Continuing on the theme of spiritual progression, St. Maximos makes use of the 6th, 7th and 8th days of creation as pivots of, and gateways to, growth. This echoes his use of circumcision, baptism and the harvest in the previous section.
In depicting various types of progression, St. Maximos draws parallels between the Old & New Testament. He also contrasts the passion-filled, downward spiral of the secular kingdom of the Jews and Romans to the inner journey of ascension that is anchored in the gospel.
For him who follows only the Law, St. Maximos tells us, the Sabbath is simply a respite from passions. Yet, even for him, it is possible to go beyond the Law by “crossing the Jordan” and entering the realm of virtues.
He who “observes the sixth day according to the Gospel,” however, has already “put to death the first impulses of sin, through cultivating the virtues,” and attained a state of dispassion. When this person crosses the Jordan, he acquires spiritual knowledge and “becomes in spirit the dwelling place of God.”
St. Maximos unveils the meaning of each day progressively through a series of parallelisms, each of which introduces a different insight and layer of meaning.
The sixth day is rest of the intellect—even beyond any image that can suggest passion.
It is the completion and fulfillment of natural activities and good deeds. It betokens the inner essence of things, but we are not there yet. We simply recognize the signs and get a glimpse of the next level. It is a day of preparation.
Crossing the Jordan takes you to a more mystical experience of God on the 7th day. You are crossing over from preparation to spiritual knowledge becoming “in spirit the dwelling place of God,” but not yet reaching consummation. You have crossed over “to the repose of spiritual contemplation” in which “the intellect, grasping in a divine manner the inner essences of created beings, ceases from all movement.”
Some of us, St. Maximos tells us, may be “also found worthy of the eighth day.” In this state, we experience “the blessed life of God, who is the only true life,” and we, ourselves, become God by deification.
On the 8th day, we participate in “God’s deifying energy,” which is “the mystical resurrection.” This means that we leave behind “in the sepulcher His linen clothes and the napkin that was about his head (cf. John 20:6-7). Those who perceive this, like Peter and John, are convinced that the Lord has risen.”
Why should we leave behind the linen clothes and the napkins?
The linen clothes represent “the inner essences of sensible things together with their qualities of goodness.” The napkin is the “simple and homogenous knowledge of intelligible realities together with the vision of God.”
Up to this point, we still apply the natural categories of the created world to comprehend God. “Ages, times and places,” St. Maximos says, “belong to the category of relationship, and consequently no object necessarily associated with these things can be other than relative.”
He goes on to remark the paradox: While we perceive the world through categories of relationships “…God transcends the category of relationship; for nothing else whatsoever is necessarily associated with Him.”
The linen clothes and the napkin are “the things by which the Logos is initially recognized” because we lack the capacity to recognize him otherwise. But if we bury the Lord the right way, in glory, we will no longer need to recognize him in relationship to his linen clothes or napkin, and we will be able to see him in a way no one else sees him:
Those who bury the Lord with honor will also see Him risen with glory, but He is not seen by anyone else
The 8th day unlocks the mystery, without which, we only have partial understanding of God.
He who apprehends the mystery of the cross and the burial apprehends the inward essences of created things; while he who is initiated into the inexpressible power of the resurrection apprehends the purpose for which God first established everything.
On the eight day, one goes beyond knowledge to consummation. We are no longer limited by the principles of the natural world and relationships within it through which we may get only a partial understanding of God. Consummation “bears no resemblance whatsoever to the intermediary state, for otherwise it would not be a consummation.”
“When he who is saved is perfected in God, he will transcend all worlds, ages and places in which hitherto he has been trained as a child.”