Even though St. Maximos talks about our potential to “become gods, receiving from God our existence as gods,” it is our ability to use these God-given powers the way they were meant to be used, that leads to deification. Intelligence, for example, does not fulfill its mission merely as the means for theoretical knowledge but as the instrument for discernment. In this section St. Maximos singles out three spiritual powers– spiritual knowledge, desire and dispassion—that, through intelligence, are enabled to fulfill the goal they were meant for: the attainment of union with God.
From these three powers of the soul we should actualize that divine and blessed love on account of which they exist, that love which joins the devout man to God and reveals him to be a god.
Hence, St. Maximos returns to the ultimate centrality and meaning of love through the path of theology and spiritual knowledge.
How is divine love manifested?
“The actualization and proof of perfect love for God.” St. Maximos says, “is a genuine and willing attitude of goodwill towards one’s neighbour.” Love is not solitary or one directional. St. Maximos is adamant about it. You simply cannot attain love for God without love for your neighbors.
For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, ‘ says St John, ‘cannot love God whom he has not seen’ (1 John 4: 20).
Christ provides the model for how we should love and care for one another.
We should care for ourselves and each other in the way that Christ Himself, who patiently suffered for us, has already shown us in His own person.
St. Maximos uses a series of paradoxes to illustrate how love for God, and its actualization in our love for others, defies logic and saves.
- By giving of ourselves, we free ourselves from the tyranny of fear:
For the sake of love all the saints resisted sin, not showing any regard for this present life.
- By separating from the world, we achieve unity with God and one another rather than isolation
It [love] unites men to God and to one another, and on this account contains the unchanging permanence of all blessings.
- By giving of ourselves, we become more than ourselves, and by dispersing love we become whole rather than divided:
And they endured many forms of death, in order to be separated from the world and united with themselves and with God, joining together in themselves the broken fragments of human nature.
And satisfying our desire through material things does not quench our thirst. Instead, it kills “the life that was given to us by God as the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Divine love is not a sentiment or emotion. No amount of erudition or askesis will provide true spiritual knowledge and discernment for “The way of truth is love.”
And love is the gateway to theosis, the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” the realm of understanding beyond words:
This is the door through which a man enters into the Holy of Holies and is brought to the vision of the unapproachable beauty of the Holy and Royal Trinity.