For our Associates of the ICL we offer a weekly
reflection from the Contemplative Tradition. For this calendar year and beyond, we are focusing our reflections on our
translation of Maximos the Confessor's Third Century on Love. The Associates receive our
translation and brief reflection upon the saying ending with a Contemplative Tactic, a suggestion on how to employ the reflection
in practice. Become an Associate today so you too can begin to develop and build your own contemplative
tactics for daily living.
Institute for Contemplative Living
Thought for the Week, April 5-11, 2010
"The rational use of conceptual images and their
physical entities is capable of producing moderation and knowledge. The irrational use produces intemperance, hatred,
Maximos the Confessor, Third Century on Love, #
Conceptual images are those images of things that reflect
the reality of their creation by God, that is, the reality of God's divine energy calling them into existence and through
which the created being participates in God. It is impossible to have a conceptual image without the physical entity
that suggests it. This is a complicated idea. We have conceptual images, fantasies, or abstract thoughts that
tell us that everything in existence participates in the God who created them. And we have the physical entity itself
that points the way to the spiritual seeing of the reality of God's presence.
Maximos tells us that when we use
these conceptual images and their physical entities with intelligence and reason, we develop temperance and knowledge.
We envision this cryptic statement to mean that, when we understand that everything and everyone in creation has their source
in God, we begin to treat them differently. If those around us are the physical manifestation of a revelation of God,
then we must treat those we encounter with grace and honor them for their participation in God. We cannot grasp at either
people or things in an attempt to control or to manipulate them, because that would violate their participation in God.
That inability to control and to
manipulate creates temperance, self-restraint, and purity in communication with the other. What we perceive with our
senses forces us to honor the participation of every existent being in God the Creator. We restrain our impulses to
impose our will on creation, because we understand fundamentally that creation belongs to us only by its participation in
God. Creation is not ours by right, but by participation in the divine presence. So we honor and respect the creation
as revealing God through our rational and intelligent use of these images as revealers of the divine presence.
|Icon of Maximos the Confessor in Creation
|Photo by Doug Bleyle
Contemplative Tactic: Take note of a time when you have been
frustrated by your inability to control a person, situation, or thing. How did you feel about it? Now begin to
trace the associations from the material and physical object or person back to God.
Such a use of the conceptual images
also leads to a different form of knowledge both of things and of people. The true knowledge about every existent being
is that God is their source and origin, their basis of existence, and the end to which their existence aims. This type
of knowledge is divine knowledge, an understanding based on what we know as people who contemplate the reality of God.
It does not replace all other kinds of knowing, but it does provide the theological context that gives meaning to everything
else, so that our knowledge and understanding culminates in the worship of God.
Maximos says that the opposite, the irrational,
use of conceptual images leads to intemperance, hatred, and ignorance. The hatred emerges from the fact that most times
we are not capable of controlling or manipulating others, or the creation, with any level of success. Try as we might
to rule over others, or over nature, we frustrate ourselves with fruitless efforts. And that frustration leads to anger
and hatred of the creation as well as for those whom we try to control but cannot. Hatred is a misuse of conceptual
images and their material realities. We become intemperate in relationship to creation. We become ignorant of
the reality of creations participation in God. Unintelligent and irrational approaches to creation will lead us into
The sensible use of conceptual images for contemplatives means that we put everything
and everyone into the proper relationship to God and we act accordingly. Seeing God's divine presence energizing and
vivifying all existence, we turn our minds from a desire to control or manipulate toward a desire to honor, worship, and adore
the God who called all things into existence and who has drawn all creation into participation with God. This is true
knowledge and moderation.