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Truth and Communion


The Truth is also

The Eucharistic perspective

The triadologic perspective

Negative perspective

The Christological perspective

The perspective of the "image" (icon)

Truth and Salvation -
the existential importance of the synthesis of the Greek Fathers

Truth and person

Truth and the

Truth and the Church - Ecclesiastical consequences
emerging from the synthesis of the Greek Fathers

The Eucharist as a place of the

5.     The Christological perspective 

The effort to connect the biblical to the Greek idea on truth through the sense of reason failed, as we have seen, in the theology of the three first centuries in two ways: on one hand the link between the Greek idea of the being to the ontological dissimilarity of the divine substance failed; on the other hand the link of the fully ontological content of the truth to its Christological content in a historical sense. With the sense of reason just the development of the unity between God and creation was achieved, but not the between the two existing difference. Thus the theology of the Fathers abandoned this sense and the problem remained without ontological truth, when at the same time the ontological dissimilarity of the divine substance is fully preserved over the creation and history? How, in other words, is the utmost truth connected ontologically to the creation and history, so that the creation and history can preserve their own, different from God being while God remains at the same time the unique truth of the being?

Answers to this basic problem were not missing of course from the Greek Fathers before Maximus, but the procession and mainly the philosophical development were. We tried to show that the starting point to the answer of this question lies in the Eucharistic theology of Ignatius and Eirinaeus, in which one meets for the first time the identification of being and life, which later on was developed by the theologians of the triadology of the fourth century, through the identification of life, communion and the being of God Himself. But if the truth can in the end be identified to the being just in the communion and through it, then what prevents us from returning to the Greek ontology of reason and seek the connection of God and the world on the path of identification of being and communion? This refers to the idea of participation, which Origen used excessively in order to define the connection between God and man. Therefore, one could easily wonder: In what way is the "participation" differentiated from "communion"?

The answer to this important question was given in the fourth century through the special use of the terms "participation" and "communion". At first glance there seems to be an interchange of these terms in the Greek Fathers; at the same time though a difference is preserved during their use with a characteristic persistence: Participation is only mentioned in the relationship of the creations with God and never in the relationship of God to creation[i]. In the Christological disputes of the fourth century and the Eucharistic consequences this can be distinguished clearly[ii]. If we take into consideration its importance to the sense of the truth, then the result that concludes is: the truth, as created or historical, is a depending truth, while the truth of the being of God is communion itself.

Apart from the ontological priority of the divine truth in this conclusion have to be noted: on one hand this means, that reality or "the true" part of the created existence cannot be confirmed by itself. God and the world cannot ontologically be placed simply one next to the other, as two ways of existence that are defined by themselves. On the other hand, the depending of a creation from God is not found simply to a logical causal relationship or a chronological sequence it is not dependence by the sense of an ontological production and an evolution from a kind of being to another. This dependence should rather be understood and interpreted as a permanent communion with God. The meaning "participation" becomes in this way an exceptional means of expression, because it declares at the same time two things: a) that the truth of the creation depends on something else, to which it participates; this is the truth as a communion without participation[iii] and b) that the dependence of the truth of creation from the truth of the divine being is not a simple, natural or ontological causal relationship, but an act of love. This allows a correlation of the truth with "nature" or the "substance" to be created, so that we can claim, that God is truth according to His own "nature" and the creation is truth according to its "nature". However the term "nature" should be defined directly through the term of communion: the created "nature", precisely like the divine "nature" is truth not as "natures", but as communion of natures, the first as communion through participation and the second as communion in itself, without participation. Once more the sense of the truth does not lead us to the "nature" of things, like it did for the Greeks, but in life and the communion of the beings in the triadological structure of the truth.

With these presuppositions an explanation on the way with which the ontologically extreme truth is connected to the view of the truth in creation, without the dissimilarity of the existence of God to be abolished, is offered. Unanswered still remains of course the question on the relationship of truth and history: the way in which the ontologically extreme truth is connected to the truth of creation, when creation is not understood as something static, but as a movement in time and as something temporary? Obviously Maximus the Confessor is once again the one who gave for the first time in the history of Christian thought an answer to this question.

Ontology and history are in a close relationship to the Greek Fathers. Here lies a difference on the understanding of history, as it is encountered in the West after Augustine[iv]. The relation between truth and history is not considered to be from the viewpoint of the relation of time with eternity but of being and life in relation to death and the ephemeral. The critical point in this approach lies in the sense of the movement of the being: is there truth in the movement of the being, when this movement is connected in history to the temporary and death?

Maximus inherited from Origenism the description of creation as a trinity: birth-stasis-movement, where the utmost meaning of movement (placed after stasis) contains an indication on the sinful nature of the creation, which according to the origenic myth on the fall, follows the eternal rest or eternal stasis[v]. This view of things is totally overwhelmed consciously by Maximus, who places stasis after movement (birth-movement-stasis)[vi]. This change has a double effect. On one hand it presents history as something temporary; so it can no longer return to the existence of God. On the other hand it presents history as something important, because it has an end, a limit, in the positive sense of the word "limit", a fulfillment[vii]. So the meaning of history returns to its old-testament basis with the difference of course that it is now understood ontologically. The truth of history is identified to the truth of the very creation: both of them turn towards the future. The fulfillment is not an original stage, to which the creation has been called to return, but an end, which invites it to look beforehand[viii]. The truth of time is not an ontologically inexplicable medium part between beginning and end, but the place of the psychological memory of the past and the psychological also hope of the future; it is the time of the development towards the end, an end lying in the future and this we must understand with an ontological sense. History is true even though it changes and it is temporary and that happens because it is movement to a limit. If the fulfillment of the historical existence is not an existence without the ephemeral and death (this is the existential meaning of the fact that stasis is placed after movement), then inevitably emerges that the being ceases at some point to exist and we should then end up along with the Greeks in the conclusion that history is non-being and non-truth. The truth of history is in this way identified to the truth of the being and this is so exactly because history is a movement of the being towards its limit, its purpose.

But if one sees the meaning of history just under the expectation of the future, where does the special and decisive point of it lay, the one approaching Christology, according to our understanding of the truth? The problem becomes even more complicated, if one links it to the ontology: how can the "limit" of history, when it concerns the truth, be identified so much to the course of history itself (the incarnation) as with the permanence of the being? We encounter once again the problem posed in the introduction.

The unique importance of Maximus' theology lies in the fact that he succeeded in developing a Christological synthesis, in which these different elements are not anymore incompatible with one another, but one is organically connected to the other. With great courage Maximus mentions again the term of the Word, which for a long time was not used because of the dangers connected to it, and succeeded in this way its Christological synthesis: Christ is the Word of creation and to Him must be found all the words of the beings[ix]. This is what the Apologetics and Origen claimed. However, Maximus makes the difference in the fact that he transfers the term of the word from cosmology to incarnation and this takes place with the aid of the dynamic terms of the will and love[x]. Neither the words of the beings, nor the Word of God can from now on be considered to be independent from the dynamic movement of love. The substratum of being is not the being, but love. The truth on the word of the being subjects only to love, not to an objective structure of the word, which could be designed for itself. This has extreme importance understand the sense of the Word correctly, because as a consequence, the words of the beings are no longer identified to the very being, but to the loving will of God. If one understands the word under the sense of nature, then it should be said that God knew the creations according to their own nature. Maximus alludes this decisive point and he denies it dynamically: "God does not know things according to their nature, but recognizes them as realizations of his own will (own wishes), since he builds them through His will (willingly)"[xi]; His knowledge is nothing more than His love.

The taking away from the Greek understanding of the truth is radical; the words of the beings (creations) are not anymore a necessity to God. The important part though is that this taking away is founded christologically and this leads to a synthesis of the truth as being and as history. God recognizes the creations as realizations of His will and so is not the being itself but the utmost will of God's love, which unifies the creations and declares the sense of being. This assignment is taken up by the incarnation. The incarnated Christ is identified so much to the utmost will of God's love, that the sense of the created being and the object of History are nothing more than the incarnated Christ. All things are created with a purpose or rather with Christ as a center and the incarnation could be realized without the fall of man[xii]. Christ, the incarnated Christ, is the truth, because he presents the utmost and uninterrupted will of the ecstatic love of God, which can lead the created being into communion to His life, into meeting Him in this fact of communion.

With all these the truth is averted from the platonic adherence it had and from the necessity of mechanical dynamics following the thought of Aristotle. History is neither removed in a platonic way, nor altered in the movement of the very being. The truth of history lies at the same time in the substrate of the created being (since al creations are willing realizations of the love of God), in the fulfillment or the future f history (since love of God in its will and expressions, meaning the created being, is identified to the utmost communion of creation to the life of God) and in the incarnated Christ (since the personification of this utmost will of love from God exists in the incarnated Christ). So Christ becomes the summary of all things and this moves not just the internal flow of history but also the internal being of the peculiarity of creatures in relation to the true being, in the sense of true life and true communion.

The truth then has its place in the heart of history and all these in a synthesis, which in the base of creation and in the limits of history and all these in a synthesis that allows us to say, that Christ is the truth at the same time to Judeans and Greeks. Possibly it is the first time in the entire history of philosophy that such a thing is expressed; for what we know, there is no other case, in which the philosophical language would have succeeded in connecting beginning and end of the being without entering a vicious circle. What Maximus achieved is nothing loess than the miracle of harmonizing the circle and the straight line with one another. The presupposition to this was the lucky connection of ontology and love, as well as the development of ontology of love under the term ecstasy and this can be invaluable to today's theology and philosophy. 

[i] E.g. Athanassius, Κατά Αρειανών, I,9; 46-48; III,40; Basil, Κατά Ευνομ. 2,22. Also see A. Houssiau, Incarnation et communion chez le Peres grecs, in : Irenikon 45, 1972, 457-468.

[ii] Also see H. Chadwick, Eucharist and Christology in the Nestorian Controversy, in: JThSt N. S. 2, 1951, 145-164. Also see A. Houssiau, the same, 463 and on.

[iii] Also see the differentiation of Cyril of Alexandria between "communion by nature" (the communion of Christ with God) and "communion by participation" (our participation to the incarnation). For the texts see A. Houssiau, the same, 477.

[iv] By translocating the sense of history from ontology to psychology, we have prepared the way to the modern antithesis between history and nature, where the first is a characteristic exclusively for man.

[v] Also see P. Sherwood, the same, p. 47 and on.

[vi] As above.

[vii] Maximus founds all these in the sense of will, as movement. With the help of Aristotlism he defines movement as a "natural force, which heads to its own purpose". He characterizes though through the senses of will and love, which allude movement from the basis following the thought of Aristotle. See in particular footnote 1 and 23, also see further up the discernment of the sense ecstasy, Part II, 4.

[viii] Maximus restates here essentially the matter of Eirinaeus concerning the childhood of Adam and develops on that basis a theology of history. This can be compared to the Augustinian view, according to which man was created perfect.

[ix] Also see J. H. Dalmais, La theorie des logoi des creatures chez St. Maxime le Confesseur, in : Rev. Sc. Ph. Th. 1952, 244-249.

[x] See e.g. footnote 23.

[xi] Footnote wills and destinations are synonymous in the thought of Maximus. See e.g. Προς Θαλ. Περί διαφ. Αποριών, 60.

[xii] Conversation of texts in G. Florovsky, Cur Deus homo? The motive of the Incarnation in St. Maximus the Confessor, in: Eucharisterion (Melanges H. Alivisatos), 1958, p. 76 and on.


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