The initial stages of learning about religious devotion are naturally related to the flesh. For in our first encounter with religion we come into contact with the letter and not the spirit. But as we get nearer to the spirit and refine the materiality of words with the more subtle forms of contemplation, we come to dwell – so far as this is possible for man – purely in the pure Christ, so that we can say with St Paul, ‘Though we have known Christ according to the flesh, now we no longer know Him in this manner’
(2 Cor. 5:16).
St. Maximos the Confessor
Two Hundred Texts on Theology
The PhilokaliaVolume 2
What is learning? Behavioral psychologists define formation as a lasting change in behavior that results from experience. Behavior is changed through repeated experiences that challenge our equilibrium. Maximos understands learning in the context of faith formation or religious devotion. True knowledge, for Maximos, lies directly with our experience of Jesus Christ. Initially, we are formed by the words that we read in scripture. This is important work because it points us to the foundations of our Christian identity. The next step in formation is taking our initial experience of Jesus into the world with open eyes and ears. When we focus our mind on God we begin to understand God more deeply beyond just the words of scripture we read. Passages of scripture take on new life in the relationships we forge, in the decisions we make, and in the work that we do every day. When we truly devote ourselves to being formed by God we take on a new life that is tightly bound to the one who created and loves us. Take a moment and think about your day as an intentional formation experience. How will you enter into your work? How will you engage with those around you? Where do you see God speaking to you?