Have you ever felt a sense of emptiness? Perhaps it was after bouts of anger, years of resentment or struggles to control spouse, children’s behavior others’ perceptions of you, etc. Eventually, you may have experienced the kind of hollowness that can potentially lead to despair or resignation.
St. Maximos sees this as the desolation left by sin.
First the hidden passions within us begin to surface in our thoughts. He gives examples of passions that impel us toward evil and are, hence, synonymous to sin: desiring something beyond reason; becoming consumed by anger or irritability. If they are not stopped, these thoughts become incessant, overcome the mind, turn into fantasy and eventually into action.
Then, fighting the intellect through these thoughts, they force it to give its assent to sin. When it has been overcome, they lead it to sin in the mind; and when this has been done they induce it, captive as it is, to commit the sin in action.
This is when desolation sets in. Beyond violating the sanctity of human intellect, the memory of sin remains in our soul, becoming an “idol.”
Having thus desolated the soul by means of these thoughts, the demons then retreat, taking the thoughts with them, and only the specter or idol of sin remains in the intellect. Referring to this our Lord says, ‘When you see the abominable idol of desolation standing in the holy place (let him who reads understand) . . .’(Matt. 24:15). For man’s intellect is a holy place and a temple of God in which the demons, having desolated the soul by means of impassioned thoughts, set up the idol of sin.
The opposite of this desolation brought about by passions, is perfect love.
Neither the practice of virtues nor contemplation alone can bring us to perfect love and perfect union with God without a mystical and total immersion in love for God. When we are in this state of perfect love, we are able to discern God in everything around us— not to “descry God’s inmost nature,” which is not possible, but “to discern, as far as possible, the qualities that appertain to His nature – qualities of eternity, infinity, indeterminateness, goodness, wisdom, and the power of creating, preserving and judging creatures, and so on.”
St. Maximos sums up a compelling picture of a world driven by perfect love, absent all the categories that divide us.
For him who is perfect in love and has reached the summit of dispassion there is no difference between his own or another’s, or between Christians and unbelievers, or between slave and free, or even between male and female. But because he has risen above the tyranny of the passions and as fixed his attention on the single nature of man, he looks on all in the same way and shows the same disposition to all. For in him there is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female, bond nor free, but Christ who ‘is all, and in all’ (Col. 3:11; cf. Gal. 3:28).
Maximos sees the Trinity as the manifestation of such harmony.
When our Lord says, ‘I and My Father are one’ (John 10:30), He indicates their identity of essence. Again, when He says, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me’ (John 14:11), He shows that the Persons cannot be divided.
The nature of love is the nature of God and the nature of God is unity rather than fragmentation.