Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
OUR RIGHTEOUS FATHER MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR AND GREAT DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Righteous One. Plagal of Fourth Tone
Guide of Orthodoxy, teacher of piety and holiness, luminary of the world, God-inspired adornment of monastics, O wise Maximus, by thy teachings thou hast enlightened all, O harp of the Spirit. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion of St. Maximus. Tone 2
O Maximos divinely inspired champion of the Church, sure and illumined exponent of Orthodoxy, thou harp and trumpet of godliness, divine and holy adornment of monks: cease not to intercede for us all.
When thou bravely didst bear persecutions for the Faith, thou didst convict every heresy and didst chase it far off; when thy tongue and hand were severed, O blest Maximus, thou didst receive a shining crown from the very hand of thy Creator for thy confession. O Father, ceaselessly pray Him now to bestow His mercy on our souls.
"Every bit of Church dogma was imposed through the blood of those ready to give their life to defend it; being a matter of life--not merely a theoretical speculation". (Theologian Fr. Dumitru Staniloae)
Saint Maximus the Confessor, the greatest of Byzantine theologians, lived through the most catastrophic period the Byzantine Empire was to experience before the Crusades.
"By birth a citizen of Constantinople and at first a high-ranking courtier at the court of the Emperor Heraclius, he then became a monk and the abbot of a monastery not far from the capital. He was the greatest defender of Orthodoxy against the so-called Monothelite heresy, which developed from the heresy of Euteches. That is to say: as Eutyches asserted that there is in Christ only one nature, so the Monothelites asserted that there is in Him only one will. Saint Maximus resisted this assertion and found himself in opposition to both the Emperor and the Patriarch. But he was unafraid, and persevered to the end in proving that there are in the Lord two natures and therefore also two wills. By his efforts, one Council in Carthage and one in Rome stood firm, and both these Councils anathematized the Monothelite teaching. Saint Maximus's sufferings for Orthodoxy cannot be fully described: tortured by hierarchs, spat upon by the mass of the people, beaten by soldiers, persecuted, imprisoned; until finally, with his tongue cut out and one hand cut off, he was condemned to exile for life in Skhimaris, where he gave his soul into God's hands in the year 662 AD." (By Saint Nikolai Velimirovich in "The Prologue from Ochrid")
A more detailed account of his life.
Saint Maximus the Confessor was born in Constantinople around 580 A.D. and raised in a pious Christian family. He received an excellent education, studying philosophy, grammar, and rhetoric. He was well-read in the authors of antiquity and he also mastered philosophy and theology. When Saint Maximus entered into government service, he became first secretary (asekretis) and chief counselor to the Emperor Heraclius (611-641 A.D.), who was impressed by his knowledge and virtuous life.
Saint Maximus soon realized that the Emperor and many others had been corrupted by the Monothelite heresy, which was spreading rapidly through the East. He resigned from his duties at court, and went to the Chrysopolis Monastery (at Skutari on the opposite shore of the Bosphorus), where he received monastic tonsure. Because of his humility and wisdom, he soon won the love of the brethren and was chosen Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Monastery after a few years. Even in this position, he remained a simple monk.
In 638 A.D. the Emperor Heraclius and Patriarch Sergius tried to minimize the importance of differences in belief, and they issued an edict, the "Ekthesis" ("Ekthesis tes pisteos" or "Exposition of Faith"), which decreed that everyone must accept the teaching of one will in the two natures of the Savior. In defending Orthodoxy against the "Ekthesis", Saint Maximus spoke to people in various occupations and positions, and these conversations were successful. Not only the clergy and the bishops, but also the people and the secular officials felt some sort of invisible attraction to him, as we read in his life.
When Saint Maximus saw what turmoil this heresy caused in Constantinople and in the East, he decided to leave his monastery and seek refuge in the West, where Monothelitism had been completely rejected. On the way, he visited the bishops of Africa, strengthening them in Orthodoxy, and encouraging them not to be deceived by the cunning arguments of the heretics.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council had condemned the Monophysite heresy, which falsely taught that in the Lord Jesus Christ there was only one nature (the Divine). Influenced by this erroneous opinion, the Monothelite heretics said that in Christ there was only one divine will ("thelema") and only one divine energy ("energeia"). The struggle of Orthodoxy with heresy was particularly difficult because in the year 630 A.D. three of the Patriarchal thrones in the Orthodox East were occupied by Monothelites: Constantinople by Sergius, Antioch by Athanasius, and Alexandria by Cyrus.
In the year 647 A.D. Saint Maximus returned to Africa. There, at the Council of bishops Monotheletism was condemned as a heresy. In 648 A.D., a new edict was issued, commissioned by Constans and compiled by Patriarch Paul of Constantinople: the "Typos" ("Typos tes pisteos" or "Pattern of the Faith"), which forbade any further disputes about one will or two wills in the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Maximus then asked Saint Martin the Confessor, the successor of Pope Theodore, to examine the question of Monothelitism at a Church Council. The Lateran Council was convened in October of 649 A.D. One hundred and fifty Western bishops and thirty-seven representatives from the Orthodox East were present, among them Saint Maximus the Confessor. The Council condemned Monotheletism, and the Typos. The false teachings of Patriarch Sergius, Paul and Pyrrhus of Constantinople, were also anathematized.
When Emperor Constans II received the decisions of the Council, he gave orders to arrest both Pope Martin and Saint Maximus. The Emperor's order was fulfilled only in the year 654 A.D. he was sent to Thrace, and was later brought back to a Constantinople prison.
The Saint and two of his disciples were subjected to the cruelest torments. Each one's tongue was cut out, and his right hand was cut off. Then they were exiled to Skemarum in Scythia, enduring many sufferings and difficulties on the journey.
After three years, the Lord revealed to Saint Maximus the time of his death (August 13, 662 A.D.). Three candles appeared over the grave of Saint Maximus and burned miraculously. This was a sign that Saint 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
Saint Maximus has left to the Church a great theological legacy. His exegetical works contain explanations of difficult passages of Holy Scripture, and include a Commentary on the Lord's Prayer and on Psalm 59, various "scholia" or "marginalia" (commentaries written in the margin of manuscripts), on treatises of the Hieromartyr Dionysios the Areopagite and Saint Gregory the Theologian. Among the exegetical works of Saint Maximus are his explanations of divine services, entitled "Mystagogia" ("Introduction Concerning the Mystery").
The Dogmatic works of Saint Maximus the Confessor include the Exposition of his dispute with Pyrrhus, and several tracts and letters to various people. In them are contained explanations of the Orthodox teaching on the Divine Essence and the Persons of the Holy Trinity, on the Incarnation of the Logos (Word) of God, and on 'theosis" ("deification") of human nature.
"Nothing in theosis is the product of human nature," Saint Maximus writes in a letter to his friend Thalassius, "for nature cannot comprehend God. It is only the mercy of God that has the capacity to endow theosis unto the existing...In theosis man (the image of God) becomes likened to God, he rejoices in all the plenitude that does not belong to him by nature, because the grace of the Spirit triumphs within him, and because God acts in him" (Letter 22).
Saint Maximus also wrote anthropological works (i.e., concerning man). He deliberates on the nature of the soul and its conscious existence after death. Among his moral compositions, especially important is his "Chapters on Love." Saint Maximus the Confessor also wrote three hymns in the finest traditions of Church hymnography, following the example of Saint Gregory the Theologian.
The Theology of Saint Maximus the Confessor, based on the spiritual experience of the knowledge of the Great Desert Fathers, and utilizing the skilled art of dialectics worked out by pre-Christian philosophy, was continued and developed in the works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian and Saint Gregory Palamas.
ON AGAPE (LOVE)
"Do not dishonor your conscience, perfectly instructing you always. Because she suggests to you the divine and Angelic opinion, she sets you free from the hidden infections of the heart and she gives you uprightness before God when you depart."
"Love defeats those three, self-deception, because she is not proud. Interior envy, because she is not jealous. Exterior envy, because she is generous and serene."
"Faith without love does not act in the soul the illumination of the Divine knowledge."
"Nothing is more truly Godlike than Divine love, nothing more mysterious, nothing more apt to raise up human beings to theosis (deification)."
"Thy mystery of love which out of human beings makes us gods".
"Everything is circumscribed by love according to God's good pleasure...for what form of good things does love not possess? Faith, hope, humility, meekness, gentleness, mercy, self-control, patience, long-suffering, kindness, peace and joy."
"Love is the goal of every good, being the highest of goods with God, and source of every good."
"The divine and blessed love...will embrace God and manifest the one who loves God to be God himself."
"Self-love is...the first sin, the first progeny of the devil, and the mother of the passions...the beginning and mother of all evils."
"Agape is said to be God Himself which from the beginning the thorns of self-love have covered up."
"Love...binds human beings to God and one another."
"The grace of love...leads one to God Who deifies the human being that He Himself has fashioned."
"Love "never fails" since it possesses God Who is alone unfailing and unalterable."
And finally the Divine words of our precious Lord and Savior:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My Disciples, if you have love for one another" (Saint John 13:34-35).
Also, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love" (Saint John 15:9).
(The fact is, God does love us unconditionally, no matter what our response. But His unconditional love does us no good unless we keep His Commandments and abide in His love. We show our love for God by obeying Him.)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God