Ambigua I

by Andrea Elizabeth

When I say that I find St. Maximus verbally freeing and inspiring I mean that he tends, though not previously when I read his 400 Chapters on Love because I wasn’t ready to detach from the world, not that I am now, he tends to launch me like a bigger person launches a smaller person from their knees in a swimming pool. What the person does after that is up to them as they can choose their trajectory. That analogy falls short however in that I do not presume that St. Maximus is intentionally launching me or wants any association with what happens. The little voice I like to listen to tells me he does though. Let me tell you what else this little voice says.

“I am not St. Maximus. I am your beloved teacher with whom you can converse.”

So, Dear Teacher, let me tell you a thing or two. Firstly, I like that the Letters to John, written first but contained in Volume 2, are to his Spiritual Father. Imagine that, the Spiritual Father is asking the questions to his son! Awesome. I am arrogant enough to think myself above you too. But I’ll also say that my arrogance is that of a one and a half year old who runs away from her father knowing that he will chase her. She runs into a strange dark room and giggles unafraid with full confidence that she has so much power over him that he will let no harm will come to her. That is my confidence in you, Dear Teacher. You will follow me and keep me safe! So here we go. Volume 1 is

The second set of “difficulties,” which is now found at the beginning of the Ambigua (Amb 1-5), deals with four difficult passages from Gregory the Theologian (Amb 1-4) and one from Dionysios the Areopagite (Amb 5). Addressed to a certain Thomas, these “difficulties” are believed to have been written around 634, when Maximos was being drawn into a controversy concerning the activities (or “energies”) in Christ. A work of sophisticated theological reflection on the person of the incarnate Word, the Ambigua to Thomas focuses on passages from Gregory’s two Theological Orations “on the Son” (Orr. 29-30) and on a christological phrase from the writings of Dionysios. Both the wording and the interpretation of this phrase were fiercely contested, and Maximos’s task is to establish the Orthodox reading (“a certain new theandric energy”) against its misconstrual by the Monophysites (“one theandric energy”). Ambiguum I, which deals with the problem of “motion” in God, might seem unrelated to these questions, but it provides the general background for Maximos’s subsequent remarks on activity and motion in Christ. Maximos was to become the most prominent dyothelite theologian of the seventh century. His doctrine of Christ, which is the culmination of centuries of patristic thought on the mystery of God incarnate, has been amply studied and need not be repeated here.

again from Fr. Maximos’s, aka Nicholas Constas, Introduction.

Now that I’ve gotten to the first Ambiguum, Dear Teacher/Father, who is not Fr. Maximos either, but since you already understand everything perfectly, let me just say without reminding you of the text that isn’t it fun that St. Maximos assumes the Monarchy of the Father. This of course brings up the question of the freedom of the Son. Noteworthy point: “constituted by a Trinity that is equal in honor by nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ‘whose wealth is their identity of nature and the single manifestation of their splendor,’ [St. Gregory’s Oration] and whose ‘divinity is neither poured out beyond these three, lest we introduce a multitude of gods, nor bounded within them, lest we be condemned for poverty in divinity.'”

Three in one, one in three, movement is ours within as we gain “knowledge – through illumination – of its existence and how it subsists, manifested to those who are able to receive it.” Thus ends Ambigua 1.

Since Divinity is poured out to the Son and Holy Spirit, then perhaps freedom is a component of Divinity. It is really weird to think about freedom as a gift because if One has power over your freedom, then this freedom doesn’t seem truly free. The fact that he doesn’t take it back is a matter of his will, which we have faith in to stay true. How freedom exists within providence has been much discussed and is more concerned with us than the Son, I think, notwithstanding our sharing of the Son’s human nature.

Ragnar said something interesting last night. “I did not grant you freedom, I only said you could come and go as you pleased.” ?