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Mystagogia by St. Maximus the Confessor


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#1 Seraphima Sierra Butler

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 06:41 AM

Anyone know of a source for an English translation of this work?
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#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 12:46 PM

This can be found as the last part of Maximus Confessor- Selected Writings; The Classics of Western Spirituality series; Paulist Press.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Michael Stickles

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 01:55 PM

That's the only source I know of. You can see a preview of it at Google Books (as with most of their previews, a number of pages are not included, but you can get an idea of what it's like).

#4 Owen Jones

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 12:57 PM

When you read it will you explain it to me?

#5 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 02:26 PM

When you read it will you explain it to me?


Briefly- everything created is symbolic. :)

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#6 Michael Stickles

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 03:36 PM

When you read it will you explain it to me?


Well, Protopresbyter George Dion Dragas (Prof. of Patrology at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology) has read it and written The Church in St. Maximus' Mystagogy (online at the Myrobiblos library; originally published in 1985 in the journal Theologia). I haven't read it (nor have I read Mystagogia), so I can't say much of anything about it, except that none of the ten chapters appear to be very long.

#7 Owen Jones

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 04:07 PM

I was having a discussion last night at a Church dinner with a convert who is teaching a class for adult inquirers and he said that the difference between Orthodoxy and other forms of Christianity was the difference between original sin and ancestral sin which was going to be the subject of the class that night. Now, I realize that I am a very picky person who wants to question everything, but this really started to trouble me a bit and I tried to point out as politely as I know how, which is usually not very, that such stark dividing lines are pretty tenuous. Nevertheless there is certainly a need to try to help inquiries address this most critical question and different types of people address it quite differently and they all insist that they know the dividing line. I know one very prominent convert who says it's because the Orthodox Church possess the bones of the Apostles. For others I realize that it is Apostolic Succession. So here is my stab at it, with reference to Fr. Raphael's comment above.

All material realities are outward, physical expressions of internal spiritual realities, and it is the purpose of every believer to develop his faculties of spiritual perception, but especially his noetic faculties, such that he can directly perceive God in the things that He has made, so that he can live in communion with God by living in perfect awareness of and harmony with the things He has made.

#8 Ryan

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 10:31 PM

All material realities are outward, physical expressions of internal spiritual realities, and it is the purpose of every believer to develop his faculties of spiritual perception, but especially his noetic faculties, such that he can directly perceive God in the things that He has made, so that he can live in communion with God by living in perfect awareness of and harmony with the things He has made.


This is the fundamental Orthodox Christian natural philosophy. This is why, in my opinion, there is a basic opposition between Christianity and the Enlightenment ideology nowadays called "modern science." Instead of worrying about evolution, the age of the earth, modern cosmology, etc., we really should be going to the root and looking at the basic understanding of nature that the Fathers expounded.

There is but one world and it is not divided into parts. On the contrary, it encloses the differences of the parts arising from their natural properties by their relation to what is one and indivisible in itself. Moreover, it shows that both are the same thing with it and alternately with each other in an unconfused way and that the whole of one enters into the whole of the other, and both fill the same whole as parts fill a unit, and in this way the parts and uniformly and entirely filled as a whole. For the whole spiritual world seems mystically imprinted on the whole sensible world in symbolic orms,for those who are capable of seeing this, and conversely the whole sensible world is spiritually explained in the mind in the principles which it containsIn the spiritual world it is in principles; in the sensible world it is in figures.

- St. Maximus the Confessor, The Church's Mystagogy

...[W]hoever reads the natural without knowing the spiritual content and significance of what he has read, reads death, sees death, appropriates death. Also, whoever considers visible nature as the only reality and not as a riddle in the mirror of the spirit, does not know more than the child who may recognize letters but is far from understanding written words. And again, whoever looks at a visible thing as at something absolutely real and eternal by itself, as the ancient Hellenic naturalists did, and their modern followers do, is certainly an analphabetic idol worshipper. He sees the letters but cannot guess their meaning. Spiritual reality belongs to eternity while the symbols of that reality belong to time.

- St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Universe as Symbols & Signs

The man who is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Revealer of all things, acquires new eyes and ears, and sees no more as a natural man, namely by his natural sight with natural sensation, but standing as it were beyond himself contemplates spiritually visible things and bodies as the symbols of the things invisible.

- St. Symeon the New Theologian, Sermon 65

We must also add here, as necessary, that those who are spiritually immature and passionate and have not yet attained perfection and dispassion should guard themselves from being preoccupied with the reasons in nature and especially with small animals and man. When the mind is still passionate it cannot see the immaterial and spiritual reasons hidden in the shapes and beauty of physical nature and the passionate and irrational imagination takes precedence to formulate these reasons passionately according to its own standards. Thus instead of selecting from this physical experience knowledge and reasons that are spiritual, such persons select only mere shapes and passions and passionate idols. And instead of rising through nature to the spiritual and incorruptible nature of the Creator so as to marvel at this and to love God and be immersed in him, they remain on the physical level of admiring and being filled by the corruptible beauty of nature only, so as to virtually worship the creation and not the Creator- a condition which many naturalists of the past and of today are suffering.

- St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

The spirit of the insatiable thirst for knowledge, the restless spirit of Faust, turning to the cosmos breaks through the constricting limits of the heavenly spheres to launch out into infinite space; where it becomes lost in the search for some synthetic understanding of the universe, for its own understanding, external and limited to the domain of becoming, can only grasp the whole under the aspect of disintegration which corresponds to the condition of our nature since the fall. The Christian mystic, on the other hand, entering into himself, and enclosing himself in the 'inner chamber' of his heart, finds there, deeper even than sin, the beginning of an ascent in the course of which the universe appears more and more unified, more and more coherent, penetrated with spiritual forces and forming one whole within the hand of God.

- Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church

#9 Seraphima Sierra Butler

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 06:59 AM

Wow. Thanks everyone for the thoughtful and helpful replies. I especially appreciate the lead to Fr Dragas' book. I have dialogued with him in the past, and am excited to know of this "companion" resource, if you will.
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#10 Fr John Armstrong

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 03:58 AM

May I suggest another text which I have found helpful in trying to understand St. Maximus' Mystagogy: The Mind of the Orthodox Church, by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Ch. 4, "The Church and the Divine Eucharist according to St. Maximus the Confessor."

#11 Seraphima Sierra Butler

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 06:15 AM

Father, bless! I appreciate your recommendation. My husband had read it and recommended it also, and it is indeed helpful.




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