Maximus the Confessor

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Maximus the Confessor

 

Born circa 580 in Constantinople; died Aug. 13, 662, in Lazica. Byzantine thinker and theologian.

Active in government in his youth, Maximus became a monk in 613 or 614. In 642 he became known as a leading opponent of the Monothelites, who were supported by the government. He was victorious in a dispute with the Monothelites in Carthage in 645; in 653 he was arrested; in 662 his tongue and right hand were cut off. He died in exile.

The philosophical views of Maximus the Confessor are colored by the strong influence of Aristotle, Neoplatonism, and, above all, the Areopagite, in the dissemination of whose works Maximus played a decisive role. The problem of man is at the center of Maximus the Confessor’s philosophical and theological thought. He divided the history of the world into two periods— the preparation for the incarnation of god, which ended with the birth of Christ, and the preparation for the deification of man. If man overcomes his self-alienation—brought on by original sin and the division into masculine and feminine and spiritual and animal—then the cosmos will be saved and creation will be reunited with the creator. For this reason, the main events in the life of Christ are at the same time symbols of cosmic processes. The ethics of Maximus are based on an original doctrine about the transformation of the energy of evil emotions into good emotions and includes subtle psychological observations. His ideas exerted a strong influence on Johannes Scotus Erigena and medieval mysticism.

WORKS

In J. P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus ser. graeca, vols. 90-91. Paris, 1860.

REFERENCES

Epifanovich, S. L. Prepodobnyi Maksim Ispovednik i vizantiiskoe bogoslovie. Kiev, 1915.
Epifanovich, S. L. Materialy k izucheniiu zhizni i tvorenii prepodobnogo Maksima Ispovednika. Kiev, 1917.
Balthasar, H. U. von. Kosmische Liturgie: Das Weltbild Maximus des Bekenners, 2nd ed. Einsiedeln, 1961.
Thunberg, L. Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor. Copenhagen, 1965.

S. S. AVERINTSEV

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