Notes for study group, 8/3/07
Aspects of St Maximus the Confessor
We will be considering some extracts from the works of St Maximus.
From the First Century
1/13 - 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.
1/15 - 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.
1/29 - When you are insulted by someone or humiliated, guard against angry thoughts, lest they arouse a feeling of irritation and so cut you off from love and place you in the realm of hatred.
1/30 - You should know that you have been greatly benefited when you have suffered deeply because of some insult or indignity; for by means of the indignity self–esteem has been driven out of you.
1/52 - In time of trial do not leave your monastery but stand up courageously against the thoughts that surge over you, especially those of irritation and listlessness…
1/59 - Do not permit any abuse of your spiritual father or encourage anyone who dishonours him…
1/63 - We carry about with us impassioned images of the things we have experienced. If we can overcome these images we shall be indifferent to the things which they represent. For fighting against the thoughts of things is much harder than fighting against the things themselves, just as to sin in the mind is easier than to sin through outward action.
1/84 - First the memory brings some passion-free thought into the intellect. By its lingering there, passion is aroused. When the passion is not eradicated, it persuades the intellect to assent to it. Once this assent is given, the actual sin is then committed…
1/86 - The intellect, once totally free from passions, proceeds undistracted to the contemplation of created beings, making its way towards knowledge of the Holy Trinity.
1/91 - It is already much not to be roused to any passion by material things. It is even more to remain dispassionate when presented with mental images of such things. For the war which the demons wage against us by means of thought is more severe than the war they wage by means of material things.
From the Second Century
2/2 - The intellect that dallies with some sensible thing clearly is attached to it by some passion, such as desire, irritation, anger or rancour; and unless it becomes detached from that thing it will not be able to free itself from the passion affecting it.
2/47 - Certain things stop the movement of the passions and do not allow them to grow; others subdue them and make them diminish. For instance, where desire is concerned, fasting, labour and vigils do not allow it to grow, while withdrawal, contemplation and intense longing for God subdue it and make it disappear. The same is true with regard to anger. Forbearance, freedom from rancour, gentleness, for example, all arrest it and prevent it from growing, while love, acts of charity, kindness and compassion make it diminish.
2/71 - The demons fight against us either through things themselves or through our impassioned conceptual images of these things……
2/74 - The intellect receives impassioned conceptual images in three ways; through the senses, through the body’s condition and through the memory. It receives them
through the senses when the senses themselves receive impressions from things in relation to which we have acquired passion, and when these things stir up impassioned thoughts in the intellect,
through the body’s condition when, as a result either of an undisciplined way of life, or of the activity of demons, or of some illness, the balance of elements in the body is disturbed and again the intellect is stirred to impassioned thoughts or to thoughts contrary to providence,
through the memory when the memory recalls the conceptual images of things in relation to which we were once made passionate, and so stirs up impassioned thoughts in a similar way.
From the Third Century
3/1 - An intelligent use of conceptual images and their corresponding physical objects produces self-restraint, love and spiritual knowledge; an unintelligent use produces licentiousness, hatred and ignorance.
3/15 - If you totally fulfil the commandment to love your neighbour, you will feel no bitterness or resentment against him whatever he does. If this is not the case, then the reason why you fight against your brother is clearly because you seek after transitory things and prefer them to the commandment of love.
3/43 - An impassioned conceptual image is a thought compounded of passion and a conceptual image. If we separate the passion from the conceptual image, what remains is the passion-free thought. We can make this separation by means of spiritual love and self-control, if only we have the will.
From the Fourth Century
4/21 - What separates us from the love of friends is envying or being envied, causing or receiving harm, insulting or being insulted, and suspicious thoughts. Would that you had never done or experienced anything of this sort and in this way separated yourself from the love of a friend.
4/22 - Has a brother been the occasion of some trial for you and has your resentment led you to hatred? Do not let yourself be overcome by this hatred, but conquer it with love. You will succeed in this by praying to God sincerely for your brother and by accepting his apology; or else by conciliating him with an apology yourself, by regarding yourself as responsible for the trial and by patiently until the cloud has passed.
4/84 - Christ does not want you o feel the least hatred, resentment, anger or rancour towards anyone in any way or on account of any transitory thing whatsoever. This is proclaimed throughout the four Gospels.
4/92 - If when some trial occurs you cannot overlook a friend’s fault, whether real or apparent, you have not yet attained dispassion For when the passions that lie deep in the souls are disturbed, they blind the mind, preventing it from perceiving the light of truth and from discriminating between good and evil. If you are in such a state you have likewise not yet attained perfect love, the love which expels the fear of judgment.