St. Maximos, 4th Century of Love, #55-74

 St. Maximos here builds a complex of interrelationships that are enabled by love as well as aim at love as the ultimate destination.

The challenge of the quest is to locate and unleash the treasure that lies “hidden in the field of your heart (cf. Matt. 13:44).”  “Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (cf. Eph. 3:17).”

St. Maximos urges us to consider what this means.

If “all the treasures of wisdom and spiritual knowledge are hidden in Him (cf. Col. 2:3), then all the treasures of wisdom and spiritual knowledge are hidden in our hearts.”

Living with Christ in our hears is so precious that were we able to find this “field” within our hearts, our entire life would be transformed and re-directed. Experiencing even a glimmer of this treasure is so sweet that we would eagerly submit to any sacrifice or deprivation to center our lives in it. Missing it or never realizing its existence leaves us bereft and empty, vulnerable to misdirecting our unrequited longing.

“…you have abandoned that field and give all your attention to the land nearby, where there is nothing but thorns and thistles.”

Interestingly, what St. Maximos sees as preventing us from recognizing the treasure within, is “our laziness.”   And here is a series of interrelationships that explain it:

To see Christ in our hearts “and the riches that are in Him” we must purify ourselves “through love and self-control.’  Love in Christ is not the effusion of sentiment we  have come to associate with romantic love, but an imitation of Christ.

Christ, for example, was always conferring blessings on people; He was long-suffering when they were ungrateful and blasphemed Him; and when they beat Him and put Him to death, He endured it, imputing no evil at all to anyone. These are the three acts which manifest love for one’s neighbor. If he is incapable of them, the person who says that he loves Christ or has attained the kingdom deceives himself.

Yet mere knowledge of this spiritual path and the goodness of love is passive. Knowledge becomes holy when it is translated into action and, hence, becomes “active.”

Are you tempted to snap back at an insult, nurse a grudge for an injustice or betrayal against you or indulge in self-pity? These are our default impulses so that giving in to them is easy. This is what St. Maximos calls laziness. To make knowledge active requires hard discipline—a conscious choice of love over resentment.

Imagine if, when overwhelmed by righteous outrage or self-defeating self-pity, we were able to hold back from reacting out of consideration of the effect that these passionate thoughts and actions would have on our souls and relationship with God.  We would concentrate on our inner life rather than on composing the perfect comeback or savoring the remembrance of all the injustices against us. This discipline, stemming from what St. Maximos calls active holy knowledge, would eventually reconcile us with God’s love and allow us to partake of the treasure within.

The purpose of discipline, in fact “the whole purpose of the Savior’s commandments is to free the intellect from dissipation and hatred, and to lead it to the love of Him and one’s neighbor. From this love springs the light of active holy knowledge.”

And, conversely, this holy knowledge is only complete when accompanied, by love.

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