Saint Maximos


Our Holy Father St. Maximos the Confessor


Troparion, Tone 3

Through thee the Spirit poured forth streams of teaching for the Church; thou didst expound God the Word's self-emptying, and shine forth in thy struggles as a true Confessor of the Faith; Holy Father Maximos, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

 


Kontakion, Tone 8

 

O faithful, let us acclaim the lover of the Trinity, great Maximos who taught the God-inspired Faith, that Christ is to be glorified in two natures, wills and energies: and let us cry to him: Rejoice, O herald of the Faith.

 

 

A mighty spiritual giant who was broken by nothing and no one, and whose image does not fade with time, Venerable Maximos the Confessor is a faithful indicator, even till now, of how one may follow after Christ by that path by which he himself so faithfully followed the Lord. 

 


St. Maximos the Confessor was born in 580, a citizen of Constantinople and a nobleman. He became a high-ranking courtier at the court of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, and later became a monk and the abbot of a monastery not far from the capital.  He was the greatest defender of Orthodoxy against what was called the Monothelite heresy, which developed from the heresy of Eutyches, i.e., as Eutyches asserted that there is only one nature in Christ, so the Monothelites asserted that there is only one will in Him - the Divine. This heresy was diametrically opposed to the long accepted Orthodox doctrine that Christ had two wills - the Divine and the human. St. Maximos resisted this assertion and found himself in opposition to both the Emperor and the Patriarch. Emperor Constans II, the successor to the Emperor Heraclius, issued his infamous "Typus" Declaration, formally accepting the Monothelite teaching as official dogma.

 


But St. Maximos was fearless and persevered to the end in proving that there are in the Lord two wills and also two natures.  By his efforts, one Council in Carthage and one in Rome stood firm, and both these Councils anathematized the Monothelite teaching. St. Maximos' sufferings for Orthodoxy went beyond description: he was tortured by hierarchs, spat upon by the masses, beaten by soldiers, persecuted, imprisoned, until finally, with his tongue cut out and one hand cut off, to keep him from speaking or writing, he was condemned to exile for life in Skhimaris. But his faithful assistant, St. Anastasios, continued his work of writing in defence of Orthodoxy after these events.

 


A profound theologian of his time and a strict defender of Orthodoxy, Maximos successfully demonstrated the incorrectness of the Monothelite heresy, for the enemies of the church persecuted him many times.

 


Venerable Maximos' arguments in behalf of Orthodoxy were so powerful that, after a public debate on the faith with Pyrrhus, the Monothelite Patriarch of Constantinople, the latter renounced the heresy in 645.

 


The heretics often went from urging and appealing Maximos, to threatening, abusing and beating him. Venerable Maximos was sent into exile several times and called back to Constantinople each time. On one occasion, St. Maximos was called back, and the imperial grandees, Troilus and Sergius, subjected him yet again to interrogation. They began to accuse St. Maximos of pride for esteeming himself as the only Orthodox who would be saved and for considering all others to be heretics who would perish.

 


To this the saint replied, "When all the people in Babylon were worshipping the golden idol, the Three Holy Youths did not condemn anyone to perdition. They did not concern themselves with what others were doing, but took care only for themselves, so as not to fall away from true piety. In precisely the same way, Daniel also, when cast into the den, did not condemn any of those who, in fulfilling the law of Darius, did not want to pray to God; but he bore in mind his duty, and desired rather to die than to sin and be tormented by his conscience for transgressing God's Law. God forbid that I, too, should condemn anyone, or say that I alone am being saved. However, I would sooner agree to die than, having apostatized in any way from the right faith, endure the torments of my conscience."

 


Then Troilus and Sergius pointed out to St. Maximos that the whole Christian world recognized the Monothelite Patriarch of Constantinople as legitimate, that all the Eastern Patriarchs and their locum tenentes were in communion with him, and that the plenipotentiary representatives of the Roman Pope would serve with the Patriarch and commune with him. Thus, he was the only one remaining in the whole world who did not recognize the Patriarch.

 


The St. answered, "If even the whole universe should begin to commune with the Patriarch, I will not commune with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul that the Holy Spirit will give over to anathema even the angels, if they should begin to preach any other gospel, introducing anything new."

 


Venerable Maximos remained unshaken in his religious convictions. Finally, they cut off his right hand and tongue, so that he could not proclaim or defend the truth, either by word or pen. They then dispatched him to confinement in Lazov, a region of Mingrelia in the Caucasus. Here his faithful assistant St. Anastasios continued his work of writing in defense of Orthodoxy.  Venerable Maximos died on August 13, 662, foreknowing his approaching death.

 

St. Maximos was a true defender of Orthodoxy against the Monothelite heresy, which was opposed to the long accepted Orthodox doctrine that Christ had two natures - the Divine and the human.  This left St. Maximos opposed to both the Emperor and the Patriarch, which was not a concern to him since he fearless and determined to prove that the two wills did in fact exist.  For this he was criticized and ridiculed as well as tortured by hierarchs, spat upon by the people, beaten by soldiers, persecuted, imprisoned, until finally, with his tongue cut out and one hand cut off, to keep him from speaking or writing, he was condemned to exile for life.  St. Maximos refused to give up his beliefs and finally, his right hand and tongue were cut, so that he could not proclaim or defend the truth, either by word or pen, however his faithful assistant St. Anastasios continued his work of writing in defence of Orthodoxy. 

 

Venerable Maximos the Confessor is a faithful indicator, even until now, of how one may follow after Christ by that path by which he himself so faithfully followed the Lord and upheld the truth.

 


Jennifer Wihbey

 


St. George, Toronto