Maximus the Confessor and Dionysius the Areopagite are two of the most important representatives of what is often called Christian Neoplatonism, yet each made markedly different use of Neoplatonic categories and concepts. To date, there are no major studies comparing their respective responses to later Greek philosophy, which, this paper argues, are aligned with their respective responses to Origenism. To examine this phenomenon, this paper studies the Confessor’s systematic restructuring of the Neoplatonic cycle of ‘remaining, procession, and return’, which departs significantly from the forms this cycle takes in the corpus Dionysiacum. Maximus’ doctrine of the logoi, including the centrality of the incarnate Logos to his metaphysics, is at once a radical critique of Origenism, a tacit dismissal of Dionysian hierarchies, and a comprehensive rethinking of Christian Neoplatonism.
This paper investigates three types of unity between God and creation in the works of St Maximus the Confessor. Following Maximus’ claim that God is beginning as creator, middle as provider, and end as goal, this paper argues that, in each of these three stages, God forms different kinds of unity with created beings. I will show that the first type of unity, between God as creator and created beings, is based on the relationship between the Logos and the logoi of beings, in which the Logos serves as the centre of all logoi. The second kind of unity, between God as provider and created beings, is established on divine providence, which causes created beings to converge towards each other by the singular force of their relationship to God as both their origin and their final goal. Finally, the unity between God as end and created beings, based on full participation, presupposes the ceasing of the natural activities of created beings, and liberation from the constraints of their natural definition or horos.
For Athanasius, non-being describes the original state of creatures, and the state that creatures return to when they are not sustained by God. ‘Being’ is a gift given to creatures. Sin, for Athanasius, is creaturely rejection of God and therefore rejection of being itself. This suggests that when we sin, humans fall into nothingness and cease to exist, leading to the implication that fallen human nature and personal sin should result in our immediate non-existence. In this paper, I describe Athanasius’ position on non-being and sin, and then go on to look at how the theology of Maximus the Confessor may offer a means to understanding the difficulty implied in Athanasius’ work. I look at how Maximus understands being to be transformative, and something into which humans grow. Perfect being, which is full communion with God, or absolute non-being are, through Christ, reserved for the time after this life on earth.
In the works of St Maximus the Confessor, the term ‘desire’ encompasses a number of notions, which have been studied by scholars such as Bathrellos, Blowers, Bradshaw, Gauthier, and Loudovikos. Considering Maximus’ views as part of Byzantine philosophy, my focus in this article is primarily based on the famous differentiation of philosophy as a way of life, as certain praxis, from philosophy as a thinking activity. Throughout the Middle Ages, Philosophia Christiana was regarded as a practical way of life. It subsequently became the ‘science of sciences’ and, as Jean-Luc Marion says, this itself embodies the crisis of philosophy: the divergence of these two ways of understanding philosophy. From this perspective, the text begins with the practical and theoretical differentiation inherited by Maximus from ancient philosophy describing the activities of the soul, and then moves on to the notion of desire in relation to practical reasoning or action.
The point of departure for this paper will be an explication of Maximus the Confessor’s approach to moral judgment in light of the ancient tension between Stoic and Platonic/Aristotelian threads of thought regarding moral incontinence (ἀκράτεια) and the determination of the good. This paper shall seek, on the one hand, to account for the way in which these sometimes incongruous elements are utilized by the Confessor, and on the other, examine the consequences of his approach for moral theory at large. Of critical importance will be the attempt to understand better how Maximus would consider the determination of moral good to be epistemically possible in the face of diverse human experience and natural circumstances, as well as the various levels of moral training. As such, this essay will attempt to derive a Maximian answer to Rousseau’s dilemma regarding the apparent human tendency to know the common good and yet disregard it.
The following paper seeks to demonstrate the way in which St Maximus the Confessor identifies the holy Gospel, as the eternal Word of God, with Christ himself, specifically with the great mystery of the incarnate Christ. By living a life according to the Gospel, every man recapitulates in himself this great incarnational mystery, and is thereby renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit to participation in the life of the Holy Trinity, a life of eternal deification. It is Maximus’ practical experience of the Gospel as personal participation in the Incarnation which underpins his entire theological outlook, in particular his defence of Chalcedonian Christology, and which made his own life a true continuation and ‘completion’ of the Gospel of Christ.
In this article, I strive to conclude a long theological debate with modern Orthodox Personalism and show that, in the Confessor’s thought, nature is essentially dialogical. That is, I argue against the imposition upon Maximus of any abstract separation of nature from person. Person is enousion, not an abstract ecstatic detachment from nature. Will, for Maximus, is an expression of the inner life of nature, both in anthropology and Christology, and stands in opposition to any transcendental conception thereof. This article also strives to show that neither Trinitarian life nor human fulfilment can be theologically articulated without the concept of homoousion. Finally, it seeks to inaugurate a systematic discussion of these notions within the context of modern philosophy and psychology.
In the theology of the Eastern Church, wisdom is related to divine economy, which is why, apart from the epistemic and the ethical aspect, it is concerned with the hermeneutics of divine revelation. The goal of acquiring wisdom has anthropological dimensions, since divine revelation is addressed to man, and man is in the image of God. Therefore, the criteria for perfection in terms of practical reasoning are not merely cognitive, they are anthropological. For Origen, the ways of wisdom are transcendent to the plurality of the created world and man can achieve wisdom by following the epistemic structure of unification. In the understanding of Dionysius, the recognition of the harmony of the ontological hierarchy and volitional participation in this hierarchy is the road of wisdom. Maximus introduces the dynamism of Christology into the concept of wisdom: for him wisdom is not just following the natural hierarchy, but participating in the transformation of the latter through Christ. In this participative concept of acquiring wisdom, Photius introduces existential and epistemological uncertainty as an axiomatic starting-point, which enables man to accept wisdom as a divine gift and to take responsibility for the Christological transformation of creation.
The relationship between soul and body has been a central topic to ancient philosophy and medicine. However, it is now a generally accepted thesis that several important Patristic authors in Byzantium used to talk about the union of the two natures in Christ, divine and human, in analogy with the union of soul and body in one single human person. The aim of this paper is to contribute to this topic by proposing an unexplored link between Nemesius of Emesa and Maximus the Confessor along the same lines of inquiry. In his third chapter of On the Nature of Man, Nemesius offers us an extended discussion on the relationship between soul and body. In this work, he also talks about the ‘unconfused union’ (ἀσύγχυτος ἕνωσις) between these two substances as a model for interpreting the union between the two natures in Christ. Yet he also mentions a limit to this analogy, and this paper suggests that this could have influenced Maximus the Confessor in shaping his final arguments for the restriction of the model of the soul/ body relationship for Christology.
Maximus the Confessor’s Ambiguum 41 contains some rather untypical observations concerning the distinction of sexes in the human person: there is a certain ambiguity as to whether the distinction of the sexes was intended by God and is ‘by nature’ (as the Book of Genesis and most Church Fathers assert) or whether it is a product of the Fall, while Christ is described thrice as ‘shaking out of nature the diσtinctive characteristics of male and female’, ‘driving out of nature the difference and division of male and female’, and ‘removing the difference between male and female’. Different readings of these passages engender important implications that can be drawn out from the Confessor’s thought, both eschatological implications and otherwise. The subject has been picked up by Cameron Partridge, Doru Costache and Karolina Kochanczyk–Boninska, amongst others, but is by no means settled, as quite different conclusions have been formulated. The noteworthy and far-reaching implications of Maximus’ theological stance, as well as its problems, are not the object of this paper. Here, I am merely trying to demonstrate what exactly Maximus says in these peculiar and much discussed passages through a close reading, in order to avoid a double-edged Maximian misunderstanding—which would either draw overly radical implications from those passages, projecting definitely non-Maximian visions on to the historical Maximus, or none at all, as if those passages represented standard Patristic positions.
This study attempts to examine how Saint Maximus the Confessor (c. 580–662) uses terms related to the notion of κράτος (power), such as ἐπικράτεια (domination, prevalence) and ἐγκράτεια (continence), in order to denote a domination which is not free from passion. Even though terms like ἐγκράτεια might have a positive meaning, signifying for example the mastery over one’s impulses, they are inferior to ἀπάθεια, to which they might be contrasted. According to Maximus, domination (ἐπικράτεια) might also be viewed as a form of weakness, since the one who exercises domination is in turn affected by the one dominated. Conversely, true love is linked only to ἀπάθεια (impassibility), which signifies a deeper overcoming of the dominated passion. Maximus’ thought thus presents some dialectical insights, since it highlights the influence of the dominated upon the dominator and a possible shifting of roles in a vicious circle. But in its ontological and eschatological depth, it is non-dialectical since the goal is absolute freedom from the dialectic of domination (ἐπικράτεια). The study will focus particularly on the vicious circle of pleasure and pain (ἡδονή/ὀδύνη) and one significant use of the term ἐπικράτεια in this context. It will be founded on Saint Maximus’ Christology, according to which the 7th century Father emphatically rejects the notion of a Monoenergism, in which Christ would have a unique operation through the domination of his divine operation over his human one.
Maximus the Confessor
Emma Brown Dewhurst
Nemesius of Emesa
Dionysius the Areopagite