The Philokalia – I and II Centuries on Love

The Intellect

What a loaded word, “intellect.”  Seldom had I heard this particular word, though its root, intell, is all too common in the English language.  St. Maximos conveys the significance of the intellect within his teachings on love by repeating it constantly, yet I stubbornly let it slide by, not making it synonymous with words I could more fully grasp.

Definition #3 that dictionary.com gives this noun is “a particular mind or intelligence, especially of a high order.”  The “high order” part wins me over, compared to the several other descriptions listed, due to its correlation to the latter part of Maximos’s explanation, “When the intellect associates with evil and sordid thoughts it loses its intimate communion with God.”  That sentence shouts “high order” to me!  Bring home the bacon and the Holy Spirit, because we’re talking about lofty matters!…

…besides the “evil and sordid” part.

What a wonder that St. Maximos is able to communicate his deep intelligence through the difficulty of organizing the abstract concept of the intellect!  This concept, having to do with knowledge, must be prized and heavily guarded, according to the saint, “Otherwise you will lose your capacity for pure prayer and fall victim to the demon of listlessness”.  The paradox of guarding the intellect (which is of the mind) to preserve the capacity for pure prayer (of the heart) baffled me at first.  However, it also reminded me that, though the actual brain and heart are physically separate, the intellect and the soul are ever-intertwined.

———————————————————————————citations: chapters 49 and 50 in First Century on Love

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