy to express, and even then not everyone sees the same things in the same way. I imagine I am being obscure now, but I see the value in mystical texts in their general instruction as a kind of "map" for the journey, not a literal, step one do this, step two do that. So reading Maximus could have a lot of value if you take the general sense from it -- we are transformed by Christ (I see the Eucharist here); and God is all-present at all times, and we can "allow" God to work in us through this presence.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 460 Wrote:The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pt 1:4). "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God" (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939). "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God" (St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.). "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.).

Roman Rite Mass, Offertory Wrote:... da nobis, per hujus aquae et vini mysterium, ejus divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps, Jesus Christus ...
... grant to us, through the mystery of this water and wine, to be partakers of His divinity, [as] He regarded it fitting to become a sharer of our humanity, Jesus Christ ...

Contemplate the mystery of water and wine, separate, but made into one. Everything in the Mass has a meaning!

Try reading this too:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01148a.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divinizatio...ristian%29
(02-01-2012, 10:44 PM)shin Wrote: [ -> ]I've read Maximos for quite awhile, a great favorite of mine, his centuries on love and theology.

But I haven't gone into something so deep as this. Could you include some more quotes?

Sure, here is another quotation from Ambiguum 7 on ecstatic love and man's ascent to God through contemplation:
Quote:If the intellectual being is moved intellectually in a way appropriate to itself, it certainly perceives. If it perceives, it certainly loves what it perceives. If it loves, it certainly experiences ecstasy over what is loved. If it experiences ecstasy, it presses eagerly, and if it presses on eagerly it intensifies its motion; if its motion is intensified, it does not come to rest until it is embraced wholly by the object of desire. It no longer wants anything from itself, for it knows itself to be wholly embraced, and intentionally and by choice it wholly receives the lifegiving delimitation. When it is wholly embraced it no longer wishes to be embraced at all by itself but is suffused by that which embraces it. IN the same way air is illuminated by light and iron is wholly inflamed by fire, as is the case with other things of this sort.

Here he is on the Logos and logoi:
Quote:We are speechless before the sublime teaching about the Logos for He cannot be expressed in words or conceived in thought. Although he is beyond being and nothing can participate in him in any way, nor is he any of the totality of things that can be known in relation to other things, nevertheless we affirm that the one Logos is many logoi and the many logoi are One. Because the One goes forth out of goodness into individual being, creating and preserving them, the One is many. Moreover the many are directed toward the One are providentially guided in that direction. It is as though they were drawn to an all-powerful center that had built into it the beginnings of the lines that go out from it and that gathers them all together. In this way, the many are one. Therefore, "we are and are called" a "portion of God" because the logoi of our being pre-existed in God.

He also in this ambiguum supports the idea of a natural desire for the supernatural, which I think might be where neo-scholastics would see a problem:
Quote:And through this course one becomes God, being made God by God. To the inherent goodness of the image is added the likeness acquired by the practice of virtue and the exercise of the will. The inclination to ascend and to see one's proper beginning was implanted in man by nature.

As I mentioned above, St. Maximus also believes that the whole universe will be deified, which I could also see causing some problems:
Quote:Rather, one and the same principle shalle be observable throughout the universe, admitting of no differentiation by the individual modes according to which created beings are predicated, and displaying the grace of God effective to deify the universe.

Lastly, here is an interesting passage on Maximus's view of our knowledge of God:
Quote:On the other hand, there is that truly authentic knowledge, gained only by actual experience, apart from reason and ideas, which provides a total perception of the known object through a participation by grace. By this latter knowledge, we attain, in the future state, the supernatural deification that remains unceasingly in effect. THey say that the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas can motivate our desire for the participative knowledge acquired by active engagement. They say, moreover, that this active, experiential knowledge which, by participation, furnishes the direct perception of the object known, can supplant the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas.

. . .

By "experience" I mean that knowledge, based on active engagement, which surpasses all reason. By "perception" I mean that participation in the known object which manifests itself beyond all conceptualization.
(02-02-2012, 03:50 AM)Parmandur Wrote: [ -> ]Theosis isn't some weird esoteric thing, that's Christianity.  St. Thomas is just as much about deification, even if he goes about it a different way, and speaks of it as the Beatific Vision.  Similarly for St. Bernard, St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure or any Doctor of the Church.  Deification is what it's all about.

Yep, but I've heard some more neo-scholastic types argue that there is some essential difference between St. Thomas and and St. Maximus, Pseudo-Dionysius, and the other Eastern Fathers. I'm not sure what the difference is supposed to be exactly, though. I think the idea is supposed to be that St. Maximus and the others think that the process of deification starts in this life, which the neo-scholastic theologians would reject. I'm not quite sure.
(02-02-2012, 11:11 AM)Scriptorium Wrote: [ -> ]So reading Maximus could have a lot of value if you take the general sense from it -- we are transformed by Christ (I see the Eucharist here); and God is all-present at all times, and we can "allow" God to work in us through this presence.
(02-02-2012, 01:12 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: [ -> ]Lastly, here is an interesting passage on Maximus's view of our knowledge of God:
Quote:On the other hand, there is that truly authentic knowledge, gained only by actual experience, apart from reason and ideas, which provides a total perception of the known object through a participation by grace. By this latter knowledge, we attain, in the future state, the supernatural deification that remains unceasingly in effect. THey say that the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas can motivate our desire for the participative knowledge acquired by active engagement. They say, moreover, that this active, experiential knowledge which, by participation, furnishes the direct perception of the object known, can supplant the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas.

. . .

By "experience" I mean that knowledge, based on active engagement, which surpasses all reason. By "perception" I mean that participation in the known object which manifests itself beyond all conceptualization.

I find it puzzling that the outcome of deification would be 'perception' of God as an 'object'. There's something terribly confused about that, and I'm not sure if it's the lack of context for this quotation, a faulty translation, or just the limits of his expression.

I find it puzzling that the outcome of deification would be 'perception' of God as an 'object'. There's something terribly confused about that, and I'm not sure if it's the lack of context for this quotation, a faulty translation, or just the limits of his expression.
[/quote]

I am no theologion, but doesn't that mean only that God and I will always be separate beings (i.e. that man can "become God" only by grace, and not by nature)?
(02-02-2012, 02:15 PM)Graham Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-02-2012, 01:12 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: [ -> ]Lastly, here is an interesting passage on Maximus's view of our knowledge of God:
Quote:On the other hand, there is that truly authentic knowledge, gained only by actual experience, apart from reason and ideas, which provides a total perception of the known object through a participation by grace. By this latter knowledge, we attain, in the future state, the supernatural deification that remains unceasingly in effect. THey say that the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas can motivate our desire for the participative knowledge acquired by active engagement. They say, moreover, that this active, experiential knowledge which, by participation, furnishes the direct perception of the object known, can supplant the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas.

. . .

By "experience" I mean that knowledge, based on active engagement, which surpasses all reason. By "perception" I mean that participation in the known object which manifests itself beyond all conceptualization.

I find it puzzling that the outcome of deification would be 'perception' of God as an 'object'. There's something terribly confused about that, and I'm not sure if it's the lack of context for this quotation, a faulty translation, or just the limits of his expression.

I see what you mean. The translators provide the Greek that they translate as "perception," so it is possible that the translation doesn't quite capture St. Maximus's meaning. I think this also might just be St. Maximus's attempt to explain one part of the mystery of deification in a way that does not address all other aspects. At other times, he seems to go in the other direction. For example, here is another passage from Ambiguum 7:
Quote:No longer will we out of ignorance hold fast to the movement that envelops everything, but our mind and reason and spirit will advance to the great Mind, Logos, and Spirit, indeed our entire self will wholly pass over to God as an image to its archetype.

He also takes this direction more when he is discussing created beings coming to "rest" in God. Anyway, here's the first quotation in context:

Quote:The scriptural Word  knows of two kinds of knowledge of divine things. On the one hand, there is relative knowledge, rooted only in reason and ideas, and lacking in the kind of experiential perception of what one knows through active engagement; such relative knowledge is what we use to order our affairs in our present life. On the other hand, there is that truly authentic knowledge, gained only by actual experience, apart from reason and ideas, which provides a total perception of the known object through a participation by grace. By this latter knowledge, we attain, in the future state, the supernatural deification that remains unceasingly in effect. THey say that the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas can motivate our desire for the participative knowledge acquired by active engagement. They say, moreover, that this active, experiential knowledge which, by participation, furnishes the direct perception of the object known, can supplant the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas.

For the sages say that it is impossible for rational knowledge of God to coexist with the direct experience of God, or for conceptual knowledge of God to coexist with immediate perception of God. By "rational knowledge of God" I mean the use of analogy of created beings in the intellectual contemplation of God; by "perception" I mean the experience, through participation, of the supernatural goods; by "conceptual knowledge" I mean the simple and unitary knowledge of God drawn from created beings. This kind of distinction may be recognized with every other kind of knowledge as well, since the "direct experience" of a thing suspends rational knowledge of it and direct "perception" of a thing renders the "conceptual knowledge" useless. By "experience" I mean that knowledge, based on active engagement, which surpasses all reason. By "perception" I mean that participation in the known object which manifests itself beyond all conceptualization. This may very well be what the great Apostle is secretly teaching when he says, As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will disappear. Clearly he is referring here to that knowledge which is found in reason and ideas.

I probably should have included the part about perception being "the experience, through participation, of the supernatural goods" the first time around as in his second definition of perception he is talking about all knowledge.
Yes, Phil, that resolves the issue. Thanks for the introduction to the writings of this saint.

spasiisochrani Wrote:
Graham Wrote:I find it puzzling that the outcome of deification would be 'perception' of God as an 'object'. There's something terribly confused about that, and I'm not sure if it's the lack of context for this quotation, a faulty translation, or just the limits of his expression.

I am no theologion, but doesn't that mean only that God and I will always be separate beings (i.e. that man can "become God" only by grace, and not by nature)?

As far as I know, deification is unification with God in experience, so it makes no sense to speak of a 'deified' subject perceiving the Diety as an object.
Pages: 1 2