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Balthasar: Máximo — analogia

domingo 31 de julho de 2022


The theme, then, that will be with us throughout this study is the reciprocal relationship of God  ’s transcendence and God’s immanence; from this relationship it follows that God is so completely identical with himself that he is able to form all the things that participate in him both into integral units marked off from each other by mutual dissimilarity and into a whole built out of the mutual similarity of the parts.

In that he always remains unchanged, by his own nature, and admits of no alienation from himself through change—neither a more nor a less—yet he still is all things to all, through the boundless abundance of his goodness: lowly with lowly creatures, exalted with the exalted, and the substance of Divinity for those whom he makes divine.

He is like a gentle wind, which stirs through all things, imperceptible in himself yet perceived in each different creature. Elijah felt him as a light breeze, “for all feel the wind’s breath: it goes   through all things and is not hindered or captured by any of them.”

For who could really understand or explain how God is completely in all things as a whole and is particularly in each individual thing yet neither has parts nor can be divided; how he is not multiplied in a variety of ways through the countless differences of things that exist and which he dwells in as the source of their being; how he is not made uniform through the special character of the unity that exists in things; how he offers no obstacle to the differences in created essences through the one, unifying totality of them all but truly is all in all things, without ever abandoning his own undivided   simplicity?

This, surely, was the inconceivable mystery of the divine peace that Dionysius had celebrated and that Maximus now outlined in a sharper, more philosophical way. It is the mystery of a supreme, self-contained simplicity, fully coexisting with the twofold, incomprehensible, and irreversible self-opening of this unity to both the world as a whole and the world in all its particulars. Whenever they seem about to fall on each other in open hostility, the opposing forces of the world always return, in the end, to the form of unity: the individual to the totality, and vice versa. But the unity of God cannot be fully grasped, either in the pole of a particularizing individualism or in that of a faceless totalitarianism, that melts all particularity down. Within the world, unity is only visible as the “fluidity of love”, as the inconclusive, incomprehensible convergence of opposites. This is the way Pseudo-Dionysius   had described our longing desire for God: as the melting of the individual to a fluid state and, at the same time, as the solidification of what, in that individual, is irreplaceable and particular. In the world, there is always a polarity between “participators and the participated, but that is not so in God”. Yet this polarity that binds active and passive together and forces both of them into a reciprocal giving and taking, this inner movement, is the underlying rhythm of being in the world and is therefore also the precise place where God is present, where his incomparable otherness appears.All created being “moves completely or else is moved, causes or is caused, contemplates or is contemplated, speaks or is spoken, . . . acts or is acted upon”. In this state of their being formed for each other, in their relatedness (σχέσις), Maximus sees the basic characteristic of all the things that exist in the world. It is not as if passivity were produced in some way by a principle opposed to God, as ancient Greek and Gnostic thought imagined—not as if it flowed out of nothingness, out of some kind of original matter that formed the underlying stuff of the world; it is also not as if beings in the world come closer to God to the degree that they lay this passivity aside and are taken up into the pure act which God is. Rather, the very passivity of creatures comes from God, is inseparably tied to their createdness, and is not pure imperfection because even being different from God is a way of imitating him. So to the degree that the creature comes closer to its own perfection, its passivity is also made perfect; and its perfection is the pure state of “undergoing God” (παθεῖν αὐτό  ν—that is, τὸν Θεόν), a state in which, as we will see, its “activity” is also perfected.

So God reveals himself as equally superior to the more “passive” material world and the more “active” intellectual world, regardless of the fact that the mind   reflects him more brightly than does matter. His being is “absolutely inaccessible, equally so (ϰατὰ τὸ ἴσον) to visible and to invisible creation”. The “difference between uncreated and created nature is infinite (ἄπειϱον)” and grows ever greater and less controllable. This is reflected in the fact that the perfection of the creature can only be expressed, in the paradox of its complete “disappearance” before God (as the stars disappear before the sun  ), a process that implies at the same time its full establishment as a creature and even its “co-appearance with God”.

God’s immanent name, then, is the name Being; his transcendent name is the name Not-being, in that he is not any of those things we can speak of as being. The second of these names is more proper to him, since such negation means a reference to God as he is in himself, while an affirmation only refers to him in his activity outside of himself. This is not contradicted by the fact that Maximus, along with the tradition   reaching from Philo   to Gregory of Nyssa  , says we can only know God’s existence—know that he is—not his essence, or what he is. For this “being” of God has not, in itself, any conceptual content; it lacks even the notion of concrete immediacy implied by “existence” in the created sense  . Thus affirmation and denial do not contradict each other here:

Negation and affirmation, which stand in opposition to each other, are happily blended when it comes to God and come to each other’s aid. The negative statements that indicate that the Divine is not “something”—or better, that tell us which “something” is not God—unite with the affirmative statements whose purpose is to say what this Being, which is not what has been indicated, really is. On the other hand, the affirmative statements only indicate that the Divine is, not what it is, and so are closely tied with the negative statements whose purpose is to say what this Being is not. So long as they are simply taken in relation to each other, then, they show the opposition we call antithesis   (ἐξ ἀντιθέσεως); but when they are referred to God, they show their intrinsic interdependence in the fact that these two poles mutually condition each other (τῷ εἰς ἄλληλα τῶν ἄϰϱων ϰατὰ πεϱίπτωσιν τϱόπῳ τὴν οἰϰειότητα).

This linguistic shell game reveals, in fact, that our words only describe our creaturely efforts to speak of God and so cannot bring the One who is utterly other into our field of vision. Even negative language, which in itself—without the anchoring of affirmation—only points into the void, does not directly lead toward the transcendent God. He lies far beyond both modes of knowing.

He who is and who will be all things to all—and who exercises this role precisely through the things that are and that will come to be—is in himself no part of the realm of things that are and come to be, in any way, at any time, nor shall he become so, because he can never be categorized as part of any natural   order of beings. As a consequence of his existence beyond being, he is more properly spoken of in terms of not-being. For since it is indispensable for us to recognize the difference, in truth, between God and creatures, the affirmation of what is above being must be the negation of all in the realm of things that are, just as the affirmation of existing things must be a negation of what is above being. Both of these ways of speaking must, in their proper sense, be applicable to him, yet on the other hand neither of them—being or not being—can be applicable in a proper sense. Both are applicable in their own way, in that the one statement affirms God’s being as the cause of the being of things, while the other denies it because it lies, as cause, so infinitely beyond all caused being; on the other hand, neither is properly applicable, because neither way of speaking presents us with the real identity of what we are looking for, in its essence and nature. For if something cannot be identified as either being or not being in terms of its natural origin, it clearly cannot be connected either with what is, and what is therefore the subject of language, or with what is not, and what is therefore not the subject of language. Such a reality has a simple and unknown mode of existence, inaccessible to all minds and unsearchable in every way, exalted beyond all affirmation and denial.

The point of all this dialectic is first and foremost to make clear that no neutral, common “concept” of Being can span the realities of both God and creature; the analogy of an ever-greater dissimilarity stands in the way, preventing all conceptualization of the fact and the way they are. So the “not” cannot be bracketed away from “being” for the briefest instant of our reflection: if one were to try and hide it even for a moment when considering the essence of the creature, it would immediately appear, with commanding force, on the side of God. Of course, this dialectic of being and not-being preserves its life and color   only as long as we are reflecting on the relationship of God to the world—relationships of nearness and distance, of immanence and transcendence. As soon as the thinker tries to detach himself from these relationships and to project himself into the realm of the Absolute, everything becomes gray, every tangible shape melts away.

Dialectical movement does not grasp God. It must simply limit itself to the statement of opposites: in one and the same moment, God “goes forth out of himself and remains within himself”. And even this is simply a statement about the relation of the world to God, for God only “goes forth” and “moves” in that he causes motion, God “remains in himself” only in that he causes stable identity.

God is the one who scatters the seeds of agapē (charity) and eros   (yearning), for he has brought these things that were within him outside himself in the act of creation. That is why we read, “God is love”, and in the Song of Songs he is called agapē, and also “sweetness” and “desire”, which are what eros means. For he is the one who is truly loveable and desirable. Because this loving desire has flowed out of him, he—its creator—is said to be himself in love; but insofar as he is himself the one who is truly loveable and desirable, he moves everything that looks toward him and that possesses, in its own way, the power of yearning.

Insofar as it is both eros and agapē, the divine mystery is in motion; insofar as it is loved and longed for, it moves all that is capable of eros and agapē toward itself. To put it more clearly, the divine mystery is in motion insofar as it endows beings capable of longing and love with an inner share in its own life; on the other hand, it moves other beings insofar as it stimulates the longing of what is moved toward it, by means of its very nature. Or again: God moves and is moved, thirsting that others may thirst for him, longing to be longed for, loving to be loved.

This dialectic of motion and rest teaches us no more than the dialectic of being and not-being. It simply brings us, once again, back to the focal point of this polarity within creaturely existence, where the creature’s precise difference from God and his precise similarity with God stand inseparably linked. For in the path of historical existence He both the creature’s powerlessness and his vitality. This is the ultimate reason why there is, in Maximus’ ontology, no absolute affirmation or negation and why the “superessential light” remains a “dark radiance”.