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On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ Paperback – December 31, 2003

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

About the Author

Paul M. Blowers is Professor of Church History at Emmanuel School of Religion and an historian of early and Byzantine Christianity. Robert Louis Wilken is the William R. Kenan, Jr Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 183 pages
  • Publisher: St Vladimirs Seminary Pr (December 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 088141249X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881412499
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Viscount Thurston on August 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
In the millennia-long conversation of Christian theology, St. Maximus (580-662) stands out as a profound, original contributor. For this reader, the most striking feature in this collection of his writings has to be his understanding of "deification.". Based on his reading of II Peter 1:3-4, deification (or divinization) stands at the very center of his thought concerning the redemption and transfiguration of the entire cosmos. According to Maximus this process occurs in a "blessed inversion":

"... the power that elevates man to God through his love for God and brings God down to man because of his love for man. By this blessed inversion, man is made God by divinization and God is made man by hominization." (Ambiguum 7)

So, while Western theology's development of man's reconciliation to God has emphasized the descent of God into the human, Maximus gives equal time to man's ascent into the divine. Perhaps the closest theological term in the Western tradition to Maximus' "deification" is sanctification, the process whereby the Christian becomes purified from the old, corrupt self and grows into the new, Christ-like self. Maximus, developing II Peter 1:3-4, seems to take things farther: while we in the West are used to the notion of becoming like Christ (as remote as that can seem from our day-to-day reality), Maximus insists that our being is transformed to share in the very nature of God.

In doing so, Maximus gives this reader a fuller picture of the wondrous union of God and man brought about by the grace of God in Christ - a union that removes all barriers to the realization of Eternal Love between Church and Christ, Bride and Bridegroom.

Maximus is not all sweetness and light, however.
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Format: Paperback
The 'Popular Patristics Series' of St. Vladimir's Seminary Press presents this collection of critical writings by St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662). Translators Blowers and Wilken deliver modern and accessible texts that are not heavy on pedantry, excessive footnotes, or arcane disputes. Their translations achieve the aim of revealing how this master theologian unites cosmos and Christ.

Refractory heresies advancing a cosmos independent of faith in Christ, such as promoted by Origen and subsequent Gnostics, fold beneath Maximus's reasoned appeals and precise linguistic skills. Moreover, he promotes an apologetics of salvation as the mystical cooperative work of human beings with the Holy Trinity to redeem themselves and re-establish harmonious interaction with the creation.

The texts collected in this 188-page volume include significant portions of the 'Ambigua' and 'Questions to Thallasius,' as well as text number six from 'Short Theological and Polemical Works.' These excerpts have been attributed reliably to Maximus himself, yet still complementary with centuries on love and theology, large parts of which Pseudo-Dionysius might have compiled in the tenth century, attributed to Maximus, and made available in translation from 1981 (Faber & Faber, Ltd.) of the 18th-century Greek 'Philokalia.'

A 30-page Introduction covers brief overviews of each translated text according to four organizing themes: 1. "Cosmic 'first principles;'" 2. "The Adamic dilemma: The fall and the origin of the human passions;" 3. "Jesus Christ and the transformation of human possibility;" and 4. "New birth and the Christian's progress in virtue." The selection of these four organizing themes for introducing Maximus's theology supports the view of many that this book will anchor historic and ongoing debates for a popular audience.
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For St Maximus the cosmic mystery of Jesus Christ is nothing less than the deification of the cosmos. St Maximus will develop this argument with the Logos/logoi construction. In other words, the principles of creation (e.g., logoi) find their arche, their unifying principle in the Person of Jesus Christ. They participate proportionally in God (54).

The larger argument of this work is a running commentary on St Gregory of Nazianzus. St Gregory is refuting neo-Origenists who posit a bodily pre-fall. While few people today worry about Origenism, and many of St Maximus' and St Gregory's arguments will seem academic, the arguments do provide an interesting snapshot of early Christian interpretation. Simply, St Maximus interprets St Gregory to say that Christian theology teaches BECOMING ' MOVEMENT ' REST. Thus, it is impossible for a creature who has reached beatitude (full rest) to fall.

At all times St Maximus remains doggedly committed to Chalcedonian orthodoxy. For him the whole mystery of Christ is the hypostatic union of humanity and divinity (123). Christ is the beginning, middle, and end of all creation. For him incarnation is salvation. It is the lens through which to interpret the beginning and goal of the universe (33).

At the end St Maximus deals with the monothelite controversy. Christ's prayer in the garden affirms both a human will and a divine will. Even though the human will seeks perfect concordance with the divine will, this no way negates the real human will of Christ. If Christ doesn't have a full human will, then Christ isn't fully man. If Christ isn't fully man, salvation was not achieved.

This is one of those great books that redefine reality. That is not a light claim.
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