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Abstract

This chapter discusses Maximus’s approach to theology as an ascetic and an exegete. Beginning with the salient details of Maximus’s life, I demonstrate the role monastic formation plays in framing the Confessor’s theological approach. I then consider Maximus as an interpreter of sacred texts, arguing that scholarship, in emphasizing Maximus’s original contribution to the history of dogma, has neglected the source of his creativity: the critical reflection on the prior tradition. I then turn to the specific historical argument that frames the current study, the status of human passions and its perfection as apatheia. I narrate the reception of this Stoic account of human passibility in Early Christian biblical interpretation. I expose the problems that naturally arise from this critical synthesis of differing perspectives, which help to understand Maximus’s ascetical and exegetical project in Ad Thalassium. Heir to this tradition, Maximus sets out to better understand human emotion, its conceptual difficulties, and its role in the Christian life through a process of exegetical discernment.

In: Divine Scripture and Human Emotion in Maximus the Confessor

Abstract

The prior chapters have shown that the redeemed human emotions of fear and grief are both marked by a purified love. This chapter discusses Maximus’s analysis of love in relationship to apatheia. The redemption of human desire begins with divine philanthropia, God’s expression of his desire for us. I discuss the prior patristic appropriation of this term, which Maximus integrates into his own teaching on human passibility. Fundamentally, the ultimate act of divine philanthropia occurs on the Cross, where Christ transfigures human desire, opening the possibility for our own affective conversion. I then discuss how Maximus envisions love as the integrating factor of human emotion and how Maximus relates this redeemed eros to his understanding of eschatological apatheia, his concept of “ever-moving repose.” For Maximus, redeemed human emotion plays a key role in providing a way to have movement that guards against the threat of corruption in his vision of eternity.

In: Divine Scripture and Human Emotion in Maximus the Confessor

Abstract

This chapter examines Maximus’s teaching on grief. I show how the Christians revised this Stoic concept in order to accommodate Christian categories. Stoics account for a certain form of transformative remorse for those making moral progress. In the life of the Sage, this emotion disappears. In contrast, Christian life requires continual repentance. Furthermore, a derivative form of grief, mercy, is central to the moral imperatives on the Gospel. After demonstrating how early Christians critically negotiated with this emotion, according to the data of Revelation, I outline Maximus’s teaching on grief. Maximus’s point of departure is the Pauline notion of “godly grief,” which is to be experienced by Christians on the way to perfection. I then distinguish Maximus’s account of positive grief from its sinful form of grief over attachments to pleasure. Maximus then explores the transmutation of the divinized form of grief shared by the saints, who participate in God’s salutary desire to redeem humanity.

In: Divine Scripture and Human Emotion in Maximus the Confessor

Abstract

Following the previous chapter, which treated human passibility as the thematic frame of Maximus’s exegesis in Ad Thalassium, the next two chapters consider Maximus’s understanding of two cardinal passions, fear and grief. I will provide an overview of the adaption of the Stoic account of fear in early Christian thought, showing the problems and concerns about this emotion that Maximus confronts. From his own critical reflection on Scripture, Maximus argues for a positive place for fear in all stages of the Christian life. Fear exists on a continuum, beginning in its penitential form on Earth, but extending into divine awe in the souls of those in possession of apatheia. I will further show how his account of fear has wider consequences for his Christology and anthropology.

In: Divine Scripture and Human Emotion in Maximus the Confessor

Abstract

This chapter focuses on Quaestiones ad Thalassium and argues for the thematic unity of the Introduction and Question 1 with the rest of the work. Maximus employs exegetical discernment to explain the origin of the passions. Likewise, questions about human passibility condition his exploration of the scriptural questions in the remainder of the work. Further, at the heart of Question 1 is the value of human passibility, a theme that Maximus develops in the later biblical questions. Human passibility can be used for salvific ends. Maximus specifies that Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross functions to redeem human passibility, granting the possibility of apatheia to every Christian through sacramental participation and ascetic struggle. I further show how Maximus’s account of human emotion develops out of his personal monastic experience and confrontation with the fundamental scriptural difficulty regarding the emotions of God and the saints in the Bible.

In: Divine Scripture and Human Emotion in Maximus the Confessor

Abstract

Maximus the Confessor develops an account of human emotion in Quaestiones ad Thalassium, drawing on the earlier ascetical tradition. In what follows, I demonstrate how Maximus conceives of the passions and the misreading of Scripture as symptoms of the same sickness of original sin. I then show how Christ heals human passibility according to Maximus. I describe the role healed human passibility plays in Maximus’s eschatology and healthy communication with God on earth.

In: The Unity of Body and Soul in Patristic and Byzantine Thought
In Exegesis of the Human Heart Andrew J. Summerson explores how Maximus the Confessor uses biblical interpretation to develop an account of human passibility, from fallen human passions to perfected human emotions among the divinized.
This book features Maximus’s role as a creative interpreter of tradition. Maximus inherits Christian thinking on emotion, which revises Stoic and Platonic thought according to biblical categories. Through a close reading of Quaestiones ad Thalassium and a wide selection of Maximus’s works, Andrew J. Summerson shows that Maximus understands human emotion in an exegetical milieu and that Maximus places human emotion at the heart of his soteriology. Christ redeems passibility so the divinized can enjoy perfected emotional activity in the ever-moving repose of eternal life.
In: Divine Scripture and Human Emotion in Maximus the Confessor