Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Matthew Hale: Meaning, Self-Transcendence, and Conversion in St. Maximus the Confessor’s Account of Theoria

For Maximus the Confessor, contemplation of the created order, or theoria, constitutes an important advance in the spiritual life and the proper means by which the mind relates to created things. Rather than becoming distracted by desire for the things in themselves, the mind is now able to discern the divine intentions for these creatures, or the logoi, and from there be turned ever more to God. Theoria is usually considered with reference to its finality in theologia, unitive knowledge of God. But in this paper, drawing primarily from the Ambigua and Quaestiones et dubia, I wish to consider another reference point for theoria: that of the situatedness of theoria within a mode of activity proper to union with Christ, i.e. the cooperation of the ascetic with Christ in the redemption and deification of created things. Within this context, theoriais an embodying of Christ both in the ascetic’s knowing itself but also in the extension of that knowing into the ascetic’s activity vis-à-vis created things. This construal of the relationship of contemplative knowing to redemptive activity is highly suggestive and begs for a transposition into contemporary categories. In my concluding remarks, I will suggest an outline of such a transposition in conversation with Bernard Lonergan, specifically his account of religious conversion, the transformation of the human person from being to being-in-love, which has a powerful impact on her knowing and deciding.

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