A profitable blogging voice across the Ditch is "The Other Cheek", run by John Sandeman, but with a regular contributor under the nom de plume, Obadiah Slope. A recent Slope post includes the following which I cite in full because, as you will read, Slope is citing someone else who cites someone else!
My reflection further down builds on the insights of Saint Maximus, but with gratitude for Obadiah Slope drawing my attention to the passage via material from a Catholic writer, Anthony Marco, to whom I am also grateful, for his summation of Maximus' thinking abut deification and the human will ...
God’s will and my will: Does being a Christian obliterate my will in favour of God’s will? A voice from the ancient church might help.As a writer in the Notre Dame Journal, Catholic Academic Anthony Marco outlines, it is a topic that fascinated Maximus the Confessor. (Obadiah takes it as practical commentary on Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved meand gave himself for me.”)
But let the saint speak [via the introductory paragraphs to Marco's article]:
“Saint Maximus the Confessor offers a curious reassurance to the reader of his Ambigua to John. In his description, deification, the “state [when] nothing will appear apart from God,” is the eschatological unity we hope for in Christ. The Confessor addresses the reader directly: “Let not these words disturb you, for I am not implying the destruction of our power of self-determination (αὐτεξουσίου).” Maximus holds in tension obedience and freedom—of conforming our lives to Christ and retaining our own identity.
“The Confessor’s thought addresses an underlying problem that vexes our secularized age: the disconnect between faith and life in the world. Two themes are central to this issue: freedom and meaning. First, how does human freedom interact with God’s will? Second, does human creativity and meaning-making add to God’s plan for creation or are these faculties mere temptations that cause us to stray from the divine will?
“Maximus’ answer can be found in Christ, the Logos, who wills to unite all things in his one person. On account of this union, the Confessor extends what we say about Christ in the hypostatic union to the Christian who is joined to Christ. He masterfully unites human self-determination with the divine in Christ and in the life of every Christian by participation. Maximus envisions the relationship between God and humanity drawn from the hypostatic union as an endless exchange of loving communion without assimilation or separation. By a close analysis of this dynamic, we will see that human freedom is not simply tolerated as a permissible reality but is a willed part of this ongoing exchange of love.”
Through this year Galatians 2:20 has been a central verse in my thinking:
I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live, I live by faith which is in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
I am delighted to see that Obadiah Slope connects this verse with Marco/Maximus' thinking. At the very least I have been enlightened!
In Paul's verse there is an interesting tension between "I no longer live but Christ lives in me" and "The life I now live, I live by faith ...". As a Christian, have I lost control of my life, Christ having taken it over, or, have I a new orientation in life so that I keep trusting in Christ? (Or, both?).
Marco sees Maximus response as: "Maximus holds in tension obedience and freedom—of conforming our lives to Christ and retaining our own identity."
But the great point made here - the point which directs us to think about all that God is doing in the world, the church, your life and my life is this:
"Maximus envisions the relationship between God and humanity drawn from the hypostatic union as an endless exchange of loving communion without assimilation or separation."
Is what I do in the church (which, to be honest, often looks like "an endless exchange of emails") and in the world, my fitful attempt to love others, my often non-humble refusal to be loved by others aligned with God's great purpose, "the endless exchange of loving communion"?
That is what being a Christian is all about!