St. Maximus on Being

From St. Maximus the Confessor:

God as absolute existence, goodness, and wisdom (or rather, to speak more properly, as transcending all these things) has no contrary quality whatever. But creatures, because they all have existence, and rational and intelligent ones their aptitude for goodness and wisdom by participation and grace, do have contrary qualities. To existence is opposed nonexistence, to the aptitude for goodness and wisdom is opposed vice and ignorance. For them to exist forever or not to exist is in the power of their maker. To share in his goodness or wisdom or not to share depends on the will of rational beings.

When the Greek philosophers affirm that the substance of beings coexisted eternally with God and that they received only their individual qualities from him, they say that there is nothing contrary to substance but that opposition is found only in the qualities. We maintain, however, that the divine substance alone has no contrary because it is eternal and infinite and bestows eternity on the other substances; furthermore that nonbeing is the contrary of the substance of beings and that their eternal being or nonbeing lies in the power of the one who properly is being, ‘and his gifts are not subject to revision.’ And therefore it both always is and will be sustained by his all-powerful might even though it has nonbeing as its opposite, as was said, since it was brought into being from nonbeing by God and whether it has being or nonbeing depends on his will.

Just as evil is the privation of good and ignorance that of knowledge, so is nonbeing the privation of being–but not of being properly so called, for it has no contrary–but of true being by participation. Privations of the former depend on the will of creatures; privations of the latter depend on the will of the Creator, who out of goodness ever wills his creatures to exist and receive benefits from him.

(Four Hundred Chapters on Love 3.27-29)

Weekly Miscellany I

Introduction and disclaimer to the series: Weekly Miscellany

In the spirit of the title of this blog, I intend to use the space afforded me as a kind of sanctuary for unhurried meditations which I will post weekly. These meditations may be short or lengthy depending on the week. They will probably not be very organized, most of the time, and may vacillate between incoherence and simplicity. They will not be driven by argument or trying to prove a point; if anyone would wish to raise questions or disagreements in the comments, I will read and gladly respond, but probably not allow myself to be sucked into debate, because this is intended to embody a slow process of learning and fermenting ideas, and I do not have time or energy for too much debate too often. This is merely an externalization of internal thought processes, as well as an eclectic chronicle of weekly aesthetic and intellectual stimuli. I am hopeful that this will force me to express my thoughts more often by lifting from my conscience the compulsion for everything to be perfectly ordered and lucid, as well as make explicit and preserve to me some of the jumble of connections that form a part of transient life experience. Whether or not anyone chooses to read occasionally or frequently is extraneous, though there might be coincidental benefit through exposing the reader to ideas or associations not previously within his or her scope of experience.

Christ have mercy upon us.

Weekly Miscellany I,

November 4-10, 2013

Key scriptures under contemplation

Exodus 12-14

The basic Christological significance of the Passover lamb is so obvious and so well known that I will not attempt to elaborate on it here. However, I would like to briefly expand this typological scope to other aspects of the story, to the ransom pattern visible. When the Israelites leave, they have plundered the treasures of Egypt, as Christ plundered the treasures of death, and they bring Joseph’s bones, for Christ has redeemed the dead and the living. Moreover, the firstborn, specially redeemed from death by blood, are now consecrated to God; they have not been merely “set free,” but they are bound and made holy. The descent to death has resulted in a glorious arising; the dying of the seed has yielded rich harvest.

Hans Urs von Balthasar equates orthopraxy with “theo-drama,” in which we are each called to play a unique part, but also one that follows the basic typological structure of redemption: “Death turns into life, and this is something that also takes place in our hearts so that, drawn into the action, they can look toward that center in which all things are transformed” (16-17). There is a certain narrative structure of descent and arising that characterizes redemption; it is the arc between creation and deification, between the activity of God and the union of the divine and the created, mediated most fully in the Godman, Christ, and consequently by the God-imaged priesthood of man. The destructive forces unleashed by Adam on the world are themselves destroyed in death, in the death of baptism, in the daily dying to self that takes place in regenerate man, and finally in the physical death that brings renewal.

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