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Maximus the Confessor
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Maximus the Confessor

Maximus the Confessor (580 - 682) was a Christian monk.

He was born in the region of Constantinople, was well educated, and spent some time in government service before becoming a monk. Foreign invasion of the Byzantine Empire forced him to flee to the region of Carthage (North Africa). There, under the influence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, he vigorously opposed the doctrine of monothelitism. He supported the orthodoxy of the Pope of Rome on this matter, and is said to have exclaimed: "I have the faith of the Latins, but the language of the Greeks." His loyalty to orthodox doctrine led him to the point of breaking communion with both the Byzantine Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople. Eventually, the emperor had his tongue and right hand cut off so that he could no longer speak or write 'heresy', and sent him into exile, first to Thrace (modern-day Bulgaria), and then to the shores of the Black Sea (modern-day Georgia, where he died). The Bishop of Rome was tried around the same time in Constantinople, (Pope St. Martin), and later exiled to the Crimea in Ukraine.

Ultimately, Maximus was exonerated and canonized as a saint. He argued for dythelitism, the notion that Jesus Christ possessed two wills, rather than the one will posited by monothelitism. He left many writings that are still widely read today; some are doctrinal, but many more describe the contemplative life and offer spiritual advice. Maximus made increased use of Aristotle and de-platonized Eastern Christian thought. His theological work was later continued by John Scotus Erigena, Saint Simeon the New Theologian and by Saint Gregory Palamas.