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Balthasar (LC): Máximo — exegese

domingo 20 de março de 2022



Maximus must have had a good philosophical training, but we know nothing about it. It must have given him the ability to read the characteristic works of sixth-century scholastic Christology with critical perception. To name the most important authors of that school, we should mention John the Grammarian, Severus’ opponent, and John of Scythopolis, both of whom began to develop the Neo-Chalcedonian approach [to Christology] before 520; Leontius of Byzantium, who flourished about 540; Leontius of Jerusalem  , writing before 552; Theodore of Raïthu, whose Proparaskeuē38 appeared around the middle of the century; that mature work known as the De sectis, which appeared after 580; from about 600, the so-called Panoplia of Pamphilus; and finally, dating from about 650, the anthology called the Doctrina Patrum, which may be by Anastasius of Sinai and which includes excerpts from Maximus. The polemical dogmatic opuscula of the Confessor belong in this series of writings, too, although they move in a completely different direction—making distinctions only to let the mystery as a whole shine out more brightly, laboring constantly forward in the service of a spirituality. If the spiritual and mystical suggestiveness, the intellectual fruit, of a distinction is not immediately perceptible, in Maximus’ work it soon becomes so.

This would not be possible if his philosophical analysis   were not grounded in meditation on Holy Scripture. Maximus has been called unscriptural, but Scripture is the background and the presupposition for all that he does, to a wholly different degree than in the one-sided scholastic theology or spiritual works of the sixth century. The Confessor’s first major work is his set of answers to the questions of his friend Thalassius on passages in the Holy Scriptures. Maximus offers these answers from the fullness both of the exegetical and spiritual tradition   and of his own personal meditation. It should not be surprising that he is not an exegete in the style of the fifth-century Antiochenes; in any case, he knows his way around in the Alexandrian and Cappadocian style of spiritual exposition. Besides the Quaestiones ad Thalassium, Maximus wrote other exegetical works: a commentary on the Song of Songs and another on Ecclesiastes, both of which were apparently combined with commentaries by Gregory of Nyssa   and Nilus of Ancyra into a Catena of the Three Fathers, which later was edited and enlarged by Michael Psellos and others. We also possess a fragment of a commentary on the Apocalypse attributed to Maximus. That he knew not only how to soar in the heights of allegory   but also—like Origen  —how to descend into the glens of historical detail is proved by his Computus ecclesiasticus, from which a “succinct chronology of the life of Christ  ” was later drawn. Other exegetical works of Maximus are the Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, the Exposition of Psalm 59, the Quaestiones et Dubia (answering other questions, mainly on passages in Scripture), and the short work addressed To Theopemptus.

A passage from the report of his trial illustrates well   Maximus’ attitude to the Scriptures. Bishop Theodosius [the imperial representative] suggests to him, on the subject of the two wills in Christ, that it would be better to stick to the “simple words” of Scripture (ἁπᾱς ϕωνὰς δέξασθαι), without entering into elaborate speculations. Maximus answers:

In saying this, you are introducing new rules for exegesis  , foreign to the Church’s tradition. If one may not delve into the sayings of Scripture and the Fathers with a speculative mind  , the whole Bible   falls apart, Old and New Testament alike. We hear, for instance, what David   says: “Blessed are they who study his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart” (Ps 119:2); this means that no one can seek and find God   without penetrating study. Again he says, “Give me understanding, that I may study your law, and then may keep it with my whole heart” (Ps 119:34); for speculative study leads to a knowledge of the law, and knowledge arouses love and longing and brings it about that those who are worthy can keep the law in their hearts by observing its holy commands. Again he says, “Wonderful are your testimonies; therefore my soul studies them” (Ps 119:129). Do not the Proverbs demand that we mull over their parables and riddles and dark sayings? Does not the Lord, who speaks in parables, insist that the disciples should understand them, by explaining their meaning himself? Does he not himself command, “Search in the Scriptures!” (Jn   5:39)? And what does Peter, the chief of apostles, mean when he teaches us that “The prophets have searched and reflected about salvation” (1 Pet 1:10)? What does the divine Apostle Paul mean, when he says, “If the gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are being destroyed, whose spiritual eyes the God of this world has blinded, so that the light   of the knowledge of Christ might not enter them” (2 Cor 4:3)? It seems you want us to become like the Jews, who have filled their minds with the “simple words” of the Bible—in other words, with the letter of Scripture alone—as if it were so much rubbish, and so have fallen away from the truth  ; they carry a covering over their hearts, so as not to see that “the Lord is Spirit  ” (2 Cor 3:17), hidden within the letter, and that he says, “The letter kills, it is the Spirit that gives life!” (2 Cor 3:6). You may be sure, reverend sir, that I will never accept some concept from Scripture if I have not really understood its meaning. I will not openly behave like a Jew.

This passage says more than enough. It entitles us to assume that the theological act of meditating on Scripture, which for Maximus had again become one with the act of spiritual or mystical contemplation, served as the vehicle and medium   of all his thought. Hans-Georg Beck has rightly observed that dogmatic theology and the spiritual ascent to God, according to Maximus, offer each other “no opposition. And what is correct in his view, dogmatically and spiritually, is nothing else than the fruit of a deepened understanding of the Bible.” If we still possessed his commentaries on the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes—the same books Gregory of Nyssa had chosen to interpret—we would doubtless find there a confirmation of how much the ultimate encounter of God and the creature in Christ—that meeting point of our knowledge of God in himself (θεολογία) and our experience of God in history (οἰϰονομία)—was for Maximus, not a problem of knowledge, of gnosis  , so much as one of Christian love and longing, of eros  ; for that reason, mystical instruction, at its best, provides a wonderful theological witness. In the genuine tradition of Origen (and going beyond Pseudo-Dionysius   in this respect), Maximus speaks of the “holy tent of love”, hidden in the depths of God, where the “awe-inspiring mystery of union is celebrated beyond the limits of mind and word, a mystery in which God becomes one flesh   and one spirit with the Church, which represents the soul  —and the Church with him. O Christ, I stand amazed by your goodness.” In the same sense  , he interprets the meeting of lips in the liturgical kiss as pointing to the “growth together” in love of the Logos  , who is the mouth   of God, and the soul that responds to his word.

Maximus’ whole philosophical undertaking [with regard to Christology and soteriology], which we have described, stands in service of this highest synthesis  , which is purely biblical; its function is to prevent the creature, understood in its essential identity, from being overwhelmed and dazzled in this loving encounter with God, openly or implicitly, to such a degree that it is reduced merely to the level of an “appearance”. By preserving the metaphysical rights of humanity—in the human nature of Christ and in the ordinary human person—Maximus provides the support for man’s right to grace, as well. That is the reason for his sharp rejection of the temptations of Monophysitism and Monothelitism, for his critique of the background assumptions of Origenism, for the acceptance of and new emphasis on created reality as defended by Pseudo-Dionysius. Only such a metaphysic lays a foundation deep enough to bear an all-inclusive synthesis and strong enough to let different elements of Eastern spirituality be added to the structure without endangering either its cohesion or its meaning. These additional elements had, in the process, to be “retrained”—to be elevated to the higher level of a free encounter, in grace, with the God of the Bible. In the seventh century, at least, this would no longer have been possible without the powerful intermediary role of philosophy, as well as of a theology that worked with clear concepts. Syntheses between East and West based simply on a similarity of “spiritualities” or “mystical experiences” could not be achieved even then—how much less so today! So we must judge any program as inadequate that tries simply to let India and Europe encounter each other at the halfway-station of Byzantine hesychasm, in the practice of the Jesus prayer and of certain bodily positions and breathing exercises—all ways in which Eastern Christianity reorientalized itself after the period of the great synthesis. Less adequate still are all attempts to introduce Indian and East Asian practices into the life of the Christian Church without any philosophical or theological justification. In the face   of such naïveté—which never leads to the gaining of what is foreign but only to the loss of what is one’s own—Maximus’ example must serve as our inspiration: the ultimate and highest degree of reconciliation occurs only within the active range of clear, discerning, and decisive intelligence. The power of thought is the force that transforms the world.

tradução parcial

Questionado em seu julgamento  , sobre a necessidade   de se ater as "palavras simples" das Escrituras sem entrar em especulações elaboradas, Máximo respondeu:

Assim afirmando, se estão introduzindo novas regras para exegese, estranhas à tradição da Igreja  . Se não se pode lidar com os ditos das Escrituras e dos Padres sem uma mente   especulativa, toda a Bíblia cai por terra  , tanto o Velho como o Novo Testamento. Ouvimos, por exemplo, o que Davi diz: Bem-aventurados os que guardam os seus testemunhos, que o buscam de todo o coração   (Salmos 119:2); isto quer dizer que ninguém pode buscar e achar Deus sem um estudo aprofundado. Diz ainda: Dá-me entendimento, para que eu guarde a tua lei, e a observe de todo o meu coração (Salmos 119:34); pois o estudo especulativo conduz ao conhecimento da lei, e o conhecimento (gnosis) eleva o amor (agape) e o desejo (epithymetikon  ) e faz com que aqueles que são merecedores podem manter a lei em seus corações (kardia) pela observação   de seus santos mandamentos. Diz ainda: Maravilhosos são os teus testemunhos, por isso a minha alma os guarda   (Salmos 119:129). Os Provérbios também não demandam que meditemos suas parábolas e enigmas e ditos obscuros? O Senhor que falou em parábolas (vide Parabolas), insiste que os discípulos deveriam entendê-las, explicando seus significados ele próprio  ? Não comanda ele: "Examinais as Escrituras... (João 5:39)? E o que Pedro  , o chefe dos apóstolos quer dizer quando ensina que: Desta salvação   (soteria) inquiririam e indagaram diligentemente os profetas que profetizaram da graça   (kharis) que para vós era destinada (1Pe 1:10)? O que o divino   Paulo Apostolo - Apóstolo Paulo   quer dizer, quando diz: Mas, se ainda o nosso evangelho está encoberto  , é naqueles que se perdem que está encoberto, nos quais o deus deste século cegou os entendimentos dos incrédulos, para que lhes não resplandeça a luz (phos) do evangelho da glória de Cristo, o qual é a imagem (eikon  ) de Deus (2Co 4:3)? Parece que os senhores desejam que nos tornemos como os Judeus  , com as mentes cheias de "palavras simples" da Bíblia - em outras termos, somente com a letra   das Escrituras - como se fossem tanto lixo, e assim foi que se afastaram da verdade; portam uma coberta sobre seus corações, de modo a não verem que o "Senhor é Espírito  " (2Cor 3:17), oculto sobre a letra, e que afirma: a letra mata, mas o espírito vivifica (2Co 3:6)! Podem estar certos, senhores, nunca aceitarei algum conceito das Escrituras se não tiver compreendido seu significado. Não me comportarei abertamente como um Judeu. PG 90. 149A-D