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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

St. Maximus the Confessor on Col 2:15

The Church Fathers have interesting commentaries that we'd all benefit from if we'd just be willing to read them. Here's one from St. Maximus the Confessor I wished to share from Ad Thalasium 21: On Christ's Conquest of the Human Passions: 

Q: What's the meaning of the scripture, He put off the powers & principalities, & so on (Col 2:15)? And how indeed had he "put them on" at all when he was begotten without sin? 

R: The Divine Logos assumed our human nature without altering his divinity, & became perfect man in every way like us save without sin (cf Heb 4:15). He appeared like the 1st man Adam in the manner both of his creaturely origin & his birth. The 1st man received his existence, & was free from corruption & sin - for God didn't create either of these. When, however, he sinned by breaking God's commandment, he was condemned to birth based on sexual passion & sin. Sin, henceforth, constrained his true natural origin within the liability to passions that had accompanied the 1st sin, as though placing it under a law. Accordingly, there is no human being who's sinless, since everyone is naturally subject to the law of sexual procreation that was introduced after man's true creaturely origin in consequence of his sin.

Since, therefore, sin came about on account of the transgression, & the liabililty to passions connected with sexual procreation entered human nature on account of sin, & since, through sin, the original transgression continued unabately to flourish right along with this passibility of childbirth, there was no hope of liberation, for human nature was deliberately & indissolubly bound by the chain of evil. The more human nature sought to preserve itself through sexual procreation, the more tightly it bound itself to the law of sin, reactivating the transgression connected with the liability to passions. Because of its physical condition, human nature suffered the increase of sin within this very liability to passions, & it retained the energies of all opposing forces, principalities, & powers - energies which, in view of the univeral sin operative in human passibility, used the unnatural passions to hide under the guise of natural passions. Wherefore every wicked power is at work, amid human nature's liability to passions, driving the deliberative will with the natural passions into the corruption of unnatural passions.

Thus, in His love of humanity, the only-begotten Son and Logos of God became perfect man, with a view to redeeming human nature from this helplessness in evil. Taking on the original condition of Adam as he was in the very beginning, he was sinless but not incorruptible, & he assumed, from the procreative process introduced into human nature as a consequence of sin, only the liability to passions, not the sin itself. Since, then, through the liability to passions that resulted from Adam's sin, the evil powers, as I already said, have hidden their activities clandestinely under the law of human nature in its current circumstance, it merely follows that these wicked powers - seeing in God our Savior the same natural liabitity to passions as in Adam, since he was in the flesh, & thinking that he was necessarily & circumstantially a mere man, that the Lord himself had to submit to the law of nature, that he acted by deliberation rather than true volition - assailed him. These evil powers hoped to use natural passibilty to induce even the Lord himself to fantasize unnatural passion & to do what suited them. They tried to do this to him who, in his 1st experience of temptation by pleasure, subjected Himself to being deluded by these evil powers' deveits, only to put off those powers by eliminating them from human nature, remaining unapproachable & untouchable for them. Clearly He won the victory over them for our sake, not for his own; & it was for us that he became a man &, in his goodness, inaugurated a complete restoration. For he himself didn't need the experience, since He's God & Sovereign & by nature free from all passion. He submitted to it so that, by experiencing our temptations, he might provoke the evil powers & thwart its attack, putting to death the very power that expected to seduce him just as it had [done] Adam in the beginning.

This, then, is how, in his initial experience of temptation, he put off the principalities & powers, removing them from human nature & healing the liability to hedonistic passions, & in himself cancelled the bond (Col 2:14) of Adam's deliberate acquiescence in those hedonistic passions. For it's by this bond that man's will inclines toward wicked pleasure against his own best interest, & that man declares, in the very silence of his works, his enslavement, being unable, in his fear of death, to free himself from his slavery to pleasure.

Then, after having overcome & frustrated the forces of evil, the principalities & powers, through his 1st experience of being tempted with pleasure, the Lord allowed them to attack him a 2nd time & to provoke him, through pain & toil, with the further experience of temptation so that, by completely depleting them, within himself, of the deadly poison of their wickedness, he might utterly consume it, as though in a [refiner's] fire. For he put off the principalities & powers at the moment of his death on the cross, when he remained impervious to his sufferings &, what's more, manifested the (natural human) fear of death, thereby driving from our nature the passion associated with pain. Man's will, out of cowardice, tends away from suffering, & man, against his own will, remains utterly dominated by the fear of death, &, in his desire to live, clings to his slavery to pleasure.

So the Lord put off the principalities & powers at the time of his 1st experience of temptation in the desert, thereby healing the whole of human nature of the passion connected with pleasure. Yet he despoiled them again at the time of his death, in that he likewise eliminated from our human nature the passion connected with pain. In his love of humanity, he accomplished this restoration for us as though he were himself liable; & what's more, in his goodness, he reckoned to us the glory of what he'd restored. So too, since he assumed our nature's liabillity to passions, albeit without sin (cf Heb 4:10), thereby inviting every evil power & destructive force to go into action, he despoiled them at the moment of his death, right when they came after him to search him out. He triumphed (Col 2:15) over them & made a spectacle of them in his cross, at the departure of his soul, when the evil powers could find nothing at all [culpable] in the passibility proper to his human nature. For they certainly expected to find something utterly human in him, in view of his natural carnal liabiliity to passions. It seems that in his proper power &, as it were, by a certain "first fruits" of his holy & humanly begotten flesh, he completely freed our human nature from the evil which had insinuated itself therein through the liability to passions. For he subjugated - to this very same natural passibility - the evil tyranny which had once ruled within it (within that passibility I mean).

It'd be possible to interpret this text differently, in a more mystical & sublime sense. As you know, however, he must not commit the ineffable truths of the divine teachings of Scripture to writing. Let us rest content with what's been said, which should assauge our curiousity about this text. With God's help, & as long as it'll be found worthy in your eyes, we shall still inquire, with a zeal to learn, into the apostolic thinking on this.

(St. Maximus the Confessor. Translated by: Blowers & Wilkin. On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ. SVS Press. Crestwood, NY. 2003. pages 109-113)


  1. The teaching/wisdom of MAN has obviously blinded your mind to the TRUTH that is plainly taught in the scriptures; You have stated that "Thus, in His love of humanity, the only-begotten Son and Logos of God became perfect man, with a view to redeeming human nature from this helplessness in evil." First of all Jesus is NOT "the only-begotten Son." TRUE Christians are ALSO begotten FROM ABOVE: Paul tells the Colossians they are made FULL in Christ: For in him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily, and in him you have been made full. The Greek word used in verse 10 is plēroō which is the verb form of the noun plērōma used in verse 9. They are verb and noun forms of the same Greek concept. Paul says essentially the same thing in the letter to the Ephesians: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19. The Colossians also had the fullness of deity dwelling in them. Having the fullness of God does not mean you ARE God. It means the fullness of the spirit of God dwells in you. All the fullness of deity, the fullness of God, was in Jesus bodily. All the fullness of deity was in the Colossians as well. The Colossians were "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) which means they are "partakers of the spirit" (Heb 1:4) and this is how they are made full in the risen Christ. The risen Christ baptizes in holy spirit because he was raised to be "life-giving Spirit"
    (1 Corinthians 15:45); the Lord IS the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17;4:5). To be "in Christ" means to be in the resurrection life of Jesus who was raised bodily in the spirit of holiness (Rom 1:4). We no longer know Christ according to the flesh but Christ according to the Spirit (2 Cor 5:16; 1 Peter 3:18). The Spirit dwells in the body of Christ. We are made FULL in the risen Christ because the fullness of that spirit dwells in the risen Jesus bodily. SECONDLY, it ALSO is plainly taught in scripture that the term “logos” was used for Yahweh, Jesus and Paul; Yahweh in John 1 was the "logos" Jesus in Rev 19:13 was the "logos" and Paul in Acts 14:1 was called the "logos." ALSO Jesus' genesis/origin started IN the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (His Father) in Matt 1:1,18 The Divine Logos DID NOT assumed our human nature without altering his divinity: Jesus DID NOT come to redeem our human nature: QUESTION; Who was DEAD on the cross for your SIN? Was it the MAN called Jesus, OR was it just his human nature?

  2. Theosis does not teach that we become God. We become like God.


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