Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice , First Century, #67-75
St. Maximos here uses yet another metaphor to describe the perpetual ascent toward theosis: the shift from the Old to the New Testament. It is a shift from the external to the internal–“from the sight of material things to the vision of spiritual realities.” Even so, Maximos makes it clear that no destination is a static end point and that there is eternal growth in perfection.
Abandoning one’s “former passion-dominated way of life” is a beginning step but acquiring “stability in the practice of the virtues” is a higher step. Ascending to a state of perfection is the ultimate destination that drives and makes worthwhile our journey. A state of perfection means to “have already been initiated mystically into contemplative theology: having purified their intellects of every material fantasy and bearing always the stamp of the image of divine beauty in all its fullness, they manifest the divine love present in their hearts.”
A driver and presupposition for our journey upward is fear.
“Those who are beginners and stand at the gate of the divine court of the virtues (cf. Exod. 2 7: 9) are called ‘ God-fearing’ by Scripture (cf. Acts 1 0: 2; 1 3: r 6, 2 6).”
St. Maximos differentiates between two kinds of fear: fear of punishment for wrong doings and what he calls “pure” fear—the fear “rooted essentially by God in creation;” the constant awareness of the “awe-inspiring nature” of Him that “transcends all kingship and power.”
Impure fear is temporary. It disappears as soon as the threat of punishment recedes. Yet the pure fear of God, St. Maximos writes, “is always present even apart from remorse for offences committed” because the profound wonder of God’s nature never leaves our hearts. This is why he who “has acquired the fear that endures forever,” will “lack for nothing.”
It is the shift from the practice of virtue to the mystical contemplation of the spiritual realm that Maximos elucidates in these chapters.
A state of spiritual contemplation and divine love is transformative. In this state, the created world is no longer a trap for temptation and sin but a manifestation of God. Our view of living things reveals the underlying reason for their being
“From created beings we come to know their Cause; from the differences between created beings we learn about the indwelling wisdom of creation; and from the natural activity of created beings we discern the indwelling Life of creation, the power which gives created beings their life – the Holy Spirit.”
And here St. Maximos gives the most elucidating explanation of the Holy Spirit I have ever read.
“The Holy Spirit,” he says, “is present unconditionally in all things, in that He embraces all things, provides for all, and vivifies the natural seeds within them.”
This means that it is possible, even for a non-Christian to become aware of the true nature of material things and their origins in God because the Holy Spirit:
“Being God and God’s Spirit, …embraces in unity the spiritual knowledge of all created things, providentially permeating all things with His power, and vivifying their inner essences in accordance with their nature.”
The presence of the Holy Spirit in all things is not a disembodied, pantheistic embodiment of God. On the contrary “He is present in a specific· way in all who are under the Law, in that He shows them where they have broken the commandments and enlightens them about the promise given concerning Christ.” In revealing the true nature of created things, he uncovers the nature of virtue and evil and “in this way He makes men aware of things done sinfully against the law of nature and renders them capable of choosing principles which are true and in conformity with nature.”
Above all, however, the role of the Holy spirit in the eternal move toward deification points to love. “The Holy Spirit is present unconditionally in all things” because God, “yearns for the salvation of all men and hungers after their deification…He does this s o that they may prefer to be righteous in reality rather than in appearance, discarding the cloak of hypocritical moral display and genuinely pursuing a virtuous life in the way that the divine Logos wishes them to.”
Rid of that cloak and with the knowledge of the true nature of created things (including ourselves), we will be able to reveal the “true state of our soul” to God.