August 16

An intellect faithful in the practice of the virtues is like St Peter when he was taken captive by Herod (Acts 12:3-18). The name Herod means ‘made of skins or leather’, and so Herod signifies the law of leather, that is, the will of the flesh.

St Peter is guarded by two squads of soldiers and shut in by an iron gate. The two squads signify the attacks suffered by the intellect from the activity of the passions and from the mind’s assent to the passions.

When through the teaching of practical philosophy, as though with the help of an angel, the intellect has passed safely through these two squads or prisons, it comes to the iron gate which leads into the city. By this I mean the obdurate and stubborn attachment of the senses to sensible things.

None the less, the gate is opened automatically through spiritual contemplation of the inner essences of created beings; and such contemplation then fearlessly impels the intellect, now liberated from Herod’s madness, towards the spiritual realities where it truly belongs.

~St Maximos the Confessor


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