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Balthasar (LC): Máximo — síntese

domingo 31 de julho de 2022


In the course of this investigation, we will keep encountering texts that speak of the hidden immanence of the pre-incarnate Word (Logos  ) in all the intelligible structures (logoi   λόγοι) of the world. For example, Maximus says that the natural   law, the written law, and the law of Christ   are one and the same and that anyone who breaks any one of them sins personally against Christ and will be judged by him. Although the hesychastic tradition   in Byzantine spirituality was to practice the constant awareness   of Jesus in a way that was ultimately mechanical, Maximus—bringing Origen  ’s Logos-theology to its fulfillment  —laid hold of all the human powers, theoretical as well   as practical, speculative as well as spiritual and mystical, powers of thought as well as those of prayer, in order to find Christ in all things and to find the triune God   in him.

This is why he begins “from below”, in the philosophical and structural foreshadowings of the final synthesis  . For Maximus, the reality of this synthesis is best conceived by the image of a right angle, in which two lines meet:

There are a variety of angles a divinely fortified mind   can use to build its towers. One kind of angle, found   in the realm of nature, is the synthesis of a particular with a universal   being within one identical conception of substance or of the act of being: for instance, the synthesis of individuals in the species to which they belong, or of species in a genus, or of genera in their common being. All of these come together in the same way because their poles are finite, yet these universal meanings are discovered in particular individuals in such a way that the various elements form, in their very coming together, a whole variety of different intellectual “angles”. Another synthesis is that of sensible   reality and mind, of earth and heaven, of what appears and what is known to be, of nature and idea  . On all of this, the contemplating mind, using its inherited ability to form true intelligible explanations of every object, wisely raises a mental   tower that incorporates all these angles: from these syntheses, that is, it forms an overall theory of synthesis itself.

In this most general of intellectual laws, Maximus discovers the truth behind the ancient Gnostic theory of paired beings, or syzygies  : “By syzygy, I mean the [synthesis] of theoretical and practical reason, of wisdom and prudence, of contemplation and action, of knowledge and virtue, of immediate vision and faith.” Despite its extraordinary character, the christological synthesis is so far from being an exception that it finds confirmation of a sort in the most general laws of being. Why should we not affirm it, he asks, “since we know such a number of syntheses in which the poles are united inseparably without undergoing the slightest change or transformation toward each other”? Maximus phrases this “most general law of being” as follows:

Every whole—especially every whole that is formed from the synthesis of various elements—even as it preserves its own individual identity in a consistent way, also continues to bear in itself the unmixed difference of the parts that make it up, including even the essential, authentic character and role of each member in its relation to the others. On the other hand, the parts—for all their undiminished continuity in their own natural role within the synthetic relationship—preserve the unitary identity of the whole, which gives them a hypostatic condition of complete indivisibility.

The mystery of the presence of a whole in its parts, from whose synthesis it comes to be, is not, for Maximus, simply the object of disinterested contemplation. For him it is the direct way to God: “[Think of] multiplicity in number and unity in kind: coins, pieces of silver, obols, for instance, whose unity is one of kind—of copper or gold or silver. Or of a multiplicity of kinds of organisms—grasses, for example—and unity in species: all are grass. Multiplicity in species: horse, cow, human being, intellectual being; unity of genus: all are living creatures. Multiplicity in the product: creatures; unity in the source: God is the cause of all.”

And there is more. If the members of a synthesis differ from each other only within unity, then God himself is, in the end, the highest synthesis, In which all differences are both formed and dissolved. “He alone is the thought of the thinker and the content of the thought, the word of the speaker and the meaning spoken, the life of the living and the core of life itself.” If the members [of a synthesis] only have contact with each other through the unity of the whole that arches over all of them, creatures, as such, can only be open to each other through their transcendental identity in the unity of God, This is a negative identity, in that all of them have their origin in nothing and have as their one common quality the fact that none of them is God. But it is also a positive identity, in that the one Creator keeps them in being, one might say, through his relationship to them. Maximus expresses this relationship in a mighty paragraph that takes the natural synthesis of the world in God as the starting point for describing the synthesis achieved in salvation history: the unity of all men and women in the Church. Here it is the first part of the comparison that is relevant for our point:

God created all things with his limitless power, brought them into being, holds them there and gathers them together and sets boundaries to them; in his providence, he links them all—intellectual beings as well as sensible—to each other as he does to himself. In his might, God draws up all the things that are naturally distinct from each other and binds them to himself as their cause, their origin and goal; and through the power of this relationship to him as source, he lets them also be drawn toward each other. This is the power through which every being is brought to its own indestructible, unconfused identity, both in activity and in being. No being can permanently isolate itself through its own particularity or through the drive of its nature toward some other end; rather, everything remains, in its very being, bound without confusion to everything else, through the single, enduring relationship of all to their one and only source. This supreme power overshadows the individual relationships that are to be seen in every individual nature, not in a way that corrupts or eradicates or terminates them, but in order to dominate and illuminate them as the whole does its parts—or better, in order to reveal itself also as the cause of the whole of things, thanks to which both the whole and the parts of the whole are revealed and come to be, while the power itself remains the radiant cause of them all. Just as the sun   outshines the reality and the luminous activity of the stars, so the ultimate ground of being conceals the being of creatures: for as the parts come to be from the whole, so created things come to be from their cause and are recognized in its light, and if they are totally possessed by their movement toward this cause, through the power of the relationship itself, then they tend to cease from their own individual being. For God, who is “all in all” and infinitely exalted over all, is recognized by the pure of heart as the sole ultimate One, at the moment when their minds gather the intelligible meanings of all things together in contemplation, and grow quiet before God as the beginning and cause and end of the world’s being, the undivided   root and ground that embraces all things. In this same way, the holy Church of God, made in God’s image, reveals the same mystery to us and brings it to reality.

Here, in the end, is the inconceivable fecundity of this divine unity: on the one hand, it is the cause of the unity of all things and of their respective differences; it makes each of them an image of the divine unity and uniqueness; it is the basis of what is most personal and immediate in each of them. On the other hand, this divine unity is, in itself, the overflowing unity and root identity of these individuals, the source of their community and their loving communion. This paradox of a synthesis that unites creatures by distinguishing them and distinguishes them by uniting them—a paradox that can be found throughout the whole edifice of the universe—takes its origin in the most original relation of all things: their relation to God. Maximus writes:

The law of him who willed this unity, the law that inheres in all things as unifying power and rule, is simply this: it does not permit the individual character of either part of the unity of a person to be banished into obscurity by the natural difference between them, nor does it allow the particularity that stamps each part to lead to an overemphasis of their difference and individuality, to the detriment of the mysterious relationship naturally inherent in them that lovingly moves them toward unity. The heart of this relationship is that there is one universal presence (παϱουσία) of the cause of all that is, secretly and unrecognizably binding all things together, yet dwelling in each being in a different way; this presence holds the individual parts of the whole together, in itself and in each other, unconfused and inseparable, and allows them, through this very relationship of creative unity, to live more for each other than for themselves.

[...] When Maximus describes this union, one almost thinks one is hearing Thomas himself:
We are not permitted to say that grace alone brings about, in the saints, insight   into the divine mysteries without any contribution from their natural capacity to receive knowledge. Otherwise we would have to assume that the holy prophets could not receive and comprehend the enlightenments that the Holy Spirit   bestowed on them. . . . On the other hand, they did not come upon a true insight into reality simply through the investigations of natural reason, without the grace of the Holy Spirit. . . . The point is that the grace of the Holy Spirit does not bring about wisdom in the saints without the receptivity of their intelligence, does not give knowledge without their ability to grasp the Word, does not give faith without stability of mind and the confident readiness to face   the still-unrevealed future in hope, does not bestow the gift of healing, without a natural love for other people; nor does he give any charism at all without a capacity and a potentiality for effectiveness appropriate to each particular grace. On the other hand, man cannot attain any of the things I have mentioned by his own natural powers, without the divine power that provides them as gifts.
All the saints show this when, after receiving their revelations, they try to clarify for themselves the meaning of what has been revealed. . . . They try to reveal revelation to themselves. For the grace of the Holy Spirit never destroys the capabilities of nature. Just the opposite: it makes nature, which has been weakened by unnatural habit, mature and strong enough once again to function in a natural way and leads it upward toward insight into the divine.
For what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us is a true knowledge of things; not as if he were seeking this for himself—he is, after all, as God, far above all knowledge—but he seeks it for us, who have need of such illumination. So also the Word became flesh  , not for himself, but rather to bring the mystery of the Incarnation to reality for our sakes. For as the Logos accomplished divine works in the flesh, but not without the cooperation of a body animated by a rational soul, so the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the saints the ability to understand mysteries, but not without the exercise of their natural abilities or without their seeking and careful searching for knowledge. And if the saints have searched and sought, . . . they surely were aided in their quest by the grace of the Spirit, who spurred on their theoretical and practical reason to study and investigate these things.