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  • Fr. Michael Gillis

Some Thoughts on Divine Judgment from St. Maximus the Confessor

“For such is nature, punishing those who undertake to violate it to the degree that they actually live in unnatural opposition to it, by not allowing them to acquire naturally all of nature’s power, for they have been partially deprived of its very integrity and for this they are punished, since it is they themselves who pointlessly and foolishly have procured this lack of existence by inclining toward nonbeing.” —St. Maximus the Confessor (+662)

At least part of the way Maximus the Confessor understands God’s judgement has to do with our own rejection of nature. That is, in rejecting who we are, we “procure” nonbeing, lack of existence. And this is the judgement. In time and space, it is possible to pretend, to play games with our identity, to create a (false) persona. The gift of time and space as we know it is precisely this: we can choose, we can change, we can become—or at least begin to become—who we were created to be. However, time and space also allows us to move away from who we are, away from what is. Of course, there is no nonbeing, no nonexistence. It is just something we incline toward: away from reality to unreality.

However, for St. Maximus, in the Age to Come, there will be no time and space as we know it. There will be no false identity, public persona or passion-driven understanding of self. There will only be what is. And this will be the source of both the joy and the torment of the Age to Come. For those who have striven through self control, prayer and the pursuit of virtue to become who they are in Christ, the Age to Come will be joy, for they will receive fully what they have striven so imperfectly for in this present age. But for those who have hated the Light and striven for nonbeing, the Age to Come will be torment because in that Age there will be no escaping Reality, no pretending, no hiding from the Reality of God and self that one so easily hides from in this present age.

“I will be convicted at the dread judgement without accusers, and condemned without witnesses; for the book of my conscience will be opened, and my hidden works revealed.” (tone 3, Monday, 1st kathisma hymn)

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