Balthasar: Máximo — Conteúdo
domingo 31 de julho de 2022
What makes Maximus a genius is that he was able to reach inside, and open up to each other, five or six intellectual worlds that seemingly had lost all contact; he was able to bring out of each a light that illumined all the rest, leading to new connections that gave rise, in turn, to unexpected similarities and relationships. He was a contemplative biblical theologian, a philosopher of Aristotelian training, a mystic in the great Neoplatonic tradition of Gregory of Nyssa and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, an enthusiastic theologian of the Word along the lines of Origen , a strict monk of the Evagrian tradition, and—finally and before all else—a man of the Church, who fought and who gave his life in witness for the orthodox Christology of Chalcedon and for a Church centered in Rome.
1. It would be a mistake to choose one of these intellectual worlds as the real one and to judge the rest by its standard. At best one can say this: inasmuch as Pseudo-Dionysius was historically the last and most comprehensive theological and spiritual phenomenon before Maximus, and insofar as he includes essential elements of his predecessors (Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Evagrius ) in his own drought, in a way that both corrects and surpasses them, his insight can be accorded a certain preeminence in Maximus’ intellectual ancestry. His ecstatic vision of a holy universe, flowing forth, wave upon wave, from the unfathomable depths of God , whose center lies always beyond the creature’s reach; his vision of a creation that realizes itself in ever more distant echoes, until it finally ebbs away at the borders of nothingness, yet which is held together, unified, and “brought home”, step by step, through the ascending unities of an awestruck love; his vision of a world dancing in the festal celebration of liturgical adoration, a single organism made up of inviolable ranks of heavenly spirits and ecclesial offices, all circling round the brilliant darkness of the central mystery—aware of the unspeakable nearness of their Source in all its radiant generosity, yet equally aware of the ever-greater distance of the “superessential”, “super-inconceivable” One: this vision of reality, with something both intoxicating and religiously sober in its sacred, liturgical rhythm, could be found in such purity neither in Alexandria nor in Cappadocia, let alone in the austere deserts of Egypt or the earthy classrooms of Antioch! Yet what could be better suited for a thinker of late antiquity, struggling for an inclusive grasp of the whole, to use as the frame and the golden background for his picture of the universe? There is a panoramic sense of creation here: produced, surely, from the erupting volcano of Origen’s thought, embodying Gregory of Nyssa’s Faust-like drive toward infinity, Gregory Nazianzen’s autumnal reserve, Basil’s thorough-going balance, Proems’ cosmic sense, and showing clear affinity for late Byzantium’s love of liturgical display in the grand style. It is a bolt of lightning that discloses, in a single flash, the overwhelming contemporaneity of all realms of being, down to the very elements of matter themselves—of their layers and interconnections, their approaches to, and descents from, the invisible peak of all things—revealing a picture of stability and majestic peace such as has never been glimpsed before in Christendom. Gregory of Nyssa’s dynamic insight—inspired by the Stoics—into the evolution of all things, step by step, from the primeval potency, is turned here into a picture of a reality that radiates outward, flows downward from above. [...]
Or in the image of John of Scythopolis, Pseudo-Dionysius’ first commentator:
Through the higher orders, which stand nearer God, the lower orders participate in the divine gifts of grace, like the overflowing basins of a fountain: the basins closest to the source fill first with what is poured into them, then they overflow and pour out their contents into the lower basins, in proportion to the number of vessels and to their size, whether small or large.
From the lofty heights of this vision, the dissonances in the world melt away into harmony for Maximus, too. “Whatever exists, has being according to a perfect law and cannot receive a better being.” If one wishes to conceive and describe this harmony, one’s knowledge must possess, in the highest degree, that joyous calm that expresses the peace of this contemplative intuition.
The first concern must, then, not be to speak as others speak, but to conceive of the word of truth with understanding and exactitude. . . . It is not a matter of refuting the opinions of others, but of presenting one’s own; not a matter of contesting some aspect of the teaching or behavior of others that seems not to be good, but of writing on behalf of truth.
If one has glimpsed the enormous cosmic game for even a moment, one knows that the tiny life of an individual person, with all its serious concerns, is only a receding figure in the dance.
We ourselves, controlled by the imperious program of our present nature, are conceived and born like the other beasts of the earth, then become children, and finally are led from youth to the wrinkles of age, like a flower that only lives for a moment, dies , and gives rise to new life; truly, we deserve to be called God’s playthings.
The Areopagite’s sense of the world—of existence as liturgical event, as adoration, as celebratory service, as hidden but holy dance—this is the golden background of Maximus’ mental picture of creation.
2. But if Maximus is “a mystic like Dionysius”, he is surely “a mystic who is also a metaphysician, an ascetic who has reached, through his familiarity with Aristotelian philosophy, a consistency and precision of thought that one looks for in vain in the works of the Areopagite.” This statement of a French patristic scholar grasps the real difference between the master and his interpreter and marks the second level in Maximus’ thought. What comes explicitly from Proclus and Plotinus in the work of Pseudo-Dionysius, what gives him his Neoplatonic coloring, Maximus has abandoned. He has noticed the questionable points of the system; with unquestionable discretion, he transforms the Dionysian system of emanations into the framework of an ecclesial metaphysic. His philosophical education, his study of post-Chalcedonian Christology, not only developed his taste for a conceptual exactness approaching the style of geometric theorems—a compression that, since Photius, has often been unjustly taken for obscurity and verbosity, whereas it is in fact the result of an almost exaggerated precision. It also gave him the means for overcoming the “emanationism” of Pseudo-Dionysius: the Aristotelian and Stoic conception of the concrete universal (ϰαθόλου), which is, ultimately, also proper to Neoplatonism. In place of a merely temporary world, made for dissolution, such as is suggested in Origen and even—gently—in Pseudo-Dionysius by the Neoplatonic rhythm of the divine being’s radiation and return, diastole and systole, Maximus envisages a naturally lasting cosmos as the supporting ground for all supernatural divinization. His sense of the dignity of natural being gives Maximus the key to the decisive objection that can be made against Origenism.
If we allow souls to exist before their bodies, and see the reason for their union with bodies as a punishment for some guilt incurred as bodiless beings before their birth, then we run the greatest danger of seeing this unique miracle, the sensible world, where God lets himself be known by wordless proclamation, as simply the result of sin.
Maximus can be considered the most world-affirming thinker of all the Greek Fathers; in his basically positive attitude toward nature he goes even beyond Gregory of Nyssa. While Origen considers Scripture as alone supremely normative, Maximus accepts also the natural world, contemplated in the light of revelation, as a source of wisdom. Perfect knowledge—the knowledge of the believing Christian and even the knowledge of the mystic—is gleaned from both “books” together. The “contemplation of nature” (θεωϱία ϕυσιϰή) and of the structures of meaning (λόγοι ) hidden within it, structures that are part of every single being, becomes for Maximus a necessary step, a kind of initiation, into the knowledge of God. This contemplation does not even stop at the stars: they, too, are astrological signs of decisive events. “The stars in the heavens are like the letters in a book. Through both, people find access to knowledge of things as they are. Through letters, they remember words and meanings; through the stars, they come to know the ‘signs of the times’ in an equally legible script.” The wise person stands in the midst of the world’s realities as in an inexhaustible treasury of knowledge. No being leaves him untouched; everything provides food for his intellectual nourishment.
3. But Maximus is no worldly philosopher. From the court of the Emperor Heraclius, where he held a prestigious office, he fled across the Bosporus into a monastery. By profession, he was a monk and an ascetic. He does not contemplate the world for contemplation’s sake, but because it serves as a ladder, a hoist to higher intellectual insight. He is uncompromisingly determined to reclaim the original meaning of monasticism as the “philosophic life” (ϕιλοσοϕεῑν), and monasticism is always, in the life of the Church, a “return to the sources”. In searching for these sources, he could not avoid coming into contact with Origen and his most dedicated disciple, Evagrius Ponticus. Viller has demonstrated the strong influence of this philosophical monk on Maximus’ spiritual doctrine. The practical side of his ascetical teaching, like its theoretical and mystical side, largely depends on the intellectual models and principles of the Egyptian desert hermits. From that source comes his concern for the “realization” of theoretical knowledge, for the preservation of what one has learned in living virtues, for the transformation of a merely contemplative embrace of all things into a living, concrete love.
Yes, Maximus’ insistence on the ultimate interpenetration of contemplation and action begins with Evagrius; but it goes beyond him. From Evagrius, too, comes his relentlessly sober austerity, his freedom from illusion concerning the ability of the sensible world to seduce us through the eight principal vices; in his ability to describe and unmask these with psychological depth, Maximus is fully the equal of his master. If his first Dionysian trademark is an ability to play weightlessly before God, and his second an Aristotelian ability to contemplate the world, the third trademark of Maximus must be identified as a calm freedom from all the passions that cloud or weigh down or tear apart the mind, in order to rob it of its freedom and self-possession. This calm is also his mode of entry into the mystery of God, which stands beyond the world. Only the spirit that has become pure and simple can encounter the transcendent One; the soul that has fully emptied itself, that “has no song to sing”, becomes the place of revelation, the abode of the infinite God. Right through the middle, then, of the Dionysian, Aristotelian picture of a self-contained, hierarchically ordered universe cuts—straight as an arrow—the Alexandrian way of ascending from the sensible to the intellectual and ultimately to the divine world; it brings to Maximus’ conception of reality the axis that holds it together and that makes its movement possible.
4. To give Maximus’ three-dimensional conception of the world an unmistakable originality and unity, a fourth ingredient was needed: his polemic against the great heresies of the time, Monophysitism and Monothelitism. This polemic dominated the second half of his life and work and brought about his death as confessor of the faith. It shaped his theological attitudes to their very depths: he did not die simply for a formula, after all, but for the heart of the world. The key word of the Chalcedonian formula is the seed from which his understanding of reality could and did develop: ἀσυγχύτως, “without confusion”.
Only here was the latent pantheism of the ancient Alexandrian Christology—an element foreign to the spirit of both the Bible and classical Greece—finally expelled. The newness of the Christian message of salvation looked for expression first in ecstatic categories, suggesting a “mixture” between divinity and humanity: a union like that of two fluids blending with each other, or better—to use the image of Gregory of Nyssa—like a drop of vinegar being dissolved in the sea. Only when such language began to be exploited by heresy did the Church come to realize—as Theodore of Mopsuestia was first to realize—that ϰϱᾱσις, mixture, was far from the most perfect and intimate kind of union. From the moment that Chalcedon, in its sober and holy wisdom, elevated the adverbs “indivisibly” (ἀδιαιϱέτως) and “unconfusedly” (ἀσυγχύτως) to a dogmatic formula, the image of a reciprocal indwelling of two distinct poles of being replaced the image of mixture. This mutual ontological presence (πεϱιχώϱησις) not only preserves the being particular to each element, to the divine and the human natures, but also brings each of them to its perfection in their very difference, even enhancing that difference. Love, which is the highest level of union, only takes root in the growing independence of the lovers ; the union between God and the world reveals, in the very nearness it creates between these two poles of being, the ever-greater difference between created being and the essentially incomparable God.
Maximus defended the formula of Chalcedon, even with his blood, out of a deep insight into this difference. He knew that Christ , whom he was defending, was incomparably more unified and unifying than the Christ of the Monophysites, with his single nature. The unity of his hypostasis , his concrete and individual “Person”, possesses its two natures both ontologically and in full spiritual freedom; by that very fact, it is far more sublime than any natural union one might imagine. This theological insight had a fruitful effect on the whole history of metaphysics. Alongside the “Porphyrian tree”, which tried to arrange and elucidate all existent being in the categories of “essence” (οὑσία), as genus, species, specific difference, and individual (ἄτομον εἶδος ), new possibilities now began to open up for ontological reflection. These new “categories”, which could not be reduced to the dimensions of essential characteristics, point at once in the direction of the “existential” and the “personal”. Both of these are implied in the new terms that came to be used: ὕπαϱξις (existence) and ὑπόστασις (concrete, individual being). These are words from everyday speech, less than perfectly clear around the edges, which now groped to find a home and an exact meaning in the field of abstract thought. Maximus, who saw the words “being” (εἶναι ) and “essence” (οὑσία), on the one hand, and “personal being” (ὑπόστασις) and “existence” (ὕπαϱξις), on the other, as closely related, was surely far from proposing the neoscholastic “real distinction” [between essence and existence]. Still, with the appearance of a new emphasis on existence and person, alongside the classical Greek concern with essence (οὑσία), an important step had been taken in the direction of an ontology of created being. One thing is certain: that when Maximus makes ontological distinctions, he sheds a much more phenomenological light on the beings he discusses than do many of the empty distinctions of the sixth century. It requires, surely, a delicate ear for the overtones and variations of new or changing terminology to establish the exact point this philosophical development has reached in the work of Maximus. But perhaps his stage of development is more fruitful, philosophically, than the clean complacency of finished neoscholastic distinctions, which run the danger of hacking off the living sprouts of being and of destroying the mystery of a polarity that can never be seen in anything like a single, final vision.
It is enough for our purposes here simply to indicate the connection between being and person that is expressed in the word hypostasis. In the work of the Cappadocians, even to some degree in Plotinus, something akin to existential and personal thinking had begun to take shape. But the existential element there appeared as something purely negative: amid the collapse of every concept of essence and of the order of ideas as a whole, the complete otherness of being shone through clearly. With Maximus, the outlines of a positive view of existence begin to appear. Certainly, it would have fallen apart had it not had the Cappadocians’ corrective by its side—an emphasis Maximus found, in its strongest form, in the works of the Areopagite. Only to the degree that we pay attention to the reciprocity of both spheres, the mystical-negative and the conceptual-positive, do we approach the living central point of Maximus’ thought. The direction in which this point must he has already been indicated. The notion of existing “without confusion” (ἀσυγχύτως) will allow the Greek genius for clarity, precisely in this kind of reflection, to achieve a final triumph, while the notion of “individual being” (ὑπόστασις), as the contribution of Christian theology, will become, in its intellectually highest form, the necessary condition of that triumph. In the sphere of a Christian philosophy of person and existence, the clarity of the Greek grasp of the world of being was to find its final fulfillment .
Maximo o Confessor reuniu o que estava dividido ou se fragmentando nas relações de Oriente e Ocidente, não "superficialmente" mas organicamente, "com profundidade real".
- não se deve ver nele um compilador, ou um veículo de diferentes "fontes", ou alguém que soube combinar Evagrio, Gregorio de Nazianzo e Dionisio Areopagita.
- não se trata de um reservatório onde se reuniram filosofias gregas, neoplatonismo, Gregorio de Nissa, Dionisio Areopagita e Origenes, mas de uma mente livre em sua capacidade de mudar perspectivas, vendo estas tradições de vários pontos de vista, possibilitando novos modos de expressá-las, em níveis ainda mais profundos.
O que faz de Maximo o Confessor um gênio é sua capacidade de aprofundamento e abertura de mundos intelectuais que começavam a se perder, iluminando novas conexões, similaridades e relacionamentos.
- um teólogo contemplativo bíblico, um filósofo aristotélico, um místico na tradição neoplatônica, um teólogo entusiasta do Verbo nas linhas de Origenes, um monge na tradição de Evagrio, e mais que tudo um homem da Igreja , dando sua vida pela ortodoxia da Calcedônia e por uma Igreja centrada em Roma.
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