Faith and Knowledge (St Maximos, Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice, Second Century, #10-19)

Fr MaximosIn these paragraphs, St. Maximos explores the relationship between faith and knowledge.

“Faith,” he tells us, “is knowledge that cannot be rationally demonstrated.”

Yet faith is not passive, unquestionable subservience.  It results from a state of direct union with God.

It is “a supranatural relationship through which, in an unknowable and so undemonstrable manner, we are united with God in a union which is beyond intellection.”

Faith does not come to us automatically, neither does it remain within us without deliberate effort and spiritual warfare. St Maximos reminds us of the fragility of faith if we lack alertness and focus. Union with God allows our state of mind to be “completely in abeyance” with Him and, hence to pass beyond nature and become God “by participation.” Yet, as soon as we drift back to the created world and think in terms of its categories, doubt sets in.

To fend off doubt, a person must be free from  “his soul’s attachment to the body through the senses” so that he does not “separate himself from the union with God which faith has brought about in him through the intellect.” With faith, and freedom from doubt, “all things are possible.”

Faith is not passive then. We have to actively seek things that contribute toward union with God. St. Maximos lists specific things through which man can enter into union with God and thus “attain knowledge of God and virtue:”

deliverance from passions, patient acceptance of trials, the inner principles of virtues, the practice of methods of spiritual warfare, the uprooting of the soul’s predilection for the flesh, the breaking of the senses’ attachment to sensible objects, the utter withdrawal of the intellect from all created things…  

St. Maximos even gives us a concrete methodology.

We “first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness’ (Matt. 6:33). That is, seek the knowledge of truth before all things…” With our hearts and souls trained on this pursuit, we equip ourselves for the battle “and therefore seek training in appropriate methods of attaining it.”

When we enter into union with God, we see and perceive the world differently since we have ourselves become gods through participation. We are able to adopt a different framework of understanding beyond the categories of the created world. We abandon temporal time and the need for instant gratification so that one

 …first spiritually imbibes those principles and then by means of his actions feeds upon the whole body of the virtues. In this way he transposes to the plane of spiritual knowledge actions which take place in the sensible realm.

Faith then requires our active participation and a path of continuous spiritual warfare. It is not a passive attribute but the result of “training in appropriate methods” to achieve union with God and participate in His nature outside temporal, created categories.

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