Microcosm and Mediator (Lars Thunberg)

Key terms in St Maximus

Diaphora: it is the difference that safeguards the variations and unity within creation

Diairesis: division; Diaphora does not necessarily imply diairesis.  Christ has diaphora, but not diairesis. Diaresis is never constitutive of creation.  Man as mediator is called to annihilate the divisions on the moral level but never the diaphora on the ontological level.

Diastasis/Diastema: distance and separation.  Maximus uses diastema in a spatial sense.  Since all created entities are moved, they have diastema.  Diasteme is with motion.

  • Diastasis means that since God has established history, he has marked out a distance to himself.
  • Diastasis stands in a particular relationship to stasis, rest.

Diastole: expansion, distinction.  All of created ousia moves, because movement is endemic to creation.  The movement of diastole goes from the most general to the more differentiated species. The movement of sustole goes in the opposite direction.  

  • In both cases movement comes to a limit.
  • Universals and particulars:  there is nothing more particular than that which is made particular by God; there is nothing more universal than the fact that all is created.
  • Diastole is the movement of God’s condescension in creation.
  • Sustole is very close to deification.  

Creation because of God’s Will

The Logoi

  • the principles of differentiated creation, pre-existent in God.
  • the logoi manifest a general law:  always and in all God’s Word and God wills to effect the mystery of his embodiment (Thunberg 65; [=Amb. 7, 1084CD])

The concept of Providence

  •  Five modes of contemplation
    • substance
    • motion
      • the natural movements, positive self-determination of each being.
    • difference
    • mixture
    • position

Creation by the Word

The Logoi of Creation

  • logos tou eu einai: the principle of motion for each being (Thunberg 74 [=Amb 7, 1084B].
  • logoi gegonoton/ontown/phuseos: not only define essence, but the coming into existence of a thing
  • The logoi preexist in God, who keeps them all together.

The Logoi are held together by the Logos

Creation and Motion

  • Maximus’s triad of genesis/kinesis/stasis rebuts the Origenist problem of a pre-eternal fall. There cannot be a motion to fall before creation (genesis) because genesis introduces motion.
  • Thus, Maximus breaks the back of Hellenism.  There is no longer any idea of successive falls  and endless generations (Thunberg 81 n217).

Maximus on substance

    • substance: ousia.  Maximus can speak of ousia as a generic category of created being or something closer to “nature.”
      • category of creation; hence, God is above being.
      • characterized by limitations, so it has a contrary (non-being)


  • ousia and einai are not quite identical, the latter seems to connote existence
  • ousia needs to be realized in self-fulfilment.


  • The concept of nature: reduced to the sphere of universals.
    • connected with the idea of “motion” and defined by its dynamic element (88).

Maximus’s Anthropology in General

Constitution and Position of Man

In order to combat Origenism, Maximus holds to the indispensable unity of body and soul.  He is not saying, pace modern Christian materialists, that the soul cannot exist without the body, but that the soul cannot pre-exist without the body.

For Gregory of Nyssa, a fall into the material world would not purify the soul, but would lead to successive falls leading to the soul’s destruction.  Maximus agrees but takes it a step further: the pre-existence of souls gives the body a negative and punitive function. God is forced to create because of evil.

Human Trichotomy

For Gregory of Nyssa, man’s nous is an aspect of the soul (108). It is the higher capacity of the soul.

Image and Likeness

Image is to likeness as potency is to act.  They ultimately refer to the same reality.

Microcosm and Mediator

Man is the natural link between creation and this will allow him to reintegrate the fallen aspects of creation.

Man mediates among the five divisions:

  1. Created and Uncreated Nature
  2. Intelligible and Sensible
  3. Heaven and Earth
  4. Paradise and the world (both under the sphere of earth)
  5. Man and Woman



2 thoughts on “Microcosm and Mediator (Lars Thunberg)

  1. Pingback: A Patristic Linkstorm | The Tents of Shem

  2. Pingback: A Eucharistic Ontology (N. Loudonikos) | The Tents of Shem

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