Pope Benedict XVI addressed some 14,000 thousand pilgrims today from beneath a white canopy as the sun blazed down on St. Peter’s Square. The Holy Father, continuing his catechesis on the great figures of the Church, spoke of St. Maximus the Confessor, a monk, theologian and scholar, who was famous for his courageous witness to Christ.
"Maximus understood that our salvation depends on the integrity of Christ, true God and true man," Pope Benedict said. Another aspect of St. Maximus that, the Pope focused on was his “indomitable courage in defending orthodoxy."
Also known as Maximus the theologian, he was born in Palestine in the year 580 and died in exile in the year 662. "From Jerusalem, Maximus moved to Constantinople then, because of the barbarian invasions, he took refuge in Africa where he distinguished himself for his great courage in the defense of orthodoxy. During his time in Carthage, he publicly defended the integrity of Jesus as having both a divine and human nature.
Called to Rome by Pope Martin I to participate in Lateran Council, Maximus was accused along with the Pope of heresy. Despite the accusations, he challenged with "indomitable courage" the power of the emperor, who maintained that Christ had only a divine nature, and who then sentenced Maximus to “have his tongue and his right hand cut off, the two organs through which, in speech and writing, Maximus had combated the erroneous doctrine of the one nature of Christ.”
“Finally the saintly monk was exiled to Colchis on the Black Sea where, exhausted by his sufferings, he died at the age of 82 on August 13, 662.”
In his defense of the integrity of Christ, the Pope said, "Maximus did not accept any reduction of humanity to Christ." Rather, he understood immediately that to maintain that Christ had only a divine will "would have destroyed the mystery of salvation, because humanity without a will, a man without desire is not a real man; it is man as an amputee."
The Pope continued, "And so, St. Maximus says with great decision: The Holy Scripture does not show us a man that is an amputee, without desire, but a true and complete man: God, in Jesus Christ, has really taken the totality of the human being - of course except sin - and also a human will."
"The life and thought of Maximus were strongly illuminated by an immense courage in testifying to the integral truth of Christ, without reduction or compromise," said the Pope. Thus it is clear "how we must live in order to fulfill our vocation. We must live united to God in order to remain united to one another and the universe."
"Only in the great opening of the "yes" does man become fully himself; in the unification of his will with the divine, man becomes immensely open…Being like God was the desire of Adam, that is to be completely free. But it is not divine, is not completely free when man closes himself. It is only in going out of oneself in saying "yes" that man becomes free, and this is the drama of Gethsemane: Not my will but yours."
Pope Benedict explained the witness of St. Maximus in his universal “yes” to Christ, gives us the measure of every other value:
"We think of the values so popular today, which are rightly defended: the values of tolerance, freedom and dialogue. But tolerance that does not know how to distinguish between good and evil becomes chaotic and selfish; likewise, a freedom that does not respect the freedom of others and that cannot find a common measure for freedom becomes anarchy and destroys authority. And dialogue that no longer knows what to say becomes empty chatter,” the Pope said.
These values, the Holy Father explained, “remain true values only if they have a reference point that unites them and gives them the true authenticity. This point of reference is the synthesis between God and the cosmos, it is the figure of Christ in whom we learn the truth about ourselves, and thus we also learn how to position all other values because we discover their true significance. Jesus Christ is the reference point that gives light to all other values. This is the point of arrival of the testimony of this great Confessor."
At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted English speaking pilgrims from different corners of the globe, including groups from the United States and Pakistan, as well as England and Scotland.