cloistral experiences. Christoph Schönborn
and Bronwen Neil
rightly observed that by reinterpreting the virtuous journey as culminating in compassion and community,the Confessor made the ideal of living spiritually relevant to wider milieus. Wecannot ignore the precedence of this message over Byzantine hagiography, whichabounds in examples of holiness from all walks of life;
Alexander Kazhdan’s silenceregarding the significance of the Maximian corpus for later Byzantine literature isunfortunate. Indeed, as we shall see below, although sharing in the ambiguities thatcharacterized Byzantine society,
along with addressing concrete aspects of life—likegender,……….264……….marriage, sexuality and pleasure—usually avoided by monastic authors,
St. Maximusachieved a balanced synthesis of spiritual anthropology. The ultimate proof of thisachievement is the acknowledgment, received during his lifetime, as a genuine father (
) or spiritual guide, a fact illustrated by most of his literary productions whichanswer questions posed by various correspondents both from within and outside themonastic world.
This synthesis was, and supposedly remains, relevant to any seeker of the authentic Christian experience, irrespective of gender and social status. Thisessay will show that this assessment withstands the scant examples of questionable phraseology that traverse the Maximian corpus.To this end, I shall briefly discuss the Confessor’s portrayal of womanhood andsexuality, the latter in an implicit manner but nevertheless as a main issue, byanalyzing the images and terms he used within two passages concerning Adam andEve. Albeit a worthwhile topic, I cannot deal in detail with the phraseology of hismoralizing discourse; this section is only meant to prepare us for the big question of whether there is more to Maximus’s views of gender than his at times appalling
Cf. Christoph Schönborn, “Plaisir et douleur dans l’analyse de S. Maxime, d’après les Quaestiones adThalassium,”
Actes du Symposium sur Maxime le Confesseur
, Fribourg (2-5septembre 1980), ed. Felix Heinzer and Christoph Schönborn (Fribourg: Éditions UniversitairesFribourg, 1982), 273-84.
Cf. Bronwen Neil, “‘The Blessed Passion of Holy Love’: Maximus the Confessor’s SpiritualPsychology,”
Australian EJournal of Theology
, 2:1 (2004), athttp://aejt.com.au/2004/vol_2,_no_1,_2004/.
See Alexander Kazhdan et alii,
A History of Byzantine Literature (650-850)
(Athens: The NationalHellenic Research Foundation, Institute for Byzantine Research, 1999); Alexander Kazhdan,
A Historyof Byzantine Literature (850-1000)
(Athens: The National Hellenic Research Foundation, Institute for Byzantine Research, 2006).
For the ambiguities related to womanhood and gender, see Carolyn L. Connor,
Women of Byzantium
(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004), 85; “Editor’s Introduction” to
ByzantineWomen: Varieties of Experience 800-1200
, ed. Lynda Garland (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), xiii-xix,esp. xiii-xiv; Alexander Kazhdan, “Byzantine Hagiography and Sex in the Fifth to Twelfth Centuries,”
Dumbarton Oakes Papers
44 (1990): 131-43; Anna M. Silvas, “Kassia the Nun c.810-c.865: AnAppreciation,” in
(quoted above), 17-39, esp. 18; “General Introduction” to
HolyWomen of Byzantium: Ten Saints’ Lives in English Translation
, ed. Alice-Marie Talbot (Washington,D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1996), vii-xvi, esp. x-xi, xiii. On marriage asan obstacle to holiness before ninth century Byzantium, see Averil Cameron,
(Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 123.
A History of Byzantine Literature (850-1000)
, 214, 242.
Cf. Paul M. Blowers,
Exegesis and Spiritual Pedagogy in Maximus the Confessor: An Investigation of the
Quaestiones ad Thalassium (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), 52-56 etc.;Louth,
Maximus the Confessor