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Maximus the Confessor (The Early Church Fathers) Hardcover – 25 Apr 1996

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (25 April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 041511845X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415118453
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,407,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This is probably the best single-volume, general introduction to the Confessor available in English today."-"St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, Nov 1998 "The chief merit of this work...is to make a significant number of Maximus's writings available in English translation.... Louth is to be congratulated for his clear and faithful renderings of some of the most difficult Greek theological works of late aniquity.... This is an excellent introduction to the theology of Maximus. It will be of interest to both students and specialists in the area of church history, Christology, anthropology, spiritulaity, medieval exegesis, and Byzantine studes."-"Anglican Theological Review "Andrew Louth...recounts his life, the upheavals through which he lived, the sources of his theology...and his teachings on the person of Christ "Heiser, Fall 1997.""Louth's "Maximus the Confessor contributes to our understanding of Maximus in two important ways: he translates for the first time into English several texts wherein Maximus addresses critical theological issues, and he introduces the reader lucidly and succinctly to Maximus's complex manner of thinking and his theological system."-"The Journal of Religion

About the Author

Andrew Louth is Professor of Cultural History at Goldsmiths' College. He is the author of many works on the Christian tradition, among them Eusebius: The History of the Church (1989) and The Wilderness of God (1991)

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St Maximus the Confessor was born in AD 580 in the Byzantine Empire, or the Roman Empire, as he and its inhabitants would have called it. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Vincrid on 31 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Maximus the Confessor seems to be getting more of the attention he deserves in recent years. A good selection of commonly quoted sources is available elsewhere in the excellent 'Classics of Western Spirituality' series. This volume is a real bonus as it makes available an alternative selection from the 'Ambigua'. For myself, as someone beginning to find my way about Maximus, this edition would have been worth buying for Andrew Louth's excellent 77 page introduction alone.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
A "most valuable" introduction to Maximus 15 Aug. 2000
By Vincent Rossi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I cannot in good conscience bypass one more time that one-starred, rather negative review by the reviewer from Holland of this actually excellent book on St. Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth, without attempting to redress what is basically a false impression of a very praise-worthy work. I could not disagree more with his overall opinion of what Louth has done. In fact, Andrew Louth has done a great service in making these texts of St. Maximus--some of his most important and most beautiful spiritual works--available to the English-speaking public. Yes, he is not always consistent in his translation of some of the terms Maximus uses; yes, one might quibble with his interpretation of the Confessor's thought here and there. But anyone who has ever tried his hand at translating even one passage of Maximus' notoriously difficult Greek will appreciate what Louth has actually accomplished and will give credit where credit is assuredly due. One of the greatest Maximus scholars of this century, Lars Thunberg, who has himself written perhaps the single most important monograph of the past fifty years on the Confessor's thought, <<Microcosm and Mediator>>, says in his own review (published in an Orthodox journal in England) of Louth's book: "His audacity is to be hailed, for the texts that he has chosen for translation are some of the most difficult: Ambigua 10 and 41...together with the very succinct and demanding Letter 2 on Love...translations of Maximus texts of this complexity...may always be discussed and other renderings be suggested." Despite offering in his review alternative renderings of his own of some difficut passages, Thunberg does not let his scholarly criticism outweigh his assesment of the overall value of the book, and goes on to praise Louth for producing "this beautiful volume, containing both a substantial introduction and remarkable translations...Andrew Louth has certainly given to his readership a most valuable introduction not only to the 'thinking' but also the 'thought' of the Confessor. His challenging observations provide a stimulus and an agenda for us all."
The "substantial introduction" is all of that, and is, in my view, simply one of the best introductions to the thinking and theology of St. Maximus in print. It is itself worth the price of the book. In short, I agree with Lars Thunberg, and not with the reviewer from Holland, in recommending this book highly. Anyone who loves Maximus or who wants to understand him better should read this book.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
just trying to even the score some more 2 Aug. 2001
By Wyote - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The first reviewer's criticisms might matter if there were a better translation of Maximus' work available. There is not. Maximus is such a brilliant, insightful theologian, he deserves to be read; perhaps I should say contemporary Christians need to read and consider him seriously.
Louth's introduction is indeed superlative.
Perhaps Maximus' most approachable work are his Centuries on Love, available in the Classics of Western Spirituality Series and in the Philokalia, Volume II, edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware (but not in Louth's book). Thunberg's works, "Microcosm and Mediator" and the shorter, more accessible "Man and the Cosmos" are the best English works on Maximus (perhaps the best in any language). Another recent scholar, who has translated a number of Maximus' works into English, is Joseph Farrell.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
An invaluable study 10 Oct. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Despite the hyperbolic criticisms (indeed, doomsaying) of the first reviewer, Louth's Maximus the Confessor is an enormously useful resource. The introductory essay provides a clear orientation for the reader -- no small task for the works of the Confessor. Though some flaws in the translation have been pointed out (not least by Janssen, a learned editor of Maximus' texts), this should not concern for the reader as they do not distort the Confessor's teachings and therefore are not misleading. In fact, by coupling his deft introduction with a lucid translation of these tremendously difficult texts, Louth has done a great service for the English speaking world. It is to be hoped that this will encourage further reading in the challenging, but greatly rewarding, works of St Maximus.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Must-read in theological studies 11 Aug. 2012
By K. M. Clarke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am going to have to read this one--along with Daley's translation of Balthasar's Cosmic Liturgy--again after a little while. Louth has delivered in this text, with his valuable introduction, readable translation, and thorough notes. The reader is struck by his familiarity with patristic texts and his erudition, but no less is his humility and love for the Confessor present. St. Maximus' Greek is very difficult to read; thus, Louth has done the English speaking world a major service in bringing us this introduction and translation of some of St. Maximus' most theologically significant pieces.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
With Andrew Louth and Maximus together, you can't beat that! Sheer delight! 30 Dec. 2008
By Ibrahim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If we want to think of how a man sees the universe in relation to God and his such a cosmic view while not being New-Agey or compromising in his Christian faith, then Maximus the Confessor is the man for you. I can't hide my sadness while reading the book, sadness as it talks about Arab invasions in a typical Islamic, expansionistic approach to places that never belonged to them. I can't hide my sadness over how Christians in these early councils were splitting hairs trying to define who Christ was in his divine nature as relating to his human nature. Those patriarchs of these early councils had too much time on their hands. Had they found a hobby or got involved in something really productive for the world, they would have been more useful. But they were lazy bums arguing over every small detail of the divine nature and castigating anybody who disagreed with them as a heretic anathematized. Because of their argumentative spirit, Maximus the confessor "was tried again in Constantinople, tortured, had his tongue and his right hand --the instruments with which he had defended Orthodoxy (or to his judges proclaimed heresy)
--cut off, and exiled to Lazica, the homeland of Cyrus of Alexandria. He died there, over eighty years old, on 13 August 662. He died abandoned, except for his two disciples: there was no protest from Rome or anywhere else.

Within twenty years the teaching for which he had given his life--the doctrine that Christ had two wills, a divine will and a human will--was vindicated at the sixth Ecumenical Council, convened at Constantinople in 680, though no mention was made there of the great confessor of Orthodoxy, St Maximus. (p.18).

There is the influence of Denys (Dionysius the Areopagite) who comes with a tradition of cosmic theology. Cosmos to both of them was not seen "in traditional classical terms as the spheres of the planets, the sun and the moon, and beyond them the fixed sphere of the stars--for him, as for most Christians, lifeless beings--but as rank on rank of angelic beings, praising God and radiating his glory, and drawing human beings up into praise of God and the transforming power of his glory."(p. 31). To them, the coming of the reconciling Christ and our attempts to respond to and live out that reconciliation in our lives has cosmic significance, just as they saw Fall of man in ontological terms--the letting-loose of corruption and death driving the whole created order towards non-being. It was all linked.

Maximus is known for his attachment to ascetical theology, which simply means to tell us about how how we come to know God, it is not about some kind of spiritual technique; to come to know God is a matter of experience, not speculation; for a Christian to come to know God is to respond to a God who has made himself known (p. 33). If we ask Maximus what the spiritual life is about, he will stress that it is all about how we love. In our fallen state, apart from the call of God, we are in a state of self-love, philautia. It is from this condition that all the passions flow: Maximus calls it the `mother of passions' (p. 38). For Maximus, Love is about how we relate--to God, to other people (and, indeed, to ourselves): Maximus defines it as an `inward relationship' of the utmost universality (Epistula 2:401D). What is interesting to me is that Maximus uses the word agapê for love but sometimes he uses the word erôs. To me that confirms that love is love, and it can't be dissected or fragmented into types as it all flows from the Lord directly, the source of all love. Without Him, we don't even know what love is. For Maximus, training in Christianity is a training in love. He is a theologian who will take us by the hand and give us practical tips on how to apply the teaching of the gospel of our Lord on love. In his famous work Centuries on Love, he teaches us:

If you harbour resentment against anybody, pray for him and you will prevent the passion from being aroused; for by means of prayer you will separate your grief from the thought of the wrong he has done you. When you have become loving and compassionate towards him, you will wipe the passion completely from your soul. If somebody regards you with resentment, be pleasant to him, be humble and agreeable in his company, and you will deliver him from his passion. (CC III.90).

As a Muslim, I found the teachings of Jesus to be "idealistic", too dreamy and have no bearing on reality. I wondered, how can anybody love their enemies? Why would God ask for a far-fetched thing like that? What good would it do me to love my enemies, if this even were possible?! Now, to Maximus, the objective is to help us conform to the image of Christ, to be like God, and in so doing we are no longer living according to the Adamic dust nature. He says it beautifully meditating on this passage that used to be a stumbling block to my conversion to Jesus:

`But I say to you,' says the Lord, `love your enemies...do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you' (Matt. 5:44). Why did he command this? To free you from hatred, grief, anger and resentment, and to make you worthy of the supreme gift of perfect love. And you cannot attain such love if you do not imitate God and love all men equally. For God loves all men equally and wishes them `to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim. 2:4). (CC I.61).

The whole purpose, as we see, behind the teachings of Christ is to free us, to set us free from bondage to our fleshly nature. What would I do with a faith if it was a mere set of dogmas and doctrines?! No use. I need a Saviour that liberates and elevates me to be like God, to be made truly and transformed into His image.

As Evangelical Christians, we hear all too often that these monks have to work too hard in order to earn their salvation. We go around saying, they are saved by "works". Look at their ascetic struggle. For Maximus and many of the Early Fathers of the Church, engagement with Scripture and natural contemplation leading to union with God is at the heart of the Christian life, but ascetic struggle is not simply an initial stage to be accomplished as quickly as possible, it is an abiding concern of the spiritual life. The most fundamental reason for this is that, paradoxically, ascetic struggle can achieve nothing on its own. It is all a work of grace that rests completely on who Christ is and His saving work.

Also, it pains us to see a word between the sexes. Maximus does not believe in what the poet Amy Clampitt has called `the archetypal cleft of sex'. His cosmic theology revolves round the notion of the divisions of being. In his treatment of this he draws together a metaphysical analysis of being that places the human person at a kind of central crossing-place in his understanding of reality, and then relates to that the renewal of nature through the Incarnation, and the celebration and recapitulation of that renewal in the Eucharistic liturgy. Maximus shares with Gregory of Nyssa a belief in the double creation of humankind: an original creation that transcends sexuality, and a second creation, embracing sexual division, that has been introduced, not because of the Fall, but with a view to the Fall, that will exploit this division and turn it into an
opposition, even a warfare. In Christ, the human person unites heaven and earth, in Him alone, they meet and are joined as N.T. Wright expressed it in his book "Simply Christian". We have to be restored to the original creation that transcends sexuality, that one in which there is no male or female but all are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28).
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