I was reading this a.m. an article about the work of my favorite Eastern Father of the Church, St. Maximos the Confessor. He’s a ridiculously awesome theologian, monk, philosopher, ascetic, mystic and all-around serious saint. Had his tongue cut out and his right handed chopped off by command of a Christian Byzantine emperor for his defense of Christ’s full humanity, and in his trial he witnessed to the most remarkable (Thomas More-like) clarity, charity and serenity. So any and every time you honor the majesty of the full humanity that God made His own in Christ, thank St. Max for giving his hand and his tongue in service to the Truth-made-flesh.
But it was a particular Maximian insight that really stirred me today, one I have written of before, and I thought I would let you in on it (again!) as well.
Maximos has a marvelous vision of the uniqueness of each human person. He sees in each personal vocation the call to manifest a unique and infinitely beautiful facet of God’s human face — Christ! For Maximos, my life is as unique as the snowflake, marked by all the specific contours and colors, cracks and fissures that constitute my own life story. For Maximos, without each of our ‘vocation stories’ — i.e. our tiny part in the epic battle for the redemption of all creation — God’s glory is impoverished and the God-willed joy of the new creation is diminished.
There is, for Maximos, a marvelously creative tension that arises between the unity of the one God and the innumerably diverse appearances of his infinitely rich Being in each human life that exists for the praise of His glory. This is our “priestly” mission, to refract into the world the hidden splendor of the Creator, only then to turn back toward the Creator to offer Him that same world, now transformed by our labors, as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. For Maximos, humanity effects this sacrifice of God very practically and particularly by means of the virtues (e.g. humility, justice, mercy, charity) lived out by each person in their daily life’s specific circumstances, and by means of the Divine Liturgy, that nuptial nexus of divine and human co-laboring wherein we sweep the whole created order up to the glory and honor of the Creator, through-with-in Christ, in hands muddied by life’s toilsome work of tilling God’s unruly Garden.
But only what is offered back to God endures. All that we clutch and grasp in selfish, disobedient or desperate control will perish.
Treasure in Heaven
How astonishing is our dignity, how exalted is our calling, how hope-filled is our vision! Our faith reminds us that no small deed done in faith, no hot tear shed in hope, no drop of blood shed in love will be forgotten or wasted, but all will be gathered up on the Last Day by Christ and we will “find them” again. . .
For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: “a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.” On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower. Gaudium et Spes #39