On Christian Conscience

26 02 2009

maximus_3

As a seminarian, I first read the text of the trial of St. Maximus Confessor, and it always struck me as a very challenging text. As you may know, the context of the trial is that St. Maximus is being accused in the trial of treason since he refuses to sign on to the doctrine that there is only one will or energy in Christ. At one point, the saint is asked some very pointed questions. I here produce the relavent excerpts:

Will you [Maximus] be saved and all others be lost?” To which he replied, “The three young men who did not adore the idol when all others adored it did not condemn anyone. They did not attend to what belonged to others but attended to this, that they did not lapse from true worship. Likewise, Daniel, when thrown in the lion’s den, did not condemn anyone who did not pray to God in accordance with the decree of Darius, but attended to what was his own role, and he preferred to die and not offend God than to be afflicted by his own conscience over the transgression of the laws of nature. Thus it is with me as well; may God grant that I neither condemn anyone nor say that I alone am saved. But I prefer to die rather than to have on my conscience that I in any way at all have been deficient in what concerns faith in God.

I think we have to realize that in the end we will be responsible only for ourselves. Many times, our preoccupation with matters of ecclesiastical importance is a useless distraction: worrying about things that are not really our business anyway. I think this should be kept in mind first and foremost when discussing Church matters.


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3 responses

1 03 2009
FrGregACCA

“I think we have to realize that in the end we will be responsible only for ourselves. ”

The paradox here is that in taking responsibility for ourselves, we thereby participate in the redemption of the world. St. Maximos, in refusing to embrace heresy, brought the whole Church back from the brink.

26 02 2009
e-nonymous

Arturo,

Thanks for this entry!

There are so many intricate elements arising herein that reminds me so much of More himself (as well as a notably common quality amongst the Saints themselves, as your own comments here, as well as the respective excerpt itself, have even alluded to quite rightly) such as the context* (i.e., the refusal of signing on to a false doctrine, which, in his immediate case, was that of proclaiming the King as Supreme Head of the Church, among many other things), his not condemning those who actually did ‘sign on’** (wherein he himself had likewise indicated to his judges that his purpose was not to condemn those who had actually signed onto the Act & sworn the Oath but to go the way his own conscience so moved him or else himself suffer the jeopardizing of his own soul to an ever perpetual damnation) and the manner of question*** ultimately directed at him during his initial inquisition before the Commissioners who then had asked him quite pointedly, while revealing to him a great number of the English Clergy who had themselves conceded, one just as similar.

However, if there be those here who should think that we need not weigh so high such ecclesial matters as that concerning doctrine, let me note to the crowd that saints as these were not themselves so capable of such utter dissimulation so as to entertain every fancy of heresy as nothing more than a legitimate alternative opinion. If so, these persons who we hold up as saints of God in the Church Triumphant would not themselves paid so high a price, as in the forfeiting of their own lives!

* “As you may know, the context of the trial is that St. Maximus is being accused in the trial of treason since he refuses to sign on to the doctrine…”

**”The three young men who did not adore the idol when all others adored it did not condemn anyone. They did not attend to what belonged to others but attended to this, that they did not lapse from true worship. Likewise, Daniel, when thrown in the lion’s den, did not condemn anyone who did not pray to God in accordance with the decree of Darius, but attended to what was his own role, and he preferred to die and not offend God than to be afflicted by his own conscience over the transgression of the laws of nature. Thus it is with me as well…”

***”Will you [Maximus] be saved and all others be lost?”

26 02 2009
Leyla Jagiella

Exactly my kind of stuff … .

It is interesting to note that statements very similar to this one form a very basic part of the classical literatures of virtually all major religious traditions.
It strikes me how many people fail to see that.

It seems to me that most people simply don´t want to see that.
They prefer their own prejudices, no matter if these are religious or antireligious ones.

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