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Category: St. Gregory Nazianzus

Theological Poetry

by Andrea Elizabeth

So much radiance has the Trinity revealed to my eyes,

from the wings and the veil within the divine temple,

beneath which God’s royal nature lies hid. And if something extra is

for the angelic choirs, let the Trinity know what this extra is.

from On God and Man by St. Gregory Nazianzus, whom we commemorate today.

On to Cappadocia

by Andrea Elizabeth

The Cave Churches of Cappadocia also induce complicated emotions with their unexpected prolific iconography which stand as a tribute to the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Basil the Great, his brother St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus. The sad part is that these also have since been marred, according to this site, by superstitious locals afraid of the evil eye. How could holy people”s eyes be evil? Others blame crusaders, iconoclastic Muslims, and people wanting to reuse the paint.

Here are some of son Jared’s pics.

On Palm Sunday he got a palm and a blessing from His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew.

The Nature of the Holy Spirit

by Andrea Elizabeth

Other descriptions of the Holy Spirit include “Breath, the Pneuma, who gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection. The Logos appears as order and intelligibility, the Pneuma as dynamism and life.” (Olivier Clément, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, p. 63)

St. Iraenaeus of Lyons in Against Heresies states, “In all the Spirit; and he is the living water given by the Lord to those who believe in him…” (TRoCM p. 63)

Gregory Nazianzen speaks of the Trinity as the unmoving movement of the One who neither remains imprisoned in his own solitude, nor spreads himself indefinitely; for God is communion, not impersonal diffusion. The very fullness of the One demands the presence in him of the Other; an Other who in absolute terms can only be within the One and equal to him in infinity. But these two are not opposed or combined in any mathematical way. For the Third, who is Other but not Other, enables the fullness of Unity to contain unending diversity without opposition; absolute differentiation coexists with absolute unity. (p. 62, 63)

The Father is the source of deity:

The divine essence, the godhead, ‘God’, does not exist otherwise than in the Persons. The source of the godhead, the sole origin of the Son and of the Spirit is the Father. The early Church hardly ever spoke of ‘God’ in general, a God in whom the Persons could then be distinguished. It spoke of the Father, for ‘the name Father is greater even than that of God’. The ocean of the divine essence springs from  the fathomless depths of a Person, the Father. Yet through Christ we can, in the Holy Spirit, call him Abba, the word of trust and tenderness by which a small child calls his father. So the apophatic antinomy is also the paradox of the Father as Origin in unfathomed depths, and the Father as Abba, ‘Daddy’.

but not in the subordinationist sense:

In practice, the fact that the Father is the ‘origin’ of the Trinity does not imply any superiority or domination for his own advantage. As Christ will ’empty himself’ on the cross, so the Father ’empties himself’ for the benefit of the Son, to whom he gives all that he has and all that he is – the fullness of the divine unity – and on whom he causes his Spirit to rest, the Spirit by whom they love each other and find joy together. ‘Spiritual fatherhood’ after the likeness of the divine Fatherhood is sacrificial and liberating; it imparts the spirit of life and liberty. (p. 68)

Clément is very strong on emphasizing the Spirit’s sourcehood in the Father, but gives this nod to the west regarding the economic sending of the Spirit by the Son. By the way I note on the back cover that “Olivier Clément is one of the foremost Orthodox theologians of the day. He teaches at the Institute of St. Sergius at Paris and is a member of the Ecumenical Institute founded by L’Institut Catholique.”

At Pentecost the Father gives the Spirit ‘in the name of the Son’. And the Spirit is the ‘Spirit of the Son’, the ‘Spirit of Christ’. The Christian West has insisted on this basic truth. It has contemplated the ‘movement’ of the divine ‘consubstantiality’, the movement of love in the Trinity, going from Father to Son, then from Father and Son to the Holy Spirit who imparts it to us. However, St. Augustine says that if the Spirit comes from the Son as well as the Father, (in Latin Filioque) he comes prinipaliter from the Father who remains the sole origin of the other divine Persons. (p. 70)

One last observation, which I agree with and find a little confusing if it’s not true, is that the Spirit seems similar to the divine energies:

In God the Holy Spirit is almost anonymous (since God is entirely Spirit, entirely Holy). He is almost confused with the unmoving movement of love in the divine nature, with the divine ‘common nature’, as St. Basil says. He is revealed as rich, ‘variegated’ with all the divine names, and so almost indistinguishable from the divine energies that he imparts to us, in our inmost depths. It is as if he were effacing himself.

When I think of the profusion of the names of the Spirit I am seized with dread: Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of Adoption. He renews us in baptism and resurrection. He blows where he wills. Source of light and life, he makes of me a temple, he makes me divine… Everything that God does is done by the Spirit. He multiplies himself in tongues of fire and he multiplies his gifts, he raises up preachers, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers … He is another Comforter … as if he were another God.

Gregory Nazianzen Fifth Theological Oration

The Spirit is the hidden God, the inward God, deeper than our greatest depth. He gives life to all things and we breathe him without being aware of it. He is the breath of God in the breathing of the world, of humanity. (p. 73)

The Personhood of the Holy Spirit

by Andrea Elizabeth

It seems that there has been some development of statements (I wont say Tradition) about the Holy Spirit. The Creed was expanded to say that He proceeds from the Father and is worshiped and glorified with the Father and the Son, but still does not go into the same detail as it does the Son. Rublev’s icon of the Trinity, or the Hospitality of Abraham, portrays the Holy Spirit as being as much of a person as the Father and the Son. There are more vague statements made of Him however. Olivier Clement includes these:

The very name of Christ is a Trinitarian name: Christos, Messiah, means ‘anointed’ with the Messianic unction. Now the Father is the one who from all eternity ‘anoints’ the Son by causing the Spirit to rest on him, or rather in him, as an unction, the ‘oil of gladness’ of the psalm, because the Spirit is the joy of the divine communion.

To name Christ is to confess the whole, for it is to point to God (the Father, the ‘principle’ of the godhead) who has anointed the Son; and to the Son who has been anointed, and to the unction itself, which is the Spirit. This accords with Peter’s teaching in Acts: ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 10:38) and with the teaching of Isaiah: ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me’ (Isaiah 61:1), The Psalmist simply says, ‘Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness’ (Psalm 45:7).

Basil of Caesarea On the Holy Spirit, 12 ( The Roots of Christian Mysticism p. 59)

This next passage makes Him sound more like a Person, but yet seems to set Him apart (not a good word, but the distinction seems more) from the Father and the Son.

That God is, and that he is everywhere and fills the universe, is known by the angels and the saints who have purified themselves, because they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit. But where, how, and what he is, not one amongst all beings knows: only the Father knows the Son and the Son the Father, and the Holy Spirit knows the Father and the Son, since he is co-eternal and identical with them in essence. Indeed these Three who are only One know themselves, and are known by one another. As he himself said who is by nature God and Son of God, ‘Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of a person which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God’ (1 Cor. 2:11). And again: ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matthew 11.27).

Diadochus of Photike Catechesis, 5

The following hymn, rising at once to the mystery of the divine cosmic Logos, glorifies in a single sequence the Father as the principle of the godhead, and the Spirit as the ‘bond of the Son and the Father’. [Synesius of Cyrene Hymns, 5] But this bond is himself a Person; nothing in God can be impersonal.  (p. 59,60)

[…] The Old Testament has manifested the Father clearly, the Son only dimly. The New Testament has revealed the Son and implied the divinity of the Spirit.

Today the Spirit lives amongst us and makes himself more clearly known. It would actually have been dangerous openly to proclaim the Son while the divinity of the Father was not fully acknowledged, and then, before the divinity of the Son was accepted, to add as it were the extra burden of the Holy Spirit … It was more fitting that by adding a little at a time and, as David says, by ascending from glory to glory, the splendour of the Trinity should shine forth progressively.

Gregory Nazianzen Fifth Theological Oration, 31, 26 (p. 61)

Here’s a new explanation of the Spirit,

The Trinitarian revelation is implicit also in the prayer which Christ himself taught us, the Lord’s Prayer, of which the first three petitions invoke the three divine Persons. For the Son is the Father’s eternal name, which he hallowed to the point of death on a cross. And the Kingdom is identified with the Spirit, who is therefore both the unction of the Son and the Kingdom of the Father, as Paul Florensky observed.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come.

By these words the Lord is teaching those who pray to begin with the very mystery of God … The words of the prayer really point to the Father, the Father’s name, and the Kingdom, to teach us … to honour, to call upon and to adore the One Trinity. For the name of God the Father, in its essential subsistence, is the only-begotted Son. And the Kingdom of God the Father, is the essential subsistence, is the Holy Spirit. For what Matthew calls ‘Kingdom’ another evangelist calls Holy Spirit: ‘Thy Spirit come…’ (Luke 11.2 variant reading).

Maximus the Confessor Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer (p.62)

Naming the Unnameable

by Andrea Elizabeth

After listening to Aaron’s suggested Climacus Conference clip, St. John Climacus, Poetry, and the Rhetoric of Life, I find myself paying more attention to David Wright’s Canons of Rhetoric when reading Olivier Clément’s The Roots of Christian Mysticism. First the Canons which Aaron also talked about:

Inventio – coming up with information. Discovery. Gathering material and forming a position or argument.

Dispositio – arrangement, ordering

Elocutio – expressing what you’ve ordered in the most appropriate manner – style:  E.B. white’s Elements of Style – with wisdom, with grace. Naming.

Now Clément’s example:

The true way to approach the mystery is in the first place celebration, celebration by the whole cosmos. According to the Fathers, the fall impaired the capacity of creatures to see the divine light, but did not destroy it. The universal aspiration towards God has, it is true, become a ‘groaning’, a ‘sigh of creation’, but it is still prayer, which is the essential activity of all created things; ‘Everything that exists prays to thee’. The inexhaustible nature of transcendence is expressed in the profusion of creatures. The universe is the first Bible. Each being manifests the creative word which gives it its identity and attracts it. Each being manifests a dynamic idea, something willed by God. Ultimately each thing is a created name of him who cannot be named.

O thou who are beyond all,
How canst thou be called by another name?
What hymn can sing of thee?
No name describes thee.
What mind can grasp thee?
Non intellect conceives thee.
Thou only art inexpressible;
All that is spoken comes forth from thee.
Thou only art unknowable;
All that is thought comes forth from thee.
All creatures praise thee,
Those that speak and those that are dumb.
All creatures bow down before thee,
Those that can think and those that have no power of thought,
The universal longing, the groaning of creation tends towards thee.
Everything that exists prays to thee
And to thee every creature that can read thy universe
Sends up a hymn of silence.
In thee alone all things dwell.
With a single impulse all things find their goal in thee.
Thou art the purpose of every creature.
Thou art unique.
Thou art each one and art not any.
Thou art not a single creature nor art thou the sum of creatures;
All names are thine; how shall I address thee,
Who alone cannot be named?…
Have mercy, O thou, the Beyond All’
How canst thou be called by any other name?

Gregory Nazianzen Dogmatic Poems (TRoCM p. 27,28)

A Surprising Link

by Andrea Elizabeth

Who would have thought Elizabeth Barrett Browning read the poems of the Greek Fathers?

EDITOR’S NOTE:The series of papers on the Greek Christian Poets (from which the following translations are excerpted) appeared first in the -Athenaeum- between the months of February and August, 1842. They were reprinted along with a second series of papers on the English poets — contributed to the same periodical — in a small separate volume, two years after Mrs. Browning’s death. (The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, London. Chapman and Hall, 1863.)

As a mere girl, Miss Barrett had read the Greek Fathers in the original, under the guidance of the blind scholar, Hugh Stewart Boyd, who was deeply versed in them and could repeat from memory pages of their works both in prose and verse. A playful allusion to his especial enthusiasm for Saint Gregory Nazianzen occurs in Mrs. Browning’s poem ‘Wine of Cyprus’, which was dedicated to Mr. Boyd:

“Do you mind that deed of Ate
Which you bound me to so fast,
Reading “-De Virginitate-“,
From the first line to the last?
How I said, at the ending solemn,
As I turned and looked at you,
That Saint Simeon on that column,
Had had somewhat less to do?”

From Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Translations from the Greek Christian Poets

St. Gregory Nazianzen:

Where are my winged words? Dissolved in air.
Where is my flower of youth? All withered. Where
My glory? Vanished. Where the strength I knew
From comely limbs? Disease hath changed it too,
And bent them. Where the riches and the lands?
GOD HATH THEM! Yea, and sinners’ snatching hands
Have grudged the rest. Where is my father, mother,
And where my blessed sister, my sweet brother?
Gone to the grave! — There did remain for me
Alone my fatherland, till destiny,
Malignly stirring a black tempest, drove
My foot from that last rest. And now I rove
Estranged and desolate a foreign shore,
And drag my mournful life and age all hoar
Throneless and cityless, and childless save
This father-care for children, which I have,
Living from day to day on wandering feet.
Where shall I cast this body? What will greet
My sorrows with an end? What gentle ground
And hospitable grave will wrap me round?
Who last my dying eyelids stoop to close–
Some saint, the Saviour’s friend? or one of those
Who do not know Him? The air interpose,
And scatter these words too.

Who am I to talk?

by Andrea Elizabeth

There’s a children’s joke about a big mouth frog who goes around asking people, while opening his mouth extra wide as he talks, “Hi, I’m a big mouth frog, who are you and what do you eat?” to various animals. Then he comes to an alligator who responds, “big mouth frogs”, “oh” said the big mouth frog tersely with very pursed lips. I feel like the big mouth frog after reading this section from Orthodox Psychotherapy, page 31:

Only those who have passed from praxis to theoria, from purification to illumination, can speak about God. And when is this? “It is when we are free from all external defilement or disturbance, and when that which rules within us is not confused with vexation or erring images.” Therefore (Saint Gregory Nanzianzen) advises: “For it is necessary to be truly at ease to know God”.

Neilos the Ascetic links theology with prayer, principally with noetic prayer. We know very well from the teaching of the Holy Fathers that anyone who has acquired the grace of prayer of the heart has entered the first stages of the vision of God, for this type of prayer is a form of theoria. Therefore all who pray with the nous have communion with God, and this communion is man’s spiritual knowledge of God.

“On God’s Preservation and Integration of the Universe”

by Andrea Elizabeth

From Ad Thalassium 2 translated in “On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ” by St. Maximus the Confessor:

Q. If the Creator made all the forms which fill out the world in six days (Gen 1:31-2:2), what is the Father doing henceforth? For the Savior says, My Father is working even now, just as I am working (Jn 5:17). Is he therefore speaking of a preservation of what he had once created?

R. God, as he alone knew how, completed the primary principles of creatures and the universal essences of beings once for all. Yet he is still at work, not only preserving these creatures in their very existence but effecting the formation, progress, and sustenance of the individual parts that are potential within them. Even now in his providence he is bringing about the assimilation of particulars to universals until he might unite creatures’ own voluntary inclination to the more universal natural principle of rational being through the movement of these particular creatures toward well-being, and make them harmonious and self-moving in relation to one another and to the whole universe. [notes: Here, in effect, is a brief encapsulation of Maximus’ entire christocentric cosmology: the binding of all particular beings in their individual modes of existence, and with their peculiar drives and volition, to the universal whole as manifested in the (Greek word, maybe logoi) of all created things. On the divine providence pervading the cosmos, see Ambigua 10. In Maximus’ vision God will graciously raise his creatures from being to well-being, and beyond this to “eternal well-being” as he sometimes says. On the broader philosophical parameters of Maximus’ cosmology, see Torstein Tollefsen, The Christocentric Cosmology of Maximus the Confessor: a Study of His Metaphysical Principles. (maybe I will)] In this way there shall be no intentional divergence between universals and particulars [notes: Envisioning the activity of the cosmos as a whole, Maximus presupposes here, as elsewhere, that the overcoming of “intentional divergence”, the self-centered deliberative movement of creatures, will be requisite to the restoration of all things to the Creator.] Rather, one and the same principle shall be observable throughout the universe, admitting of no differentiation by the individual modes according to which created beings are predicated, and displaying the grace of God effective to deify the universe. [notes: Such is a most important reminder that Maximus projects not only the deification of human beings but of the universe as a whole: a cosmic transfiguration, where, commenting on Gregory Nanzianzen’s celebrated phrase that the “natures are innovated” in the Incarnation, Maximus explains in depth how Christ the Logos harmonizes and transfigures the whole creation by uniting in himself the logoi of universals and particulars.] It is on the basis of this grace that the divine Logos, when he became man said, My Father is working even now, and I am working. The Father approves this work, the Son properly carries it out, and the Holy Spirit essentially completes both the Father’s approval of it all and the Son’s execution of it [notes: This kind of trinitarian amplification is found in Maximus’s predecessor St. Gregory Nazianzen, and has parallels elsewhere in his own writings], in order that the God in Trinity might be through all and in all things (Eph. 4:6), contemplated as a whole reality proportionately in each individual creature as it is deemed worthy by grace, and in the universe altogether, just as the soul naturally indwells both the whole of the body and each individual part without diminishing itself.

“Even now in his providence he is bringing about the assimilation of particulars to universals until he might unite creatures’ own voluntary inclination to the more universal natural principle of rational being through the movement of these particular creatures toward well-being, and make them harmonious and self-moving in relation to one another and to the whole universe” This is the second time today that the word “voluntary” has come up. On Energetic Procession and in Wikipedia it is distinguished from free will.

It is a mystery to me how God is at work to make me self-moving. If this is by grace, then perhaps grace is different than the Holy Spirit, though He is everywhere present and fills all things. There’s an article in Death to the World that I’ll try to find about a Saint who had a vision of “heaven” where beings were independently moving and did not talk to each other but this was because they already knew.

He altered the means of procreation

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have often heard the Ezekiel passage addressed below by St. Maximus to support Total Depravity. A pitiful state to be sure, but Orthodox believe it is remedied by Christ’s redemption of all human nature, not just that of a few. But what about these words on procreation which were introduced in a previous passage in an earlier post?

[Christ] by undergoing a human birth, in order to liberate us from the bonds of that birth; and furthermore from the law of growth whereby, because of our punishment for sin, we multiply with seed almost like the grass of the field; and further still from having a common mode of procreative birth with plants and reasoning animals. Let us quote Ezekiel…who instructs us in the reason for the current economy of human salvation, when he says to Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord: “Your root and your beginning are of the land of Canaan. Your Father was an Amorite and your mother a Chettite. On the day you were born, you did not tie your umbilical cord, and you were not washed in water; nor were you salted with salt or wrapped in swaddling clothes…You were cast out upon the face of the field because of the deformity of your soul on the day you were born. And I passed by you and saw that you were defiled with your own blood, and I said to you, ‘Let there be life from out of your blood. Multiply, for I have granted you to be like grass sprung from the filed'” (Ezek 16:3-7). Therefore the Lord came to liberate our nature by redeeming it from being condemned to procreating through seed like the grass of the field, and from depending on blood for our life like the rest of the animals, and by returning our nature to the primordial grace of incorruptibility. He came to make plain to our nature the very beauty for which it was created in the beginning and in which it was thoroughly secure. He came to trample the wickedness into which, through deceit, our nature unnaturally fell at the instant it was created (first time I’ve heard that), thus depleting its whole potential. He came to bind himself the faculty of desire (of which the umbilical cord is a symbol), that it might take on procreative disposition fixed and unalterable in the good; he came to wash it in water, or in other words, to cleanse it of the taints of ignorance by washing it in the ocean of knowledge bestowed by grace; he came to salt it with salt, and to wrap it in swaddling clothes, that is, to render its natural operation steadfast by the Spirit in the good for which it was created, and thereby to cleanse it of the decay of the passions, to inoculate it against them, and to bring it fully to completion by securing it in the swaddling clothes, as it were, of the principles of created beings.

In other words, “He did not cease to do all things until He had brought us up to heaven” – the Divine Liturgy

St. Maximus’ explanation of altering our means of procreation sounds like as a result of the fall, we were born without our Physician, cut off from our mother even, in a field as it were. Christ found us in our mess, cut the cord, cleaned and securely swaddled us. If the umbilical cord represents our dependence and desire for creation without God, our passions, then I’m wondering about His choice to not attach it to Himself, maybe I’m taking the symbol too far, but to seal it closed. Perhaps this has to do with letting us keep our passible free will until through testing, trial, perseverance, obedience, struggle, and suffering for communal food and oxygen we attain in reality and experience His impassibility in mature security. This way we learn to abide and walk in Him who is ever present and fills all things. To God be the glory for creating us beautiful and restoring us to health.

“On How the Creator Brings Order out of the Chaos of Bodily Existence”

by Andrea Elizabeth

Carrying on with the theme of inherent vs. fallen matter and it’s union with the soul, from Ambiguum 8,

From Gregory’s same Oration, “So long as matter bears with it chaos, as in a flowing stream…” [notes say “But whether the affliction they suffer comes from God is not clear so long as matter carries with it chaos, as in a flowing stream.” Maximus sees this statement, like the one under discussion in Amb. 7, as fitting into a larger explanation of how the evils associated with bodily existence have come about, not as punishment for the sins of pre-incarnate souls, but as the result of the origins of material instability and corporeal mutability within God’s providential economy. In the background is the vexed question, already addressed by Gregory of Nyssa and taken up once again by Maximus of how such instability and mutability could be only an effect stemming from Adam’s sin in paradise and not somehow an antecedent cause of that sin. Was Adam not a passable being before he lapsed? Did he at first dwell in a state of virtuous impassibility? (Polycarp Sherwood)]

Having devoted as much of his discourse as possible to those infatuated with matter and the body, Gregory adds these statements so that whoever examines the saint’s intention with proper piety (me: note how individual standing affects interpretation) can interpret it as follows. Man came into being adorned with the God-given beauty of incorruptibility and immortality, but having preferred the shame of the material nature around him over spiritual beauty, (me: materialism) and in addition wholly forgotten the eminent dignity of his soul-or rather the God who beautified the soul with divine form-he plucked a “fruit” which, according to the divine decree that wisely administers our salvation, was worthy of the deliberative will, thus reaping not only bodily corruption and death, and the liability and propensity to every passion, but also the instability and inequality of external and material being, and the capacity and proneness for undergoing change.

Possib(ly) from the beginning God, in his foreknowledge, formed the soul in the aforesaid way (blended our soul together with our body) because he foresaw the ocming transgression, so that by suffering and experiencing evil on its own, the soul would come to an awareness of itself and its proper dignity, and even gladly embrace detachment with respect to the body.

I suppose that “detachment” is at first necessary in our sinful state to reorder our motivations. When we are in sin, our body is in control to the detriment of our soul. So the soul, not liking to be in a sorry state, has to say ‘wait a minute’ and then tell what the body to do.

For the all-wise Provider of our life allows what we do by our own impulses to be used, quite naturally and frequently, for our correction. In the case of us who frantically deal with our impulsive acts amid the confusion and the disorder of which those acts are both an object and a cause, our Provider guides the irrational love which, in the meantime, we have directed toward present diversions, back to that which is beloved by nature. [notes: the conversion of irrational love, the soul’s natural desire, to the true Good, is a familiar theme to the Cappadocian Fathers and in Maximus himself, as is the notion of the soul being converted, as it were, to its own inherent beauty, the image of God.] For there are three general ways by which, they say for our instruction, our passions are healed. Through each of the three (me: I think they will be listed in the next chapter), God renders a healing treatment of the self-directing evil vexation of the passions, as he wisely sets the chaos of matter in good order (Jacob, I’m skipping the Greek words!), according to the better plan which transcends us and leads toward the beneficial outcome that God himself knows.

Gregory is therefore advising those who think of nothing beyond this present life that they not put their confidence in bodily health and in the course of affairs that “bears” [their material life] along as in a “flowing stream”, nor exalt themselves at athe expense of those who lack these things, so long as the present life endures and they embrace its corruption, to which is related both mutability and change; and so long as there is uncertainty that something will happen to them arising from both the inequality and disordered state of their body and their external affairs. this is what Gregory means, I think, by saying “so long as matter bears with it chaos…” instead of “so long as this whole realm is subject to corruption and change.” It is his way of saying that we are clothed in the body of humiliation, and likewise we are subject to the manifold evils that arise from it because of its inherent weakness; and rather than magnifying ourselves over others in view of the inequality all around us, we should by prudent consideration even out of the disparity of our nature, which in its own right is equal in honor, by filling others’ deficiencies with our own abundances. [notes: Maximus has gleaned from Gregory Nanzianzen a corrective response (to Origen) Bodily inequality (and mutability) is rather a fact of material life, an evidence of the latent chaos of material creation out of which God is workin, in the lives of the virtuous, to bring about a blessed orderliness, a gracious equality. The virtuous must, then, actively engage in the ministry of “equalizing” both by their own internal discipline of their bodily passions, and by their extraverted acts on behalf of those who are even more severly challenged by bodily infirmity or by the “chaos” of the passions. Our “abundances”-embodied, paradoxically it seems, in our own acts of humility-help reconcile their “deficiencies.”

So his premise is that the soul has retained the divine image, though marred by sin originating in the body. But since the divine image resides in the soul, even though it permeates the body, it is the soul which must wake up and seek correction. I find it interesting how he brings out inequality – I believe in the soul’s goodness over the body’s undisciplined nature, introversion – with those around us, men and matter, and how we are to seek to regain order in ourselves as well as our environment. By the way, I started a compost pile today.