St Maximus the Confessor (On the Liturgy)


St Maximus the Confessor was born in 580 AD to an aristocratic family of Constantinople, and received the finest education. He was an imperial secretary for four years before realising his calling to become a monk at the age of 34. He lived through the tumultuous events of the 7th century, which saw Jerusalem occupied by Persians and Christ’s True Cross taken and carried away; its subsequent recovery by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius; the Persian attack on Constantinople averted miraculously by the Theotokos’ defence of the city (from which the Akathist Hymn arose); and the destruction of the millennium-old Persian empire by Arab Muslims whose conquests reached Armenia and North Africa.

St Maximus personally became involved in two dogmatic battles from the age of 36. Though the heretics accepted our Lord Jesus Christ’s two natures (i.e. divine and human), they claimed erroneously that Jesus had only one “energy” or mode of action (monoenergism) and only one will (monothelitism). He was tried and exiled twice for defending the truth at the age of 75 and again at 82. On the second occasion, he was punished by having his tongue and right hand cut off and died shortly thereafter. His Orthodox stance was vindicated 18 years after his death by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680 AD.

St Maximus’ writings reveal that he was bestowed with abundant grace and attained deep spiritual insight. In his work titled Mystagogy he explains how the actions and symbols of the Divine Liturgy are not just figurative. Rather, God is communicating with and sanctifying us throughout the entire Liturgy. God does not just transmit information but reveals his own criteria allowing us to think, live and act in a divine manner.

We transcend via the Holy Spirit in accordance with our relationship and union with God, our faith and love, and through our participation in the Holy Eucharist. Our union with God strengths our personality and, increases our closeness to others. Fully assumed, the Divine Liturgy transforms and deifies both the human person and the community. Thus, he explains, we achieve the purpose for which we were created: the attainment of Christ within, and attainment of the Holy Spirit. We become one with God, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4).


Source: Lychnos August/September 2018