Water and Wine: The Two Wills of Christ

Jan_Cossiers_-_The_wedding_at_Cana,_Jesus_blesses_the_water

Dear Charity of Christ,

I have been meaning to write this post for some time, only to lack sufficient time to put pen to paper, or rather, finger to keyboard. Of course, those words of choice fall short in the poetic prose of times gone past. Nonetheless, the topic of discussion here is the two wills that are manifested within the Incarnation our dear Lord and Savior.

I first came across a great explanation on the topic from Pope Benedict XVI in his Jesus of Nazareth series. It was in his second volume, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, that Pope Benedict explored the role the two wills played in Christ during his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Pope Benedict explored the events of Gethsemane and deciphered their meaning for his work with a concise explanation of the established Christological doctrine of Christ’s two wills. For our proposes here, as well as using Pope Benedict’s work to illustrate another event in the Life of Christ by the Venerable Fulton Sheen, we will explore Pope Benedict’s explanation of Christological development, the events of Gethsemane, and how the two wills of Christ were present at the wedding of Cana.

Pope Benedict explains, “The Council of Nicea (325) had clarified the Christian concept of God. The three persions—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are one, in the one “substance” of God…The Council of Chalcedon (451)…the one person of the Son of God embraces and bears the two natures—human and divine—“without confusion and without separation.” [1] Pope Benedict explains that after these two councils had created a “formula” for explaining the nature of God it remained rather undeveloped. Pope Benedict writes, “many bishops after Chalcedon said that they would rather think like a fisherman than like Aristotle. The Formula remained obscure.”[2] The obscurity led to what Pope Benedict calls “the last of the great Christological heresies, known as ‘monotheletism’. There can be only one will within the unity of a person, its adherent maintained…Yet an objection comes to mind: What kind of a man has no will? Is a man without a will really a man?” [3]

Pope Benedict explains that fundamentally in the garden of Gethsemane is where in scripture one can see this theological explanation in action. “Thus the prayer ‘not my will, but yours (Lk 22:42) is truly the Son’s prayer to the Father through which the natural human will is completely subsumed into the “I” of the Son.”[4]

Of course, Pope Benedict’s explanation is greatly more detailed then my Catholic school days when the teacher explained to us that Jesus, being human, did no want to die out of fear and if he there was some other way he would take it. It’s a simple explanation that suffices for the minds of children, but yet, it is so simple it rings almost the most depth in truth on the topic. Christ is God who is fully human if Christ cannot feel fear in the same manner as us, would he be truly man? There answer as explained is No.

For many years after my Catholic school days, I must admit that I thought this event was the only one of its kind in the Gospels. The type of event that expressed a clear distinction from Christ’s human will and his divine will. However, recently through my readings of Life of Christ by the Venerable Fulton Sheen, I had come across another event that illustrates Christ’s human will during the wedding at Cana. Sheen explains that during the wedding at Cana when “His mother was asking for a miracle; He was implying that a miracle worked as a sign of His Divinity would be the beginning of His death. The moment He showed Himself before men as the Son of God, He would draw down upon Himself their hatred.”[5]

If one takes a look at the text prior the miracle at Cana, it illustrates a human hesitation from Christ because of his knowledge, as Sheen explains, that it will lead to his death.
“Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My Hour is not yet come.”[6]

Sheen explains, “’What is that to Me and to thee?’ This is a Hebrew phrase which is difficult to translate into English. St. John rendered it very literally in Greek, and the Vulgate preserved it literalism…Know translates it freely, ‘Why dost thou trouble me with that?”[7]

An almost natural question from a Christian, or even someone who is aware of the nature of Christ, would ask, “Why would Christ respond in such a way?” As Sheen alludes to in his explanation of the events of Cana it’s because “He was telling His mother that she was virtually pronouncing a sentence of death over Him.”[8]

Christ knew the miracle of turning water into wine would lead him to the garden and later to the cross, however, just as he did at Gethsemane, He submitted to the divinely will of God within the Incarnation of his being for the purpose of redeeming the sin of mankind. The only sacrifice, a Godly one, that would suffice for man’s betrayal. He administered his first miracle knowing that it was the purpose of his Incarnation to be the lamb to atone for the sins of mankind.

Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ.

[1] Pope Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 157-58.

[2] Ibid, 158.

[3] Ibid, 159-60.

[4] Ibid, 161.

[5] Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 89.

[6] Jn. 2:4

[7] Sheen, 88.

[8] Ibid, 90.

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