Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings

Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings

Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings

Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings

Excerpt

Maximus Confessor is a member of that small and select group of saints of the Church who belong almost equally to the Western and to the Eastern traditions of Christian spirituality. Significantly, most of the members of that group are Greek church fathers who have been adopted by the Latins, for example, Athanasius of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus. One of the few Latins to have achieved similar standing among the Greeks was, it should be noted, not Augustine of Hippo, despite his unquestionable position as the greatest of all Latin authorities on spirituality and theology, but Pope Saint Leo the Great, because of his magisterial role, through the Tome to Flavian, in determining the outcome of the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which continued for centuries to be infinitely more of an issue in the East than in the West. The Byzantine church was confronted, both politically and religiously, by the rivalry of the "non-Chalcedonian" churches, whether Nestorian or Monophysite, throughout most of its history, and therefore Leo's greatest dogmatic achievement, the statement of faith adopted at Chalcedon, stood as the line of demarcation between orthodoxy and heresy, as well as between the Byzantine empire and the "confrontation states" on its borders.

It was, indeed, in the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon that Maximus Confessor attained his historic importance, both for the history of spirituality and for the history of dogma (a distinction that he would not have accepted, since, as every one of these treatises makes abundantly clear, there was for him no spirituality apart from dogma and no dogma apart from spirituality). By the time his long and tumultuous career was finished, Maximus had managed to affirm, for the West no less than for the East, the piety that had always been the underlying presupposition of the Chalcedonian dogma. Sometimes that piety has seemingly been all but submerged by the metaphysical distinctions and disputations of the schools over the chemistry (or alchemy) of the natures (or of the single nature) of the God-man. Only someone like Maximus, who had gone through the schools and who . . .

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