Revelation as the Central Theme in the Theology of St. Maximus the Confessor.
St. Maximus’ whole system can be understood most easily from the idea of Revelation. This is that proto-fact to which any theological reflection goes back. God is revealed — here is the beginning of the world’s coming into being. The whole world is a revelation of God, and everything in the world is mysterious and therefore symbolic. The whole world is grounded in God’s thought and will. Therefore, cognition of the world is a disclosure pf this symbolism, a perception of Divine will and thought which !s inscribed in the world.
Further, the world is a revelation of the Logos. The Logos is the God of revelation. God the Logos is revealed in the world. This revelation is completed and fulfilled in the Incarnation. For St. Maximus, the Incarnation is the focus of the world’s existence — and not only in the plan of redemption but also in the primordial plan for the creation of the world. The Incarnation is willed along with creation itself, but not merely in foreknowledge of the fall. God created the world and is revealed in order to become a Man in this world.
Man is created so that God may become man and through the Incarnation man is deified. “He who founded the existence — origin, “genesis” — of all creation, visible and invisible, by a single act of his will, ineffably had, before all ages and any beginning of the created world, good counsel, a decision, that he himself should inalterably unite with human nature through a true unity of hypostases. And he inalterably united human nature with himself — so that he himself should become a man, as he himself knows, and so that he should make man a god through union with himself.”
The doctrine of the Logos, which had been shunted into the background in fourth century theology, again becomes widely developed in St. Maximus. In him the ancient tradition of the second and third centuries again comes to life. This tradition had, of course, never ceased in Alexandrian tradition — see St. Athanasius On the Incarnation, and St. Cyril of Alexandria, especially his interpretation of the Gospel of St. John. St. Maximus to some extent repeats Origen — more in his problems than in his answers. But the Logos doctrine has now been entirely freed from the ancient ambiguity, an ambiguity which was unavoidable before a precise definition of the Trinitarian mystery.
In any case, it is the idea of Revelation which defines the whole plan of St. Maximus’ reflections, as it did for the Apologists and the Alexandrians of the third century. However, all the originality and power of St. Maximus’ new Logos doctrine lies in the fact that his conception of Revelation is developed within Christological perspectives. St. Maximus is coming from Origen, as it were, but overcomes Origen and Origenism. It is not that Christology is included in the doctrine of Revelation, but that the mystery of Revelation is discernible in Christology. It is not that Christ’s person demands explanation, but that everything is explained in Christ’s person — the person of the God-Man.
In his theological thoughts St. Maximus sides with the Areopagiticum. In the doctrine of the knowledge of God he virtually repeats Evagrius. In his unlimited essence, in the ever-plentiful fulness of his existence, God is inaccessible to man and to all creation. The created mind only has access to knowledge of the fact that God exists — and exists as the First Cause of everything which has been created. And knowledge of God’s essence is totally inaccessible. “We believe that he exists, but in no way do we dare to investigate what his nature is, as does the demonic mind’ — fruitlessly, of course.
Created reason is worthy to bear witness to God only in denials, thereby confessing the complete inapplicability of any logical categories and concepts to Divine existence. For God is above everything, above any complexity and plurality. However, knowledge of God in his exalted existence is possible — not in the concepts of reason, but in supra-mental perception, in ecstasy.
^ — renunciation and the silencing of thought, renunciation and its liberation from the categorical stricture of discursive cognition. In other words, it is the emanation or frenzy of thought — ecstasy. The whole sense of apophatic theology is that it recalls this ecstatic experience — mystical theology.
As with Pseudo-Dionysius, apophatic theology for St. Maximus is not dialectic. This “not” is above dialectic antitheses and even higher than antinomies. This “not” demands total silence, and calls for the self-overcoming of thoughts which utter and are uttered. At the same time, it is a call to cognize God, but not as Creator, and not in those of his perfections which are revealed in deeds and in creation.
First of all, it is possible and necessary to cognize God “from the magnitude of his deeds.” This is still preliminary knowledge. And the limit and goal of knowledge of God is to see God — so that in “ordeal” and in creative upsurge, through abnegation and love, the mind soars in the ever-peaceful darkness of Divine Mystery where it meets God face to face and lives in him. This is a kind of “return” of the mind — επιστροφή. God appears in the world, in certain cognizable forms, so that he can reveal himself to man; and man comes out to meet him, comes out of the world to find God as he is outside of the world. This is possible but only in ecstasy. In other words, through exceeding the measure of nature — “supra-naturally.” By nature the created mind does not have the power to cognize God directly. However, this is given to the created mind from on high. “The soul can never break free to knowledge of God if God himself, by his blessed condescension towards the created mind, does not touch it and raise it to himself. And man’s mind could never manage to raise high enough to perceive any Divine illumination if God himself did not enrapture it — as much as the human mind can be enraptured — and did not enlighten it with Divine rays.”
However, the Holy Spirit never works outside of man’s cognitive powers. Nor does the Holy Spirit abolish man’s cog -nitive powers or swallow them up with his activity. Rather, the Holy Spirit elevates them. Ecstasy is possible only through “ordeal.” The path towards knowledge of God is a ladder which extends its summit into the Divine darkness, into a “formless and aimless place.”
It is necessary to gradually forget about everything. One must forget about all creation. One must abstract oneself from everything created, even as something created by God. One must extinguish one’s love for creation, even though it was indeed created by God. In the “mystery of love” the mind becomes blind to everything besides God. “When the mind ascends to God through the attraction of love, it perceives neither itself nor anything which exists. Illumined by a measureless Divine light, it is insensible to everything created, just as a sensual glance does not notice the stars because of the sun’s radiance. Blessed is the man who continuously delights in Divine beauty while passing all creation by.”
This is renunciation, not merely distraction. And it is the transformation of the cognizer himself. Ecstasy is a direct meeting with God, and therefore knowledge of his essence. At the same time it is the deification of the mind, the transformation of the very element of thought. The Holy Spirit envelops the whole soul, and, as it were, transfigures or “transposes” it. This is a state of beneficial adoption, and the soul is brought to the unity of the Father’s hidden existence.
In pure hearts God inscribes his letters through the Spirit as he once did on Moses’ tablets. Christ’s mind settles in saints — “not by deprivation of our own mental force, and not by personally or in essence moving to its place, but by illuminating the force of our mind with his quality and by bringing its activity into a oneness with himself — (see below on becoming like Christ and Christ’s mystical settling into human souls). “The illumined one manages to recline with the Bridegroom, the Logos, in the treasure house of mysteries.” This is the highest and the last stage. The limit and goal of deification in the Incarnation of the Logos and in that knowledge which the human mind preserved in Christ by virtue of hvpostatic union. But it is also a return to the first, to the beginning. In this life few are permitted to reach these mysterious heights: great saints and seers, Moses on Mount Sinai, the Apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration — Tabor, St. Paul when he was carried away to the third heaven. The completeness of knowledge of God will be realized and will become accessible only beyond the bounds of this world, in the future age. However, it is precisely in ecstasy that the justification for the cognizing “ordeal” lies.
The way to ecstasy is “pure prayer” — here St. Maximus follows Evagrius Ponticus. This, first of all, is the perfect self-discipline and nakedness of the spirit — its being bared of any thought, of all mental images in general. Such nakedness is a grace and a gift. “The grace of prayer joins our souls with God, and by this joining it separates it from all thoughts. And by living with God it becomes God-like.” The mind’s nakedness means rising higher than any images and a corresponding transformation of the mind itself, which also attains simplicity, uniformity, and formlessness. “And when in prayer you have a mind estranged from matter and images, know that you have attained the same measure of apatheia and perfect love.” The moving force of the “ordeal” is indeed love — αγάπη. “Love is such a disposition of the soul when it prefers nothing which exists to the knowledge of God. and he who has a predilection for anything earthly cannot enter this condition of love.” St. Maximus often speaks of the highest stages of love as Divine Eros — ό θείος έρως.
Apophatic theology only testifies to these ineffable mysteries of holy frenzy and love. In this sense all apophatic expressions are symbolic through and through. Moreover, knowledge of God is always a continuous and endless path where the end always means the beginning, and where everything is for the time being only partly in a mirror or in divination.
However, the basic mystery of “mystical theology” is revealed to everyone and for all, for it is the primary dogma of the Christian faith. This is the mystery of Trinity and all the pathos of knowledge of God is in the comprehension of this mystery. For it is a knowledge of God in his own essence. This mystery is uttered and told in words, but it must be comprehended in experience as the mystery of perfect unity — here St. Maximus follows the Cappadocians, especially St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and also Evagrius Ponticus. In other words, it must be comprehended through the experience of deification, through life in God, through the appearance of the Trinity in the cognizing soul itself. And once again, this will be allowed only sometime in that last deification — with the perfect revelation of the Trinity.
The mystery of the Trinity is a mystery of the inner Divine Life. It is God outside of Revelation, Deus Absconditus. However, it is recognized only through Revelation, through theophany, through the appearance and descent of the Logos into the world. God the Trinity is cognized in the Logos and through the Logos. Through the Logos the whole world is mysteriously permeated by the rays of the Trinity. One can recognize the inseparable actions of the Three Hypostases in everything. Everything is and lives intelligently. In Divine Existence we contemplate the Wisdom which was born without beginning and the Life which is imparted eternally. Thus the Divine Unity is revealed as the Trinity — the Tri-Hypostatic monad; the “unlimited uniting of the Three Unlimited Ones.”
It is not “one in another,” and not “one and another,” and not “one above another” — but the Trinity is also at once a Unity. God is entirely the Trinity without blending. This removes both the limitedness of Hellenic polytheism, and the aridity of Judaic monotheism which gravitates towards a kind of atheism. Neither the Hellene nor the Jew knows about Jesus Christ. This means that contradictions in doctrines about God are eliminated through Christ — in the revelation of the Trinity.
It is especially necessary to note that St. Maximus taught about the Spirit’s procession from the Father “through the Son.” This is nothing more than a confirmation of the ineffable — but irreversible — order of hypostases in the perfect consubstantiality of the Trinitarian existence. It is very curious that St. Maximus had to speak out on the Western filioque — in a letter to the Cypriot presbyter Marinus, which is preserved only in fragments which one read in in the Florentine Cathedral. Reassuring the Easterners, St. Maximus explained that “the Westerners do not represent the Son as the cause of the Spirit, for they know that the Father is the single cause of the Son and the Spirit — the former through birth; the latter by procession. They merely show that the Holy Spirit proceeds through the Son in order to signify affinity and insepar — ability of essence.” Here St. Maximus is completely within the compass of the ancient Eastern tradition.
The mystery of Trinity is beyond knowledge. At the same time, it contains the buttress of knowledge. Everything in the world is a mystery of God and a symbol — a symbol of the Logos, for it is Revelation of the Logos. The whole world is a Revelation — a kind of book of the unwritten Revelation. Or, in another simile, the whole world is the attire of the Logos. In the variety and beauty of sensual phenomena, the Logos plays with man, as it were, to fascinate and attract him so that he raises the curtain and begins to see the spiritual sense under the external and visible images.
God the Logos is God of Revelation, ^ , and everything that is said about the Godhead in his relation with the world is said first of all about God the Logos. The Divine Logos is the beginning and the end goals for the world — αρχή καί τέλος — its creative and preservative force, the limit of all created strivings and “movements.” And the world exists and stands precisely through this communion with the Divine Logos, through the Divine energies, through a kind of participation in the Divine perfections. At the same time it is moving towards God, towards God the Logos. The whole world is in motion, is striving. God is above movement. It is not he who is moving, but the created and roused world which he created which moves towards him. Here the thought is similar to that found in the Corpus Areopagiticum.
The problem of knowledge is to see and recognize in the world its first-created foundations, to identify the world as a great system of God’s deeds, wills, and prototypes. The mind must leave the perceptible plane, must liberate itself from the conventionalities of external, empirical cognition, and rise to contemplation, to “natural contemplation” — φυσική θεωρία — that is, to contemplation of “nature” in its last Divine definitions and foundations. For St. Maximus “contemplation” is precisely this search for the Divine Logos of existence, the contemplation of the Logos in creation as Creator and Founder. Again this is possible only through “ordeal.” Only a transformed mind can see everything in the Logos and begin to see the light of the Logos everywhere. The Sun of Truth begins to shine in the purified mind, and for the latter everything looks different.
It is not becoming for man to insolently avoid these indirect paths of knowledge and willfully force his way to the Unap — proachable and Uncontainable. Spiritual life has its gradualness. “Contemplation” is the highest stage in spiritual coming-into-existence, in spiritual birth and growth. It is the penultimate — and unavoidable — stage on the very threshold of mysterious frenzy which enraptures the soul in the transsubstantiated darkness of the Trinnitanan reality. And conversely Revelation is a kind of step down from the “natural mystery” of the Godhead, from the fullness of the Divine Trinity to the heterogeneity and multitudi — nousness of creation. Following St. Gregory and Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Maximus speaks of a charitable effusion or imparting of Good — a Neoplatonic image (see Origen on the Logos as “One and Many”).
The path of Revelation and the path of knowledge correspond to one another. It is a single path, but it leads in two directions — apocalypsis and gnosis; descent and ascent. And knowledge is man’s reply, man’s response. Cognition of nature as God’s creation has its own special religious significance. In contemplation the soul is pacified — but contemplation itself is possible through apatheia. A new motive is creatively introduced into the harmony of the cosmos.
The world is creatural that is, it was created and came into being, it was created by the will of God. The will of — God is God’s very relationship to the world in general, the point of contact and meeting. For St. Maximus, will always signifies a relationship to “something else.” Properly speaking, God wills only about the world. One must not speak of an intra-Trinitarian will, for God’s will is always the indivisible will of the Holy Trinity.
According to St. Maximus the world’s createdness means first of all limitedness and finiteness — limited, because definite. The world is not without beginning, but begins. St. Maximus resol -utely objects to the conjecture about the world’s eternity, or its “co-eternity” with God — έ£ άϊδίον. Here he hardly had in mind only Proclus — see, for example, John Philoponus1 book On the Eternity of the World Against Proclus. St. Maximus, one must think, had Origen in mind as well. “Do not ask: How is it that, being eternally Good, God creates now? How and why is it so recent! Do not look into this.”
This is a direct challenge to Origen’s quandaries: how can one imagine Divine nature to be “inactive and idle?” Is it possible to think that goodness at one time did not do good, and that Omnipotence had nothing? And does God really “becom” the Creator and begin to create? St. Maximus makes a strict distinction between God’s will about the world and the actual existence of the world. This will, of course, is from eternity — God’s eternal counsel. In no way, however, does this signify the eternity of the world itself — of the “nature” of the world. “The Creator drew out knowledge of everything which exists, which knowledge had preexisted in him from eternity, and realized it when he willed’’ The origin of the world is the realization of God’s eternal plan for it. In other words, it is the creation of the created substratum itself. “We say that he is not only the Creator of quality, but also of qualitized nature. It is for this reason that creations do not coexist with God from eternity.”
St. Maximus emphasizes the limitedness of creatures and, on the contrary, he recalls God’s limitlessness. “For the unstudied wisdom of the limitless essence is inaccessible to human understanding.” The world is “something else,” but it holds together with its ideal connections. These connections are the “actions” or the “energies” of the Logos. In them God touches the world, and the world comes into contact with the Godhead. St. Maximus usually speaks of Divine “logoi or words” — λόγοι. This is a very complex, polysemantic, and rich concept which goes back to the early theology of the Apologists and is continued by the Cappadocians, Evagrius Ponticus, and others — λόγοι σπερματικοί — in the Greek East, and St. Augustine continues the idea of Tertullian in the Latin West — rationes seminales. These are first of all Divine thoughts and desires, the pre-determinations of God’s will — προορισμοί — the “eternal thoughts of the eternal Mind” in which he creates or invents the world and cognizes the world. Like some creative rays, the “logoi” radiate from the Divine center and again gather in it. God the Logos is a kind of mysterious circle of forces and thoughts, as in the thought of Clement of Alexandria. And secondly, they are prototypes of things, “paradigms.” In addition, they are dynamic prototypes. The “logos” of something is not only its “truth” or “sense,” and not only its “law” or “definition” (oros), but primarily its forming principle. St. Maximus distinguishes the “logos of nature” or law, the “logos of providence” and the “logos of judgment” — λόγος της κρίσεως. Thus the fate of all things and everything is taken in, from their origin to the resolution of the world process.
In ontology St. Maximus is close to St. Gregory of Nyssa. For him the perceptible world is immaterial in its qualitative foundations. It is a kind of mysterious “compression” — or even “condensation” — of the spiritual world. Everything in the world is spiritual in its depths. One can recognize the fabric of the Logos everywhere. There are two planes in the world: the spiritual or that which is comprehended by the mind — τα νοητά, and the perceptible or corporeal. There is a strict and precise correspondence between them. The perceptible world is not a passing phantom, the disintegration or disparagement of reality, but belongs to the fullness and integrity of reality. It is an image, a “type” — τύπος — or symbol of the spiritual world. In essence, the world is united and one, “for the whole spiritual world is mysteriously and symbolically — “in symbolic eidos” — reflected in the perceptible world — τυπόυμενος φαίνεται — for those who know how to see. The perceptible world by its foundations — τοΐς λόγοις — is entirely contained in the world which is comprehended by the mind — ένυπάρχων. Our world consists of that world, its logoi. And that world consists of ours, which has images — τοις τύποις?”
The connection or link between the two worlds is unbreakable and non-blending. St. Maximus defines it as an “identity through hypostases.” “The world comprehended by the mind is found in the perceptible world, as the spirit is in the body, while the perceptible world is joined with the world comprehended by the mind like the body is joined with the soul. Both worlds comprise a single world, as a single man is comprised of a soul and a body.”
By itself the “material essence” — that is, matter — is the beginning of “non-existence” — μη ον. However, it is entirely permeated with “spiritual logoi” and phenomena which are well reinforced in the comprehension of the mind, in “noumena.” To that extent the whole material world is in communion with the Logos, and only through this communion does it quit non-existence. The reality comprehended by the mind exists outside of time. This does not, however, mean “in eternity” but rather “in the ages” — εν αίώνι. The reality comprehended by the mind is not without beginning, but “originates existence in the ages” — εν αΐώνι. It begins to be, originates, starts, comes into existence from non-existence, but it is not put an end to through destruction. God the Creator grants it indestructibility. In this lies the “non-finiteness” and “timelessness” of mind-comprehended existence — that is, the fact that it cannot be captured in time. However, εν αιώνι in no way ever means aei. St. Maximus defines it thus: “Eon is time without movement, and time is eon measured by movement.” For all that, their mutual correspondence and commensurability — “symmetricalness,” writes St. Maximus — is not removed. The genuine eternity of the Godhead is non-commensurate with the eons. Here, any “how” or “when” is unquestionably inapplicable.
At the top of the created ladder stands the angelic world — the world of pure spirits. St. Maximus speaks of the angelic world in the same way as does the ^ , and he does not say very much. It is not the angelic world which is the focus of creation, precisely because the angels are incorporeal — only the fallen spirits are drawn into matter by virtue of their impious lust and passion.
Only man, who actually closes both worlds in himself — the spiritual, “incorporeal” world and the material world — can be the focus of creation. This thought is developed from St. Gregory of Nyssa. In his doctrine about man St Maximus expresses the symbolic motif with special force. By virtue of his bi-unity man is primarily a symbolic being. The principle of mutual symbolic reflection of some parts of the world into others is very characteristic of St. Maximus’ whole system. Essentially, it is nothing more than the principle of harmony and concord we see in Pseudo-Dionysius. In St. Maximus1 thought, however, it is greater than dynamism. Concord is given and assigned. The world is harmonious, but it must be even more harmonious and self-disciplined. This is the task of man, who has been placed at the center point of creation. This is the content of the created process. Potentially the whole world is reflected and, as it were, inscribed in created reason — here is based the possibility for knowledge, for cognition in general.
By itself, however, human reason can cognize nothing. The possibility of cognition is realized only in an efficacious relationship with the external world. St. Maximus always lays stress on man’s connection with his surroundings because he sees in man a microcosm, the middle and focus of created existence in general.
Man’s goal lies in embracing the whole world, in union — ένωσις, and in uniting it in himself, in re-uniting it with the Logos which has contained from eternity the life-giving foundations of all kinds of existence. Man must unite everything in himself and through himself unite with God. He has been called to this from his creation, and in this summons is the mystery of God-Manhood.
Man is created as a microcosm — “a small world in a great one.” The mystery of creation is revealed in man. At the same time it is man who is a living image of the Logos in creation. Man is an image of God and in him are mysteriously concentrated all the Divine forces and energies which are revealed in the world. He himself must become a “mental world.” By his very arrangement man is called to deification and to a process whereby the deification of all creation is accomplished precisely in him. For the sake of this, the created world was “thought up” and created.
First of all, man is summoned to unite. He must take away and extinguish in himself all “divisions of created nature” — “divisions” — διαιρέσεις, not “differences,” the foundation of which are in the Logos. Here the influence is from Philo’s doctrine of λόγος-το μευς. In himself man must overcome the division of sexes, for in his destiny he is one — “united man.” In this respect St. Maximus is reminiscent entirely of St. Gregory of Nyssa and, together with St. Gregory, he rejects the Origenist supposition about the pre-existence of souls. Man was never “incorporeal” — άσαρκος or ασώματος, although by its nature the soul does not depend on the body — and is therefore imperishable — and the soul possesses a capability for cognition of God which is equal to that of the angels.
But man is not a soul inserted in a body — he is not composed of soul and body. The soul arises and is born along with the body. From the beginning man was created as he is now — perhaps “in foreknowledge” of the fall, as in the thought of St. Gregory of Nyssa and in Nemesius of Emesa’s On Human Nature [περι φύσεως άνθρώπου]. Nemesius’ book, incidentally, was often quoted as St. Gregory of Nyssa’s πepί κατασκευήw ανθρώπου. Nemesius’ work was heavily used by St. John of Damascus and by Latin medieval theologians, especially by Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas.
Without sin, however, the lower would be subordinated to the higher. Sin destroyed this possible and originally intended symphony and harmony. Disharmony began — and in it is all the poignancy of the fall — for it is a direct antithesis to man’s calling. Man had to unite the whole world in himself, and direct the whole totality of his powers to God. Through a realization of a genuine hierarchy and coordination of the cosmic forces, man should have turned the whole world into an integral and united organism. Then inundating streams of grace would have poured forth over the world, and God would have appeared entirely in everything, giving creation immutable and eternal bliss.
It is this goal which was not fulfilled. The fall broke the chain of existence — into the world came death, which disunites and decays. This did not alter the plan and structure of the world. The tasks remained the same. Unrealized through the creation of the first man, it is settled by Divine force, through the “renewal of nature,” in the New Adam, in the Incarnation of the Logos.
It is characteristic of St. Maximus that he judges the Old Adam by the New Adam. He judges the “beginning” by the “end” — ”teleologically,” as he himself observes. He judges and divines man’s calling by the completeness of the God-Man. For human nature was predestined to it from the beginning, according to God’s original plan and original will. In this sense, man is mainly a Revelation of God. This is the created likeness of the Logos. This points out the Incarnation of the Logos beforehand as the fulfillment of God’s eternal counsel on the world. And in the image of Christ are combined the fullness of the Godhead and the fullness of creation. According to St. Maximus the Incarnation of the Logos enters into God’s original will in the creation of the world. God’s wisdom distinguishes creatures, while Divine Love ioins them together, and to God. The Logos becomes flesh, becomes man, and creation ascends to a likeness of God.
“Incarnation” and “deification” — σάρκωσiw και θέωσιw — are two linked movements. In a certain sense the Logos is always becoming incarnate, and in everything, for everything in the world is a reflection of the Logos, especially in man, who was placed on the edge of the world as the receiver of God’s grace. The Incarnation of the Logos crowns God’s descent into the world, and creates the possibility for the opposite movement. God becomes a man, becomes incarnate, through his love for man. And man becomes God through grace, is deified through his love for God.
In love originates the “beautiful inter-revolution” — καλή άντιστροφή. Christ the God-Man is the beginning and the end of all oikonomia — the center and the focus of all ages and all kinds of existence. Divine oikonomia is independent of human freedom, of its choices and concord, for it is God’s initial creative plan. And it would have been realized even apart from the fall. “The Logos became flesh” not merely for redemption. In actual history God’s supervision is realized in a fallen and dissolute world, and the God-Man proves to be the Redeemer, the Sacrificial Lamb.
The history which has come about is the history of a fallen world which has been restored from the fall, which has been healed of evil and sin. But the mystery of the God-Man, the mystery of Divine Love is wider and deeper than redemptive mercy. The whole Revelation is the Incarnation of God, and the Incarnation of the Logos. In this sense the whole Revelation is anthropomorphic. This relates directly to the Scriptures. They are all written about him — about Christ the God-Man, not only about the Logos. Therefore, a direct and literal understanding of the Scriptures is insufficient and even wrong. For history itself is only a symbol which appears and covers spiritual reality. The same also applies to the liturgy, where every action is a mystery, which symbolically signifies and realizes definite events in the invisible “mind-comprehended” plan. Therefore, understanding the Scriptures literally and directly is like murdering Christ, who resides under the letter of the Scriptures. And it is belated Judaism — indeed, the “letter” of the Law is abolished with the arrival of truth and grace. Literalism in exegesis is Judaistic insensitivity to the Incarnation. For, on the whole, the Scriptures are a kind of Incarnation of the Logos. This is the “sense, the force of all meaning and images of the Scriptures, and the cognition of visible and invisible creatures.” The wise fathers who were anointed by the Spirit learn directly from the Logos. From the Logos also come the spiritual illuminations of the ancient patriarchs and all the saints. Thus St. Maximus partly revives the ancient idea of the “seeds of the Logos.”
St. Maximus’ whole doctrine about the knowledge of God is essentially Christocentric. First, the whole problem of knowledge is to recognize the realized God-Man as the basic theme of created existence and life. Second, knowledge itself is possible only because God the Logos descends in certain cognitive images, as a forewarning of his pre-willed Incarnation. Man is created in God’s image, and therefore the truth is in man’s image.