In his day, St Maximus faced problems of definition when describing the Trinity and the Incarnation. Today we have a different problem. Rather than letting the Scriptures or the Church Fathers define key spiritual words such as love, we understand concepts like love using definitions formulated by psychologists. Sadly, we do not even realize when there is discordance between them. In nearly all of the writings of St Maximus, self-love and perfect love are polar opposites, and self-love is the mother of all passions and vices. […]
We seek deification in the Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer, which starts out, Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name, so we are exhorted to Love God, and understand how we stand in His Kingdom, and continues as we pray how we should live our lives, repenting of all, forgiving everyone, no exceptions. Once we understand how we must repent of all our transgressions, no exceptions, and forgive everyone, so God will forgive us, and not withhold forgiveness from anyone, lest God withholds His forgiveness of us, then we can better listen to the teachings of St Maximus against self-love, this affections of one’s self that is the root of all evil, the desperate lust to pleasure, often mere moments of pleasure that often leads to years of suffering for us and those around us. This self-love and lust for pleasure to avoid life’s pain instead tyrannizes the lives of those close to us. […]
St Maximus teaches us that if we truly Love God, this love is a great blessing that binds God and man together, and as much as is possible for man, Christ incarnate, the perfect deified man, will manifest Himself in the deified man to God. St. Maximus says this clearer in another writing: “Love makes man god, and reveals and manifests God as man, through the single and identical purpose and activity of the will of both.” […]
The ancient world is very different from the modern world. We in the modern world view life is sacred, today we expect our children to survive until old age, because modern medicine ensures a long healthy life to most of us. If I had lived in the ancient world, I would have died as a teenager from appendicitis. In the ancient world, parents often did not name their children until they were a few weeks old due to the high infant mortality rate. Only half of children survived to adulthood, some scholars estimate that only one in ten survived to a ripe old age.
Warfare is mentioned over three hundred times in the Old Testament, swords four hundred times. Ancient Israel was caught in many of the ancient wars since it was in the cross-roads of trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Since Judah was mountainous, its armies relied heavily on infantry, but the Bible mentions that King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom had chariots, and that he was felled by arrow probably shot by a composite bow. Assyria and Babylon had cavalry archers on horseback, but not Egypt or Israel. An Israeli chariot had three horses pulling three men, a driver with a spear, an archer, and a shield bearer. We know from our Sunday School stores King David slew Goliath with a sling, but the ancient slings were not the puny toys we imagine, the sling in the ancient world was a deadly combat weapon. A skilled slinger could sling a rock over 120 miles per hour, faster than the fastest fast ball. […]
The Greek innovation to ancient warfare was their hoplite warrior phalanx, a formation eight to ten rows of a hundred or more warriors, sometimes extending a quarter of a mile. The shields of the front row would interlock, and the entire formation would press upon the enemy, the soldiers would first throw their spears then jab with their swords from behind their shields, strictly maintaining their position. This required training and practice, the Athenians expected their nobles to drill during the year, the Spartans had a year-round military the practiced year-round. […]
The Greeks were the most formidable fighting force in the Near East. The mighty Persian empire loaded their army on ships to fight what they thought would be an easy victory, but were decisively defeated by Athens and Sparta and their allies both on land and on sea in two separate wars. This established the reputation of the Greeks, later a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, hired a Greek hoplite infantry army to fight for the crown of Persia. The Greeks dominated the battle, but Cyrus was killed in the fighting. Losing their patron, the Greeks were forced to fight their way through the Persian Empire back to the Black Sea and then to Greece. This showed that the mighty Persians were vulnerable, later Alexander the Great of Macedon would conquer all of Persia and some of India also.
The Greeks may have been the founders of Western Civilization, but they were first and foremost a warrior society. If the Greeks weren’t formidable warriors they would have been conquered by the mighty Persian Empire, which means that there would be no Socrates, no Plato, no Xenophon, the Greeks would not have been able to leave us a cultural legacy. […]