In the previous passages, St. Maximos established love for one another as the ultimate destination and actualization of God’s love.
“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.3 9.”
Having taken us on a journey of imagining the possibilities of unity with God and the potential of “joining together in [ourselves] the broken fragments of human nature” and experiencing divine love, St. Maximos helps us understand why threats to this unity —such as “our love for things corruptible” — are “fearful and heinous.”
He focuses on us as persons and dissects the paradox and tragedy of the war we wage against the god within us, smothering the possibility of entering “into the Holy of Holies,” experiencing goodness, compassion, love and truth.
Absurdly, in the pursuit of material goods, comfort, lives free of hardship or inconvenient restrictions, “we deliberately kill the life that was given to us by God as the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Yet “self-love,” and the compelling push to fulfill passions that drive us, are deceptive. Our busy lives of breathless activities and deadlines, our drive to fulfill ambitions and others’ expectations; the fantasies, disappointments and recriminations we nurse, drown out our true selves. We forget that “God made us so that we might become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pet. 1 : 4) and sharers in His eternity, and so that we might come to be like Him (cf. 1 John 3 : 2) through deification by grace.”
St. Maximos exhorts us to denounce deceptive passions that, while promising pleasure, sever us from God and our true nature. He reminds us that it is only…
…. through deification that all things are reconstituted and achieve their permanence; and it is for its sake that what is not is brought into being and given existence. 4 3 . If we desire to belong to God in both name and reality, let us struggle not to betray the Logos to the passions, as Judas did (cf. Matt. 26 : 1 4- 1 6), or to deny Him as Peter did (cf. Matt. 26 : 69-
In denouncing passions, we must be aware that the devil is “cunning.” We are tricked into seeing indulgences and transgressions as minor and unimportant, and justifying passions. “I am only human,” “how can anyone forgive such insult?” “To succeed at work today, you have to be tough and a little ruthless,” “I give up! What did I ever do to deserve such injustice at my job or ingratitude from my children?…” By minimizing, indulging and justifying, we fail to discern our true enemy and, hence, to recognize the need to engage in a spiritual warfare.
Discernment doesn’t evolve naturally by itself. St. Maximos calls for deliberate “training”—”“Those who have trained themselves to prefer ‘truth to self-love will certainly know this fear (of love for things corruptible, deliberately killing the life that was given to us by God.)
Cherry-picking which commandments to observe and when, or even cultivating virtues and selectively abstaining from some passions, simply is not enough for salvation. St. Maximos asks that we become spiritual athletes and commit to daily spiritual warfare.
Rebelling as we do against God through the passions and agreeing to pay tribute in the form of evil to that cunning tyrant and murderer of souls, the devil, we cannot be reconciled with God until we have first begun to fight against the devil with all our strength. For even though we assume the name of faithful Christians, until we have made ourselves the devil ‘ s enemies and fight against him, we continue by deliberate choice to serve the shameful passions. And nothing of profit will come to us from our peace in the world, for our soul is in an evil state, rebelling against its own Maker and unwilling to be subject to His kingdom. It is still sold into bondage to hordes of savage asters, who urge it towards evil and treacherously contrive to make it choose the way which leads to destruction instead of that which brings salvation.