On Jesus Christ & The End of the Ages
Q: If in the coming ages God will show his riches (Eph 2:7), how's it that the end of the ages has [already] come upon us (1 Cor 10:11)?
R: He who, by the sheer inclination of his will, established the beginning of all creation, seen & unseen, before all the ages & before that beginning of created beings, had an ineffably good plan for those creatures. The plan was for him to mingle, without change on his part, with human nature by true hypostatic union, to unite human nature to Himself while remaining immutable, so that he might become a man, as he alone knew how, and so that he might deify humanity in union with himself. Also, according to this plan, it's clear that God wisely divided "the ages" between those intended for God to become human, & those intended for humanity to become divine.
Thus the end of those ages predetermined for God to become human has already come upon us, since God's purpose was fulfilled in the very events of His incarnation. The divine Apostle, having fully examined this fact [...], & observing that the end of the ages intended for God's becoming human had already arrived through the very incarnation of the divine Logos, said that the end of the ages has come upon us (1 Cor 10:11). Yet by "ages" he meant not ages as we normally conceive them, but clearly the ages intended to bring about the mystery of his embodiment, which have already come to term according to God's purpose.
Since, therefore, the ages predetermined in God's purpose for the realization of his becoming human have reached their end for us, & God has undertaken & in fact achieved his own perfect incarnation, the other "ages" - those which are to come about for the realization of the mystical & ineffable deification of humanity - must follow henceforth. In these new ages God will show the immeasurable riches of his goodness to us (Eph 2:7), having completely realized this deification in those who are worthy. For if he's brought to completion his mystical work of becoming human, having become like us in every save without sin (cf Heb 4:15), & even descended into the lower regions of the earth where the tyranny of sin compelled humanity, then God will also completely fulfill the goal of his mystical work of deifying humanity in every respect, of course, short of an identity of essence with God & he will assimilate humanity to himself & elevate us to a position above all the heavens. It's to this exalted position that the natural magnitute of God's grace summons lowly humanity, out of a goodness that's infinite. The great Apostle is mystically teaching us about this when he says that in the ages to come the immeasurable riches of his goodness will be shown to us (Eph 2:7).
We too should therefore divide the "ages" conceptually, & distinguish between those intended for the mystery of the divine incarnation & those intended for the grace of human deification, & we shall discover that the former have already reached their proper end while the latter haven't yet arrived. In short, the former have to do with God's descent to human beings, while the latter have to do with humanity's ascent to God. By interpreting the texts thus, we don't falter in the obscurity of the divine words of Scripture, nor assume that the divine Apostle had lapsed into this same mistake.
Or rather, since the Lord Jesus Christ is the beginning, middle, & end of all the ages, past & future, [it'd be fair to say that] the end of the ages - specifically that end which will actually come about by grace for the deification of those who are worthy - has come upon us in potency through faith.
Or again, since there's one principle of activity and another of passivity, [we could say that] the divine Apostle has mystically & wisely distinguished the active principle from the passive principle respectively in the past & future "ages". Accordingly, the ages of the flesh, in which we now live (for Scripture also knows the ages of time, as when it says that man toiled in this age & shall live until its end [Ps 48:10]) are characterized by activity, while the future ages in the Spirit, which are to follow the present life, are characterized by the transformation of humanity in passivity. Existing here & now, we arrive at the end of the ages as active agents & reach the end of the exertion of our power & activity., But in the ages to come we shall undergo by grace the transformation unto deification & no longer be active but passive; & for this reason we shall not cease from being deified. At that point our passion will be supernatural, & there will be no principle restrictive of the divine activity in infinitely deifying those who are passive to it. For we are active agents insofar as we have operative, by nature, a rational faculty for performing the vitrues, & also a spiritual faculty, unlimited in its potential, capable of receiving all knowledge, capable of transcending the nature of all created beings & known things & even of leaving the "ages" of time behind it. But when in the future we're rendered passive (in deification), & have fully transcended the principles of beings created out of nothing, we'll unwittingly enter into the true Cause of existent beings & terminate our proper faculties along wiht everything in our nature that's reached completion. We shall become that which in no way results from our natural ability, since our human nature has no faculty for grasping what transcends nature. For nothing created is by its nature capable of inducing deification, since it's incapable of comprehending God. Intrinsically it's only by the Grace of God that deification is bestowed proportionately on created beings. Grace alone illuminates human nature with supernatural light, &, by the superiority of its glory, elevates our nature above its proper limits in excess of glory.
So it doesn't seem, then, that the end of the ages has come upon us (1 Cor 10:11) since we've not yet received, by the grace that's in Christ, the gift of benefits that transcend time & nature. Meanwhile, the modes of the virtues & the principles of those things that can be known by nature have been established as types & foreshadowings of those future benefits. It's through these modes & principles that God, who's ever willing to become human, does so in those who are worthy. And therefore whoever, by the exercise of wisdom, enables God to become incarnate within him or her &, in fulfillment of this mystery, undergoes deification by grace, is truly blessed, because that deification has no end. For he who bestows his grace on those who are worthy of it is himself infinite in essence, & has the infinite & utterly limitless power to deify humanity. Indeed, this divine power isn't yet finished with those beings created by it; rather, it's forever sustaining those - like us human beings - who have received their existence from it. Without it they couldn't exist. This is why the text speaks of the riches of his goodness (Eph 2:7), since God's resplendent plan for our transformation unto deification never ceases in its goodness toward us.
St. Maximus the Confessor. Translated by: Blowers & Wilkin. On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ. SVS Press. Crestwood, NY. 2003. Pgs 115-118
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