St. Maximus the Confessor

quotes from Maximus the Confessor→

Maximus the Confessor (580-662) was a theologian, a scholar, and an aide to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius who gave up this life in the political sphere to enter the monastic life.

Maximus was drawn into the controversy caused by Monothelitism, which was a heresy that espoused that Christ had only one divine will, denying that he had a human will.  Maxiumus supported an interpretation of the Chalcedonian formula on the basis of which it was asserted that Jesus had both a human and a divine will.  Maximus was present when the newly elected Pope Martin I convened the Lateran Council of 649 at the Lateran Basilica in Rome, where the 105 bishops present condemned Monothelitism.  It was in Rome that Pope Martin and Maximus were arrested in 653 under orders from Roman Emperor Constans II, who supported the Monothelite doctrine. Pope Martin was condemned without a trial, and died before he could be sent to the Imperial Capital.  Maximus was tried, his tongue and right hand cut off, and he was sent into exile, where he died of his wounds.

Extant Writings:

Quotes & Excerpts:

Liber Asceticus
(On the Ascetic Life)

“Every genuine Confession humbles the soul. When it takes the form of thanksgiving, it teaches the soul that it has been delivered by the grace of God.”


Disputatio cum Pyrrho

“If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who rejects those who rejected Pyrrhus, rejects the See of Rome itself -that is, he rejects the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself as well, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Church of God.”
-Disputatio cum Pyrrho (Written ca. 640 A.D.)

“Let him first hasten to satisfy the See of Rome… It is futile to try and persuade one like me without instead trying to satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the holy Church of Rome. For that is the Apostolic See, which has received from the Incarnate Son of God Himself, universal and supreme dominion, authority, and the power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches. This is confirmed by all holy synods, according to the holy canons in the whole world.”
-Disputatio cum Pyrrho (Written ca. 640 A.D.)

“It is not right that one who has been condemned and cast out by the Apostolic See of Rome for his wrong opinions should be named with any kind of honor, until he is received by her, having returned to her -no, to the Lord- by a pious confession and orthodox faith.”
-Disputatio cum Pyrrho (Written ca. 640 A.D.)

Mystagogy: Chapter Fourteen:

After the divine reading of the holy Gospel the bishop descends from his throne and there takes place the dismissal and sending away of the catechumens and of others unworthy of the divine vision of the mysteries to be displayed.

Mystagogy: Chapter Twenty-Four:

This, indeed, is why [Dionysius the Areopagite] believed that every Christian should frequent God’s holy church and never to abandon the holy synaxis accomplished therein because of the holy angels who remain there and who take note each time people enter and present themselves to God, and they make supplications for them; likewise because of the grace of the Holy Spirit which is always invisibly present, but in a special way at the time of the holy synaxis. This grace transforms and changes each person who is found there and in fact remolds him in proportion to what is more divine in him and leads him to what is revealed through the mysteries which are celebrated. . .

By holy communion of the spotless and life-giving mysteries we are given fellowship and identity with him by participation in likeness, by which man is deemed worthy from man to become God. For we believe that in this present life we already have a share in these gifts of the Holy Spirit through the love that is in faith, and in the future age after we have kept the commandments to the best of our ability we believe that we shall have a share in them in very truth in their concrete reality according to the steadfast hope of our faith and the solid and unchangeable promise to which God has committed himself.

The clear proof of this grace is the voluntary disposition of good will toward those akin to us . . . For a work is proof of a disposition. Now nothing is either so fitting for justification or so apt for divinization, if I can speak thus, and nearness to God as mercy offered with pleasure and joy from the soul to those who stand in need. For if the Word has shown that the one who is in need of having good done to him is God for as long, he tells us, as you did it for one of these least ones, you did it for me on God’s very word, then, he will much more show that the one who can do good and who does it is truly God by grace and participation because he has taken on in happy imitation the energy and characteristic of his own doing good.

On The Lord’s Prayer

The Logos enables us to participate in divine life by making Himself our food, in a manner understood by Himself and by those who have received from Him a noetic perception of this kind. It is by tasting this food that they become truly aware that the Lord is full of virtue (cf. Ps. 34:8). For He transmutes with divinity those who eat it, bringing about their deification, since He is the bread of life and of power in both name and reality.

The Logos purifies human nature from the law of sin by not permitting His incarnation for our sake to be preceded by sensual pleasure. For His conception took place miraculously without seed, and His birth supranaturally without the loss of His Mother’s virginity. That is to say, when God was born from His Mother, through His birth He tightened the bonds of her virginity in a manner surpassing nature; and in those that are willing He frees the whole of human nature from the oppressive rule of the law which dominates it, in so far as they imitate His self-chosen death by mortifying the earthly aspects of themselves (cf. Col. 3:5).

For the Father’s name is sot something which He has acquired, nor is the kingdom a dignity ascribed to Him: He does not have a beginning, so that at a certain moment He begins to be Father or King, but He is eternal and so is eternally Father and King. In no sense at all, therefore, has He either begun to exist or begun to exist as Father or King. And if He exists eternally, not only is He eternally Father and King but also the Son and Holy Spirit co-exist with Him eternally in substantial form, having their being from Him and by nature inhering in Him beyond any cause or principle: they are not sequent to Him, nor have they come into existence after Him in a contingent manner. The relationship of co-inherence between the Persons embraces all three of them simultaneously, not permitting any of the three to be regarded as prior or sequent to the others.

If we live in the way we have promised, we will receive, as daily and life-giving bread for the nourishment of our souls and the maintenance of the good state with which we have been blessed, the Logos Himself; for it was He who said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven and gives life to the world’, (cf. John 6:33-35).

He who prays to receive this daily bread, however, does not automatically receive it all as it is in itself: he receives it in accordance with his receptive capacity. For the Bread of Life in His love gives Himself to all who ask, but He does not give to all in the same way. He gives liberally to those who have done great things, and more sparingly to those who have achieved less. Thus He gives to each person in accordance with the receptive capacity of his or her intellect.

This surely is why God wishes us first to be reconciled with one another. He Himself has no need to learn from us how to be reconciled with sinners and to waive the penalty for a multitude of atrocious crimes; but He wishes to purify us of our passions and show us that the measure of grace conferred on those who are forgiven corresponds to their inward state. It is evident that when man’s will is in union with the principle of nature, he is not in a state of rebellion against God. Since the principle of nature is a law both natural and divine, and there is nothing in it contrary to the Logos, when a man’s will functions in accordance with this principle it accords with God in all things. Such a condition of the will is an inner state actively characterized by the grace of what is good by nature and hence productive of virtue.


[T]he truth of his humanity has been revealed to all, and carried to the ends of the world (Rom. 10:18) by the mighty voice of the holy Fathers preaching it. For everywhere, and by all, under their guidance —for they were teachers, who were sound judges in divine matters—it has been confessed and believed in an orthodox manner that the onlybegotten Son, one of the holy and consubstantial Trinity, being perfect God by nature, has become a perfect human being in accordance with his will, assuming in truth flesh, consubstantial with us and endowed with a rational soul and mind, from the holy Mother of God and ever-Virgin, and united it properly and inseparably to himself in accordance with the hypostasis, being one with it right from the beginning.

But what kind of a God is this who is naturally afraid of the death of the flesh, and because of this begs the cup to be taken away, and possesses a natural will other than that of the Father? Let us therefore get rid of this absurdity from our souls, and embrace the reverent confession of the Fathers. ‘And when he says, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass,’ as the great Athanasius says in his treatise on the Incarnation and the Trinity, ‘nevertheless not my will be done, but yours. For the spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak,’ we understand ‘that two wills are manifest here: the human, which belongs to the flesh, and the divine. For the human will, because of the weakness of the flesh, seeks to avoid the passion; the divine will is eager.’

Understanding the meaning of the economy [Christ’s human and divine wills], this divine Father [Gregory of Nyssa] and together with him the holy teachers of the Catholic Church, fought against this confusion and the equally irreverent division, and loudly proclaimed the dogma of the difference and the union in respect of both of them [the wills], preserving the difference perfectly and in its effects in respect of the natural logos, and again saving the union, in the manner of the economy, firmly and hypostatically, so as to confirm the matters (and everything that naturally goes with them) that essentially exist in the one and sole Christ God in accordance with the inseparable union. For just as they all maintained the dogma that in one and the same there is one nature and another nature, the divine and the human, and therefore a double nature, so they loudly preached to all that there is also one will and another will, the divine and the human, and therefore two wills, and one energy and another energy, the divine and the human, and again a double energy, that is two of them.

We are to accept the reverent meaning of dogma drawn from
the expressions of the holy Fathers—and any other
expressions we may find—that indicate unity as in no way
contradictory of other statements of the holy Fathers that indicate duality. We know that the latter are mighty for the difference and against confusion, and the former are steadfast for the union and against division, but both, the former and the latter, we welcome exceeding gladly with soul and voice, as we confess the orthodox faith. And we wisely turn away those expressions that seem somehow contrary, the meanings of which are equally opposed to themselves and to one another and to the truth, and we boldly expel them from our home, that is from the Catholic and Apostolic Church of God.

“Anasatios ordered me to transcribe these things and to make them known to you most holy people, in order that, when you have found out about the trial from these, you might all bring a common prayer to the Lord on behalf of our common mother, that is the Catholic church, and on behalf of us your unworthy servants, for strengthening everyone and us also, persevering with you in it, according to the orthodox faith rightly preached in it by the holy fathers. For there is great fear in the whole world because this [Church] endures persecution by everyone at the same time, unless He [God] offers aid by his customary grace, He who always comes to aid, leaving the seed of piety at least in older Rome, confirming His promise he made to the prince of the Apostles, which does not deceive us“(Letter of Maximos to Anastasius his disciple – CPG 7701, Clauis Patrum Graecorum, vols. 1-5, Corpus Christainorum. Gerhard, M.)

The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High. (Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90)

How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter and Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate …..even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome. (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)

Quotes of Maximus the Confessor as compiled in “The Philokalia of the Niptic Fathers” by Nicodemus the Hagiorite and Macarius of Corinth:

Do not say that you are the temple of the Lord, writes Jeremiah (cf. Jer. 7:4); nor should you say that faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save you, for this is impossible unless you also acquire love for Him through your works.  As for faith by itself, the devils also believe, and tremble (Jas. 2:19).”  The Philokalia: The Complete Text compiled by St Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth

“Nothing created by God is evil. It is not food that is evil but gluttony, not the begetting of children but unchastity, not material things but avarice, not esteem but self-esteem. It is only the misuse of things that is evil, not the things themselves.” –Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice 1.11, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

“There are said to be five reasons why God allows us to be assailed by demons. The first is so that, by attacking and counterattacking, we should learn to discriminate between virtue and vice. The second is so that, having acquired virtue through conflict and toil, we should keep it secure and immutable. The third is so that, when making progress in virtue, we should not become haughty but learn humility. The fourth is so that, having gained some experience of evil, we should “hate it with perfect hatred” (cf. Ps. 139:22). The fifth and most important is so that, having achieved dispassion, we should forget neither our own weakness nor the power of Him who has helped us.” –Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice 1.11, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2).

“If God suffers in the flesh when He is made man, should we not rejoice when we suffer, for we have God to share our sufferings? This shared suffering confers the kingdom on us. For he spoke truly who said, If we suffer with Him, then we shall also be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17).”  –Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice 1.11, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

“The person who truly wishes to be healed is he who does not refuse treatment. This treatment consists of the pain and distress brought on by various misfortunes. He who refuses them does not realize what they accomplish in this world or what he will gain from them when he departs this life.” –Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice 1.11, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

“Almost every sin is committed for the sake of sensual pleasure; and sensual pleasure is overcome by hardship and distress arising either voluntarily from repentance, or else involuntarily as a result of some salutary and providential reversal. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, so that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Cor. 11:31-32).” -Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice 1.11, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

Every genuine confession humbles the soul. When it takes the form of thanksgiving, it teaches the soul that it has been delivered by the grace of God.“ –Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice 3.62, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2).

Life of the Virgin:

“I Hear this, all you nations, and take heed, all you inhabitants of the earth (cf. Isa 34.1)! Come all believers and gather all lovers of God, kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all judges of the earth, boys and girls, the old with the young, every tongue and every soul, let us hymn, praise, and glorify the all-holy, immaculate, and most blessed Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, the throne of the king more exalted than the cherubim and seraphim, the mother of Christ our God.” –The Life of the Virgin: Maximus the Confessor, Chapter 1, translation by Stephen J. Shoemaker

“Now by her grace let us speak about her Dormition and removal from the world to the eternal kingdom, for it is the joy and the light of pious souls to hear such a story. When Christ our God wanted to bring his all-holy and immaculate mother forth from the world and lead her into the kingdom of heaven so that she would receive the eternal crown of virtues and supernatural labors, and so that he could place her at his right hand beautifully adorned with golden tassels in many colors (cf. Ps 44.10, 14) and proclaim her queen…” –The Life of the Virgin: Maximus the Confessor, Chapter 8, translation by Stephen J. Shoemaker

She is the ardent intercessor with her son, Christ God, for all those who entreat her.  She is the calm harbor of all those buffeted by waves, who rescues them from spiritual and fleshly waves.  She is the guide on the way of life for all who have gone astray.” –The Life of the Virgin: Maximus the Confessor, Chapter 9, translation by Stephen J. Shoemaker

“And there is her incorruptible girdle as a crown of grace and a steadfast wall for the faithful city and as a source of victory to the pious emperors.” Life of the Virgin, trans. Stephen J. Shoemaker