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St. Maximus the Confessor: Providence

September 13, 2011

On God’s preservation and the Integration of the Universe


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 bethrough 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.”


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One Comment
  1. Canadian permalink

    Maximus makes salvation in Christ look so beautiful. This is the beauty that I sought in Supralapsarian Calvinism (a supposed lofty view of God) but did not find.
    The question and the first couple lines of the answer seem to reveal Maximus’ did not subscribe to evolution.

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