The Mystagogia of Maximus the Confessor through the self-efficacy theory
The Mystagogia, written by Maximus the Confessor (c.580-662), is a Byzantine liturgical exegesis; it aimed to serve the needs of contemporary Christians, especially the laity, who, despite living in an imperfect Sitz im Leben in cities full of earthly temptations, were eager to participate in Christian fulfillment, i.e., salvation. For this purpose, Maximus endeavored to deliver to his audience the experience of human fulfillment through liturgy. The audience of the Mystagogia was able to achieve under Maximus’ guidance an “authentic” experience of perfection, i.e., ascetical experientialism. Furthermore, Maximus incorporated experiences and words of encouragement into the Mystagogia urging his audience to transfer their experience of fulfillment during the liturgy into their real lives. Overall, the Mystagogia contributed to the well-being of these urban communities by enabling their members to be both Christians and active citizens; their experience of fulfillment through the liturgy introduced them to a new mode of life in the empire, transforming them into inspired “lovers” who pass on Christian values, especially that of Christian love, to every corner of the society. The thesis examines the psychological impact of the Mystagogia on its audiences by utilizing the self-efficacy theory devised by Albert Bandura. First, it discusses the liturgical experience that the Mystagogia afforded to its audiences in the context of ascetical experientialism. Second, it identifies in Maximus’ text sources of self-efficacy, as defined by Bandura, thus demonstrating its impact in terms of modern psychology. Third, it explores the ways in which the liturgical experience as envisaged by Maximus contributed to the lives of contemporary Christians as well as their communities at large.