All are born into the Church and through it are reborn and recreated in the Spirit. To all in equal measure it gives and bestows one divine form and designation, to be Christ’s and to carry his name. In accordance with faith it gives to all a single, simple, whole, and indivisible condition which does not allow us to bring to mind the existence of the myriads of differences among them, even if they do exist, through the universal relationship and union of all things with it. It is through it that absolutely no one at all is in himself separated from the community since everyone converges with all the rest and joins together with them by the one, simple, simple and indivisible grace and power of faith. “For all,” it is said, “had but one heart and one mind.” Thus to be and to appear as one body formed of different members is really worthy of Christ himself, our true head, in whom says the divine Apostle, “there is neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither foreigner nor Scythian, neither slave nor freeman, but Christ is everything in all of you.” It is he who encloses in himself all beings by the unique, simple, and single cause and power that the principles of beings become disjoined at the periphery but rather he circumscribes their extension in a circle and brings back to himself the distinctive elements of beings which he himself brought into existence. The purpose of this is so that the creations and products of the one God be in no way strangers and enemies to one another by having no reason or center for which they might show each other any friendly or peaceful sentiment or identity, and not run the risk of having their being separated from God to dissolve into nonbeing.
Thus, as has been said, the holy Church of God is an image of God because it realizes the same union of the faithful with God. As different as they are by language, places, and customs, they are made one by it through faith. God realizes this union among the natures of things without confusing them but in lessening and bringing together their distinction, as was shown, in a relationship and union with himself as cause, principle, and end.
Saint Maximus the Confessor, The Church’s Mystagogy, 1, in Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality)(SPCK / Paulist, 1985), 187-188.
One of the advantages of working for an academic institution, albeit in a non-academic capacity (and the issues involved in that distinction are something I won’t get into here; suffice it to say that it is an interesting experience), is that I have access to its library. On Thursday I decided that I’d finally better try and find my way around the library. I won’t begin commenting on the contents of its Religious Studies / Theology section, but I was pleasantly surprised to see this volume tucked away between Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas in the Philosophy section. And, seeing that Saint Maximus has been on my to-be-read list for some time, I decided to take it out and at least make a start with reading him. No sooner had I done this than Aaron Taylor posted on what looks like a “must read” book by Father Nicholas Loudovikos on Saint Maximus’ eschatological ontology and in a comment recommended reading The Church’s Mystagogy. So, here we are…