Thomas Joseph White #27: How does Christ’s prayer reveal the Trinity? (III, 21)

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How does Christ’s prayer reveal the Trinity? (III, 21) Thomas Aquinas believes that Jesus Christ is both God and man. So, if He is both God and human, one can rightly ask the question: Did Jesus pray? The Gospel shows Jesus praying. So, someone might object: if Jesus prays in the Gospel, He can’t really be God; it is not fitting for one who is both God and man, to pray. When Aquinas analyzes this question, he says: Jesus is God and man, and Jesus prays, and it is fully appropriate, and it is appropriate in a way for, you might say, a human reason, and also, as a manifestation of the Holy Trinity. So, let’s just look at those two ideas. The first idea is: Jesus is fully human, and that means that He has a human mind, and a human will. And, by virtue of being human, and having a human mind, and a human will, Jesus can turn His mind and His will, as man, towards God. Now, He is Himself God. So, when He prays, He submits His own human will to the divine will, which is residual in Him, as God, but He, also, can pray, as the Eternal Son of God to the Father, turning His human mind and will to the Father, in prayer. That’s what we see frequently in the Gospels. He can also, as man, render Himself docile, in prayer, to the Holy Spirit, who dwells in Him, as man. The Holy Spirit is, in a certain way, the appropriated person who we designate as the author of the Grace of Christ, in His human nature. So, the Holy Spirit indwells in the soul of Christ, and is the author of the Grace of Christ. So, Christ can submit Himself to the Father, in prayer, personally; He can submit Himself to His own divine will, in prayer; and He can submit Himself to the Holy Spirit, and be docile the Holy Spirit. In all these ways He is, in a certain sense, being very human, by thinking, and willing, in accord with reality. And, the reality is that we are subject to God, both as creatures, in our human nature, and as recipients of Grace. The second thing is that this in Christ is a little different than in us, because in Him, you could say, prayer has a Trinitarian mode of expression. We can pray to the Trinity, we should pray to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Most people, who have a developed Christian prayer life, typically self orient, intuitively, toward one, or two, of the persons of the Holy Trinity, more so. So, some people pray especially to the Father, some people pray especially to Christ, and, more rarely, but truly, there are some people who pray more especially to the Holy Spirit. Some people pray very regularly to all three, or to two of the three. They are all God, They are all The One God, and They are also persons, and we can know the Holy Trinity, and the Holy Trinity can indwell in us. So, it is right to pray to the Holy Trinity in a kind of interpersonal way. That is something like Christ’s prayer, but it’s also unlike Christ’s prayer, because, in His case, He is one who is the Son of God, in His divine person, having human nature. So, when Jesus prays, which is a perfectly natural thing to do, as we said, in Him, you might say, there is a different modal expression. In us, it is the expression of a human person, turning him or herself toward the Holy Trinity; in Christ, it is the expression of a divine person manifesting in, and through, His own profound human action of prayer, the inner Trinitarian relations. So, the Son is manifesting His relationship with the Father in, and through, a distinctively human created expression of prayer. (He can only pray because He is a creature… Or, not because He is a creature, He is the Son of God, He is not a creature!) He can only pray in, and through, His created nature; he can only pray because He has a created nature, But, He can express in, and through, that created nature, the relationship He has with the Father as the Son. He manifests His Sonship in, and through, His human nature. It is, you might say, absolutely natural to Him, as the Eternal Son, to manifest in this appropriate filial way, His utter Relativity to the Father in, and through, His human prayer. And, He can also manifest His relationship with the Holy Spirit, who, as the Spirit proceeds from Him, but also, because the Spirit proceeds from Him, rests upon His sacred humanity – you might say, fills His human nature with Grace, as the Spirit of the Father and the Son present in, indwelling in, inspiring the human actions of Jesus, who is filled, as man, with Grace – the Anointing of the Holy Spirit. So, His prayer life is actually quite profound and mysterious, when we look at it, because it is a way in which the man Jesus, in praying to the Father, is revealing His Sonship revealing His own holiness, as the Son of God, docile in his human heart to the promptings of His own divine will, in which He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and also, manifesting His profound relationship with the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from Him, and rests upon His sacred humanity, as the anointing of the holiness of the humanity of Jesus. So, the more you think about, and study, the prayer of Christ in Aquinas, the more you enter, actually, into the Trinitarian mystery.


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