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Love | Saint Maximus the Confessor

Saint Maximus the Confessor

Love
Saint Maximus the Confessor

PROLOGUE

Speaking about love is always timely. Especially in our egocentric age, when hearts became stone cold and sincere feelings vanished, and when many words without a corresponding life, barren ideologies and sick emotionalisms claim the position of love.

The Saints of Christian Church can guide us to this highest good safely, because they, with their life and word, reveal incarnate Love, which is God Himself – “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:16).

Saint Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 – 13 August 662) was the most eminent theologian of the 7th century:

He was born in Constantinople in 580 and received a well-rounded education. He served as the head secretary of the emperor Heraclius, but quickly abandoned his position and, at about 34 years of age, became a monk.

Well educated in philosophy, Maximus adopted the Platonic model of teaching that humanity was made in the image of God, and the purpose of salvation is to restore us to unity with God.

After practicing harsh asceticism in the monastic polestar, he dedicated himself, from 633 to the end of his life, to the struggle against Monothelitism, a heresy which taught that Christ has only one will, the divine one, in opposition with the Orthodox teaching, according to which Christ, as a God-man, has two wills, the divine and human will.

This cost him imprisonments, tortures, public mockeries, exiles. To stop him from speaking and writing, they cut off his tongue and right hand.

Finally, he died from hardships and old age in exile on August 13, 662 in Tsageri, Georgia.

However, his theology was upheld by the Third Council of Constantinople and he was venerated as a saint soon after his death. His title of Confessor means that he suffered for the Christian faith, but was not directly martyred.

From his important theological works, we present a few of the four hundred “Chapters concerning love”, which he wrote upon the request of the presbyter Lepidus.

We offer them to the contemporary reader, believing that in these he will find the measure of true love for God, his neighbour and himself.

They are to be studied as Saint Maximus advised Lepidus:

Please read them carefully, because their meanings are thickly stuck together, and, despite the fact that their expression seems simple, they need great examination and delving into.

Probably in these you will discover something useful for your soul. And he who reads with simplicity, the fear of God and love will certainly discover this.

LOVE

Love is a good disposition of the soul, which makes man not prefer anything else more than knowing God.

It is impossible however for whoever has a passionate attachment to something of the earthly things to firmly obtain this love in him.

Don’t say that only my faith in Christ can save me:

This is impossible, if you don’t also obtain practical love. Simple faith which is not accompanied by works of love, does not benefit at all, since even the demons believe and tremble.

Just as the memory of fire doesn’t warm the body, thus also faith without love does not illumine the soul with knowledge of God.

What one loves, to this is he also attached, and, so as not to be deprived of it, he scorns everything which distracts him from this. Thus also he who loves God, cultivates pure prayer and chases every passion from within him which prevents him from this.

The mind which is united with God and remains with Him with prayer and love, he becomes wise, good, strong, philanthropic, compassionate, longsuffering. In one word, he has upon him all the divine marks.

When however he departs from God and attaches himself to earthly things, either he becomes like a beast, as he rolls in pleasures, or he becomes like a wild animal, as he argues with people over material things.

He who fears God, always has humble mindedness as a companion. And humble mindedness leads him to love and gratitude to God.

He thinks in other words of his previous life, of his various sins and his temptations, and how the Lord saved him from all these and transported him from the life of passions to the Godly life.

So with such thoughts he also obtains love for God, the benefactor and governor of his life, whom he ceaselessly thanks with much humble mindedness.

He who loves God, lives an angelic life upon the earth. He fasts and keeps vigil, chants and prays, and for every person always thinks good.

Love for God urges whoever has it to scorn every temporal pleasure and every toil and sadness. Let all the saints convince you of this, who suffered so many things for Christ.

The inexpressible peace, which the holy angels have, is due to these two things: to love for God and love between them. The same thing also happens with the saints of all the ages. So it has been very well said by our Saviour, that in these two commandments are all the law and the teaching of the prophets summarized (Math. 22:40).

Whoever loves God, cannot possibly not also love every person as his own self.

And whoever furthermore are enslaved to their passions, these also he loves like his own self, and rejoice with immeasurable and ineffable joy, when he sees them being corrected.

Whoever loves me”, says the Lord, “will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:23).

And my own command is that you love one another” (Jn. 15:12).

So he who does not love his neighbour, breaks the Lord’s commandment. And whoever breaks the Lord’s commandment, cannot even possibly love the Lord either.

Don’t scorn the commandment of love, because with this you will become a child of God, whereas transgressing it you will become a child of Gehenna.

People love one another for these five causes:

1. “For God, just as the virtuous one loves them all, and as someone loves the virtuous one, even if he himself has not yet become virtuous.

2. “For natural reasons, just as parents love their children, and conversely.

3. “Out of vainglory, as someone loves him who glorifies him.

4. “Out of avarice, just as he who loves the rich person because he gives him money.

5. “Out of pleasure loving, just as he who loves a person, because he satisfies his gluttony, or his fleshly desire.

So from all these causes, the first is praiseworthy,
the second is neither praiseworthy nor worthy of condemnation,
whereas the rest are passionate.

In all our actions God examines the purpose for which we perform them: If, in other words, we do them for Him or for something else.

So when we want to do a good thing, let us not intend to be liked by people, but only by God. To Him should we look and let us do all for His own glory. Otherwise, we will tire ourselves without gaining anything.

A work of love is a benefaction to our neighbour with our whole soul, longsuffering and patience which we show before him, as also the prudent and wise use of things.

The disposition of love, does not reveal only the granting of money, but much more with the imparting of spiritual speech and with physical ministry.

He who loves Christ, imitates Him as much as he can. Christ, for example,

- did not cease benefiting people.

- showed longsuffering, when they acted ungratefully to Him and blasphemed Him.

-He forbore, when they beat Him and were killing Him, without at all thinking about anyone the evil which he did to Him.

These three works are expressive of love for one’s neighbour. Without these, he is deceived who says that he loves Christ or that he will gain His kingdom.

Because the Lord assures us:

He who tells me “Lord, Lord”, will not enter the kingdom of the heavens, but he who does the will of my Father” (Math. 7:21).

And again: “Whoever loves me, will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).

I tell you”, said the Lord, “love your enemies, benefactor whoever hates you, pray for whoever harms you” (Math. 5:44).

Why did He give these commands?

To free you from hate, sadness, wrath and revenge and to grant you to obtain perfect love. This is impossible for whoever does not equally love all people to have, just as God loves everyone equally.

Whoever has perfect love does not make distinctions with people:

He knows that we all have the same human nature, and for this reason without exception he loves everyone the same:

The virtuous ones he loves as friends, whereas the evil ones he loves as enemies and benefactors them and long-suffers and forbears, if they harm him, without considering at all the evil which is done to him.

On the contrary, he considers making them friends also, if possible. And if he does not manage this, he does not change his disposition, but continues loving everyone equally.

Struggle, as much as you can, to love every man: If you cannot do this yet, at least don’t hate anyone. But neither this will you be able to achieve, if you don’t scorn the things of the world.

The thing which chase love from man, are the following:

insult, harm, slander in matters of faith or conduct, beatings, wounds and similar things, which happen either to himself or to some relative or friend of his.

So he who for something of these things chases love, didn’t yet learn what is the purpose of Christ’s commands.

The purpose of the Lord’s commands is to free the mind from incontinence and hate, and to lead it to the love of Him and of his neighbour. From this double love is born the light of practical spiritual knowledge.

If “love is the fulfilment of God’s law” (Rom. 13:10), he who has revenge for his brother and makes sneaky plans against him and curses him and rejoices for his every fall, does he not therefore transgress God’s commands and is he not worthy of eternal hell?

If “love does not do evil to his neighbour” (Rom. 13:10), he who envies his brother and is sad for his progress and with mockeries tries to stain his reputation or plots against him with some wickedness, this person does he not therefore estrange himself from love and does it not make him guilty of eternal condemnation?

Christ does not want you to have hate or sadness or wrath or revenge of any type whatsoever and for whatsoever temporal thing. And the four Gospels preach this everywhere.

Whoever sees just a trace only of hate in his heart towards whatsoever man and for whatsoever fault of his, he does not love God at all. Because love for God does not at all stand hate against his neighbour.

Don’t say, “I don’t hate my brother”, at the moment when you don’t want to remember him. Listen to what the prophet Moses says:

Don’t hate your brother with your thought. Censure him however, so that you don’t have the sin which you would have had, if you were indifferent for his correction” (Lev. 19:17).

Sadness is closely associated with revenge. So when the mind is thinking of the face of his brother and feels sadness, it is obvious that he is holding wickedness against him.

The paths however of the revenging lead to spiritual death” (Prov. 12:28),

because “every revengeful person is a transgressor of the law” (Prov. 21:24).

At the time of your peace, don’t remember those things which your brother told you when he upset you – whether he told it to your face, or to another and then you heard it-, so that you don’t’ fall into the passion of revenge.

When you converse with others, be careful that perchance on account of the sadness, which you preserve still hidden within you, you falsify your praises for the brother, mixing up without realizing it in your words the accusation.

Use in your conversations the pure praise for the brother and pray for him sincerely, as if you are praying for your own self. Thus, very quickly you will be freed from the destructive hate.

Don’t offend your brother with implications, so that he not perchance also render back the same things and thus both of you lose love.

If the brother was at fault, point out to him the fault with boldness and love, to thus dissolve the cause of the distress and to be delivered from the disturbance and the sadness.

Did someone blaspheme?

Don’t hate him, but the blasphemy and the demon, which make him blaspheme. If however you hate him who blasphemed, you hated a man and thus to broke the commandment of love.

Whatever he did in word, you are doing in deed. If now you are keeping the commandment show your love as much as you can help him to be delivered from the evil.

A logical soul cannot, which nurtures hate against some person, become peaceful with God, who has given the commandments. Because there he tells us:

IF you don’t forgive the transgressions of your fellow men, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your own transgressions” (Matt. 6:15).

If you want to not fall from the love of God, don’t let your brother sleep saddened with you nor do you also sleep saddened with him. Go, reconcile yourself with your brother, and then offer to Christ the gift of your love with a clear conscience and with fervent prayer.

Examine your conscience with every precision, that maybe on your account the brother was reconciled with you.

The conscience which knows your secret thoughts, don’t scorn it, because thus it will become an obstacle to you at the time of prayer and it will accuse you at the time of your death.

Don’t allow your ears to hear the words of whoever slanders, nor even should your own words reach the ears of the person who loves to accuse, speaking or hearing with pleasure against your neighbour, so that you don’t lose the divine love and you end up disinheriting eternal life.

Don’t think that those who transport words to you love you, which cause you sadness and hate against the brother, even if it seems that they are saying the truth:

Turn away from them like deadly snakes, so that you also stop them from slander and your own soul you deliver from the wickedness.

The brother, whom you had till yesterday as spiritual and virtuous, don’t judge him today as evil and wicked, because the devil put you to hate him. You, with the love which long suffers, having in your mind his good things of yesterday, chase away today’s hate of the soul.

Him whom till yesterday you praised as good and you lauded as virtuous, don’t speak evil of him today, because you hated him, having as pretence his own ugly word. You continue praising him, even if you are not dominated by sadness. In this way you will easily return to the saving love.

When the demons see us scorning the things of the world, in order to not hate for their sake the people and we thus fall from love, then they stir up against us slanders, so that, not forbearing the sadness, they force us to hate the slanderers.

There does not exist a heavier pain of soul from slander, whether one is slandered in faith or whether in conduct.

And no one can remain indifferent when he is slandered, except him only who turns his eyes to God, the only one who can deliver us from the danger , can reveal to people the truth and console the soul with hope.

When you pray with all your soul for him who slandered you, so much also does God inform about your innocence all those who were slandered on account of the slander.

A genuine friend is he who, at the time of temptation, quietly and without disturbance partakes in the afflictions, the needs and the misfortunes of his neighbour, as if they are his.

Only those who faithfully keep God’s commandments and know well the depth of the divine judgments, don’t abandon their friends, when they are tried by God’s allowance.

Whoever though scorns God’s commandments and are ignorant of the deeper meaning of the trials which God allows, they, when the friend on the one hand prospers, enjoy with him, whereas when he is troubled by the temptations, they abandon him. Sometimes furthermore it happens that they might ally themselves even with his enemies.

The friends of Christ sincerely love all people, they are not loved however by everyone. The friends of the world neither love everyone, nor are loved by everyone.

And the friends of Christ on the one hand preserve love constantly till the end of their life, whereas the friends of the world preserve it until they clash with each other for things of the world.

He who in a time of temptation is not patient for whatever sad things are happening to him, but is cut off from the love of the spiritual brothers does not yet have perfect love nor deep knowledge of divine providence.

Don’t rush to destroy the bond of spiritual love, because no other path of salvation has remained for people.

Selfishness is the passionate and irrational love towards our body, which love and continence fights against. He who has selfishness, it is obvious that he has all the passions.

The beginning of all the passions is selfishness and its end is pride.
He who uprooted it, cut off with it all the passions as well.

Don’t be self-pleasing and you will not become brother hating. Don’t be selfish and you will become God-loving.

We must love every person with our soul. However in God alone we should have our hope, and Him with all our strength should we worship:

Because so long as He is preserving us also our friends are caring for us and the enemies can’t harm us. When however He abandons us, and all our friends turn against us and the enemies obtain power against us.

If he who has all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, does not however have love, he is not benefitted at all, as the divine Apostle says (1 Cor. 13:2), consequently how much eagerness and zeal ought we to show to obtain it?

Belabour your body with fasting and vigilance, and occupy yourself tirelessly with chanting and prayer. Then the sanctification of chastity will come to you and will bring you love.

Don’t defile your body with lewd deeds and don’t dirty your soul with wicked thoughts. Then the peace of God will come in you and will bring you love.

Many people of course have said many things about love.

If however you seek it, you will find it in the disciples of Christ, because they had for their teacher in love true Love, Christ, and were saying:

If I have the gift of prophesying and know all the mysteries, and if I have all the knowledge but don’t have love, in nothing am I benefitted” (1 Cor. 13:2).

So he who obtained love, obtained God himself, because “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:16).

To Him belong glory and the dominion unto the ages. Amen.