effort to connect the biblical to the Greek idea on truth through the sense of
reason failed, as we have seen, in the theology of the three first centuries in
two ways: on one hand the link between the Greek idea of the being to the
ontological dissimilarity of the divine substance failed; on the other hand the
link of the fully ontological content of the truth to its Christological content
in a historical sense. With the sense of reason just the development of the
unity between God and creation was achieved, but not the between the two
existing difference. Thus the theology of the Fathers abandoned this sense and
the problem remained without ontological truth, when at the same time the
ontological dissimilarity of the divine substance is fully preserved over the
creation and history? How, in other words, is the utmost truth connected
ontologically to the creation and history, so that the creation and history can
preserve their own, different from God being while God remains at the same time
the unique truth of the being?
to this basic problem were not missing of course from the Greek Fathers before
Maximus, but the procession and mainly the philosophical development were. We
tried to show that the starting point to the answer of this question lies in the
Eucharistic theology of Ignatius and Eirinaeus, in which one meets for the first
time the identification of being and life, which later on was developed by the
theologians of the triadology of the fourth century, through the identification
of life, communion and the being of God Himself. But if the truth can in the end
be identified to the being just in the communion and through it, then what
prevents us from returning to the Greek ontology of reason and seek the
connection of God and the world on the path of identification of being and
communion? This refers to the idea of participation, which Origen used
excessively in order to define the connection between God and man. Therefore,
one could easily wonder: In what way is the "participation" differentiated
answer to this important question was given in the fourth century through the
special use of the terms "participation" and "communion". At first
glance there seems to be an interchange of these terms in the Greek Fathers; at
the same time though a difference is preserved during their use with a
characteristic persistence: Participation is only mentioned in the relationship
of the creations with God and never in the relationship of God to creation[i].
In the Christological disputes of the fourth century and the Eucharistic
consequences this can be distinguished clearly[ii].
If we take into consideration its importance to the sense of the truth, then the
result that concludes is: the truth, as created or historical, is a depending
truth, while the truth of the being of God is communion itself.
from the ontological priority of the divine truth in this conclusion have to be
noted: on one hand this means, that reality or "the true" part of the
created existence cannot be confirmed by itself. God and the world cannot
ontologically be placed simply one next to the other, as two ways of existence
that are defined by themselves. On the other hand, the depending of a creation
from God is not found simply to a logical causal relationship or a chronological
sequence it is not dependence by the sense of an ontological production and an
evolution from a kind of being to another. This dependence should rather be
understood and interpreted as a permanent communion with God. The meaning
"participation" becomes in this way an exceptional means of expression,
because it declares at the same time two things: a) that the truth of the
creation depends on something else, to which it participates; this is the truth
as a communion without participation[iii]
and b) that the dependence of the truth of creation from the truth of the divine
being is not a simple, natural or ontological causal relationship, but an act of
love. This allows a correlation of the truth with "nature" or the
"substance" to be created, so that we can claim, that God is truth according
to His own "nature" and the creation is truth according to its "nature".
However the term "nature" should be defined directly through the term of
communion: the created "nature", precisely like the divine "nature" is
truth not as "natures", but as communion of natures, the first as communion
through participation and the second as communion in itself, without
participation. Once more the sense of the truth does not lead us to the
"nature" of things, like it did for the Greeks, but in life and the
communion of the beings in the triadological structure of the truth.
these presuppositions an explanation on the way with which the ontologically
extreme truth is connected to the view of the truth in creation, without the
dissimilarity of the existence of God to be abolished, is offered. Unanswered
still remains of course the question on the relationship of truth and history:
the way in which the ontologically extreme truth is connected to the truth of
creation, when creation is not understood as something static, but as a movement
in time and as something temporary? Obviously Maximus the Confessor is once
again the one who gave for the first time in the history of Christian thought an
answer to this question.
and history are in a close relationship to the Greek Fathers. Here lies a
difference on the understanding of history, as it is encountered in the West
The relation between truth and history is not considered to be from the
viewpoint of the relation of time with eternity but of being and life in
relation to death and the ephemeral. The critical point in this approach lies in
the sense of the movement of the being: is there truth in the movement of the
being, when this movement is connected in history to the temporary and death?
inherited from Origenism the description of creation as a trinity:
birth-stasis-movement, where the utmost meaning of movement (placed after stasis)
contains an indication on the sinful nature of the creation, which according to
the origenic myth on the fall, follows the eternal rest or eternal stasis[v].
This view of things is totally overwhelmed consciously by Maximus, who places
stasis after movement (birth-movement-stasis)[vi].
This change has a double effect. On one hand it presents history as something
temporary; so it can no longer return to the existence of God. On the other hand
it presents history as something important, because it has an end, a limit, in
the positive sense of the word "limit", a fulfillment[vii].
So the meaning of history returns to its old-testament basis with the difference
of course that it is now understood ontologically. The truth of history is
identified to the truth of the very creation: both of them turn towards the
future. The fulfillment is not an original stage, to which the creation has been
called to return, but an end, which invites it to look beforehand[viii].
The truth of time is not an ontologically inexplicable medium part between
beginning and end, but the place of the psychological memory of the past and the
psychological also hope of the future; it is the time of the development towards
the end, an end lying in the future and this we must understand with an
ontological sense. History is true even though it changes and it is temporary
and that happens because it is movement to a limit. If the fulfillment of the
historical existence is not an existence without the ephemeral and death (this
is the existential meaning of the fact that stasis is placed after movement),
then inevitably emerges that the being ceases at some point to exist and we
should then end up along with the Greeks in the conclusion that history is non-being
and non-truth. The truth of history is in this way identified to the truth of
the being and this is so exactly because history is a movement of the being
towards its limit, its purpose.
if one sees the meaning of history just under the expectation of the future,
where does the special and decisive point of it lay, the one approaching
Christology, according to our understanding of the truth? The problem becomes
even more complicated, if one links it to the ontology: how can the "limit"
of history, when it concerns the truth, be identified so much to the course of
history itself (the incarnation) as with the permanence of the being? We
encounter once again the problem posed in the introduction.
unique importance of Maximus' theology lies in the fact that he succeeded in
developing a Christological synthesis, in which these different elements are not
anymore incompatible with one another, but one is organically connected to the
other. With great courage Maximus mentions again the term of the Word, which for
a long time was not used because of the dangers connected to it, and succeeded
in this way its Christological synthesis: Christ is the Word of creation and to
Him must be found all the words of the beings[ix]. This is what the Apologetics and Origen claimed.
However, Maximus makes the difference in the fact that he transfers the term of
the word from cosmology to incarnation and this takes place with the aid of the
dynamic terms of the will and love[x].
Neither the words of the beings, nor the Word of God can from now on be
considered to be independent from the dynamic movement of love. The substratum
of being is not the being, but love. The truth on the word of the being subjects
only to love, not to an objective structure of the word, which could be designed
for itself. This has extreme importance understand the sense of the Word
correctly, because as a consequence, the words of the beings are no longer
identified to the very being, but to the loving will of God. If one understands
the word under the sense of nature, then it should be said that God knew the
creations according to their own nature. Maximus alludes this decisive point and
he denies it dynamically: "God does not know things according to their nature,
but recognizes them as realizations of his own will (own wishes), since he
builds them through His will (willingly)"[xi];
His knowledge is nothing more than His love.
taking away from the Greek understanding of the truth is radical; the words of
the beings (creations) are not anymore a necessity to God. The important part
though is that this taking away is founded christologically and this leads to a
synthesis of the truth as being and as history. God recognizes the creations as
realizations of His will and so is not the being itself but the utmost will of
God's love, which unifies the creations and declares the sense of being. This
assignment is taken up by the incarnation. The incarnated Christ is identified
so much to the utmost will of God's love, that the sense of the created being
and the object of History are nothing more than the incarnated Christ. All
things are created with a purpose or rather with Christ as a center
the incarnation could be realized without the fall of man[xii].
Christ, the incarnated Christ, is the truth, because he presents the utmost and
uninterrupted will of the ecstatic love of God, which can lead the created being
into communion to His life, into meeting Him in this fact of communion.
all these the truth is averted from the platonic adherence it had and from the
necessity of mechanical dynamics following the thought of Aristotle. History is
neither removed in a platonic way, nor altered in the movement of the very being.
The truth of history lies at the same time in the substrate of the created being
(since al creations are willing realizations of the love of God), in the
fulfillment or the future f history (since love of God in its will and
expressions, meaning the created being, is identified to the utmost communion of
creation to the life of God) and in the incarnated Christ (since the
personification of this utmost will of love from God exists in the incarnated
Christ). So Christ becomes the summary of all things and this moves not just the
internal flow of history but also the internal being of the peculiarity of
creatures in relation to the true being, in the sense of true life and true
truth then has its place in the heart of history and all these in a synthesis,
which in the base of creation and in the limits of history and all these in a
synthesis that allows us to say, that Christ is the truth at the same time to
Judeans and Greeks. Possibly it is the first time in the entire history of
philosophy that such a thing is expressed; for what we know, there is no other
case, in which the philosophical language would have succeeded in connecting
beginning and end of the being without entering a vicious circle. What Maximus
achieved is nothing loess than the miracle of harmonizing the circle and the
straight line with one another. The presupposition to this was the lucky
connection of ontology and love, as well as the development of ontology of love
under the term ecstasy and this can be invaluable to today's theology and
E.g. Athanassius, Κατά
I,9; 46-48; III,40; Basil, Κατά
Also see A. Houssiau, Incarnation et communion chez le Peres grecs, in :
Irenikon 45, 1972, 457-468.
see H. Chadwick, Eucharist and Christology in the Nestorian Controversy, in:
JThSt N. S. 2, 1951, 145-164. Also see A. Houssiau, the same, 463 and on.
see the differentiation of Cyril of Alexandria between "communion by
nature" (the communion of Christ with God) and "communion by
participation" (our participation to the incarnation). For the texts see A.
Houssiau, the same, 477.
translocating the sense of history from ontology to psychology, we have
prepared the way to the modern antithesis between history and nature, where
the first is a characteristic exclusively for man.
see P. Sherwood, the same, p. 47 and on.
founds all these in the sense of will, as movement. With the help of
Aristotlism he defines movement as a "natural force, which heads to its
own purpose". He characterizes though through the senses of will and love,
which allude movement from the basis following the thought of Aristotle. See
in particular footnote 1 and 23, also see further up the discernment of the
sense ecstasy, Part II, 4.
Maximus restates here essentially the matter of Eirinaeus concerning the
childhood of Adam and develops on that basis a theology of history. This can
be compared to the Augustinian view, according to which man was created
Also see J. H. Dalmais, La theorie des logoi des creatures chez St. Maxime
le Confesseur, in : Rev. Sc. Ph. Th. 1952, 244-249.
See e.g. footnote 23.
Footnote wills and destinations are synonymous in the thought of Maximus.
Προς Θαλ. Περί διαφ. Αποριών, 60.
Conversation of texts in G. Florovsky, Cur Deus homo? The motive of the
Incarnation in St. Maximus the Confessor, in: Eucharisterion (Melanges H.
Alivisatos), 1958, p. 76 and on.