St. Maximus on the Fire of God

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

From the same (St. Gregory the Theologian), “I know a fire that is not purifying but avenging i.e., the fire of Sodom, which He pours down on all sinners mixed with brimstone and storms; or that which is prepared for the devil and his angels; or that which come forth from the face of the Lord and shall burn up His enemies round about; or more feared than these, that which is fused to one mass sleepless worms, unable to be quenched but existing perpetually for the wicked. (St. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 40)

“The fire of Sodom” is poured down upon those who trample on the law of nature by abusing it. And this is the reproof of the conscience, whenever, like fire, it completely burns it. And brimstone is the different circumstances, and storms are the sudden circumstances, which when mixed together injure in a more violent way. And they burn the conscience in imitation of the “devil and his angels” who through pride enviously slander the providence of God and employ treachery towards their neighbor. And the fire “which proceeds before the face of the Lord” burning “His enemies” is the energies of God. For they characterize the face of God, that is, His goodness, love of humankind, meekness, and things similar to these. These energies enlighten those who are like them and burn up those who oppose and have been alienated from the likeness. And the passage did not say these, the forms of fire, are eternal, since according to Gregory of Nyssa nature must recover its own powers and be restored by full knowledge to what was from the beginning, so that the Creator may be proven not to be the cause of sin. And he called the “more feared” fire, that “which is fused eternally into one mass with worms, not able to be quenched but existing perpetually for wicked”. For this reason, when the divinity appears and is offered to the worthy for their enjoyment, they who do not, through good works, illumine themselves, like a little worm which always uproots one’s memory, are devoured, evaluated by their failure and endless deprivation of the good, and are continually put to test by a more violent fire. (St. Maximus the Confessor’s Questions and Doubts pp. 95-96. Question 99)

Since in the [the text of] St. Diadochus, in the 100th chapter, it has been written, “Some will be judged through fires and purified in the future age,” I ask [that] the father’s aim be revealed to me by clarification.

They who have acquired the perfection of love for God and have elevated the wing of the soul through the virtues, according to Apostle “are caught up in the clouds” and do not come into judgment. And they who did not completely acquire perfection but have acquired both sin and good works, come into the court of judgment; there, they are scorched as by a fire by the comparison of their good and evil deeds, and if, in fact, the scale of their good deeds weighs downwards, they are cleansed of punishment. (St. Maximus the Confessor’s Questions and Doubts pg. 143. Various Questions and Selections from Various Passages that are Perplexing, Question I, 10)

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