Anna Stickles wrote:
IN regard the sinlessness of the Theotokos, would we say that for the Theotokos her good will never changes to a bad will and thus she never wanted something other then what God has made her for? This came not as a result of being like you describe Christ but because she never strayed from this harmony?
Yes- this is the result of using her human will in the manner God intended for us.
Here for example is St Gregory Palamas referring to the Mother of God:
Possessing so many spiritual gifts and natural endowments from her mother's womb, she did not take in any sort of additional knowledge (which in my opinion is how we should regard what is learned from lessons) by studying with teachers. Instead, making her sovereign mind obedient to God in everything, she decisively abandoned human instruction and so received abundant wisdom from above, while at an age when parents place children into the care of teachers and hand them over to schoolmasters, regardless of their own will as they are so young.
(On the Entry of the Mother of God into the Holy of Holies- Homily 53)
Likely we all see how that we would never speak of Christ in such terms even though He was raised as a child by His parents (although it would be a very helpful exercise for us to look at why- taking the above paragraph as a pattern- we would not refer to Him in such a way). Notice how St Gregory refers to the Mother of God as "making her sovereign mind obedient to God in everything", and also how she "she decisively abandoned human instruction". In other words St Gregory explains that the Mother of God turned by her own will towards God and it is indicative of this that throughout this homily he uses verbs that express this willing turning of herself towards God. Thus it is not meant as a passing note when St Gregory points out as a kind of counter pattern that in normal cases parents hand their children over to schoolteachers "regardless of their own will". In other words here again the Mother of God is noted as having turned decisively in will to God from her childhood and that this provided her unique education.
As for the Mother of God in relation to Adam & Eve: the Fathers & Church hymnography continually portray her as being the New Eve. In this sense she relates to what came before and to all of humanity also. But she also decisively refers to the fulfillment of all that came before. That is why she is the New Eve who fulfills Eve's original calling towards obedience but which now leads towards that new resurrectional life in Christ her Son.
Also in relation to the question of whether Christ could ever have sinned several posters referred to gnomic will. This is what I was also trying to refer to yesterday when I explained that our way (mode) of willing is radically different from that of Christ. In any case I have found this in St Maximus' Disputation with Pyrrhus:
So then, the gnomic will is nothing other than an act of willing in a particular way, in relation to some real or assumed good. [ie: our human manner of willing always involves deliberation on our part; as some put it, it involves 'hesitation & doubt' because we do not know immediately and fully what is good or how to achieve this. I have a question though: many speak of gnomic will as being affected by the Fall, ie it always involves doubt & hesitation something which in our renewed state will cease to exist. But is the gnomic will itself actually a result of the Fall or is it a natural function of the will that will be renewed later on in Christ? Here I cannot find a clear answer in St Maximus].
Thus those who say that there is a gnomic will in Christ...are maintaining that He is a mere man, deliberating in a manner like us, having ignorance, doubt and opposition, since one only deliberates about something which is doubtful, not concerning what is free of doubt. By nature we have an appetite simply for what by nature is good, but we gain experience of the goal in a particular way, through inquiry and counsel. Because of this then, the gnomic will is fitly ascribed to us, being a mode of the employment of the will, and not a principle of nature, otherwise nature itself would change innumerable times. [many point out that this means that the gnomic mode of willing is not an aspect of our nature for otherwise it would imply that every different deliberation on our part would reflect a change in our nature; rather gnomic willing occurs in the personal mode of our being. At first sight this would appear to clinch the case that gnomic will is the result of the Fall- to what else after all can we ascribe the 'ignorance, doubt and opposition' that St Maximus refers to and that he connects to deliberation as a root cause? However if the gnomic will is gradually purified in Christ then deliberation becomes discernment and nature is not changed as we resolve things. Does this mean that the gnomic mode of willing is meant to disappear- or that it will be renewed in us to be shorn of its doubt and hesitation?].
But the humanity of Christ does not simply subsist in a manner similar to us, but divinely, for He Who appeared in the flesh for our sakes was God. It is thus not possible to say that Christ has a gnomic will. For the Same had being itself, subsisting divinely, and thus naturally has an inclination to the good, and a drawing away from evil, just as St Basil, the great eye of the Church said when explaining the interpretation of the 44th Psalm: "By the same line of interpretation Isaiah said the same thing: 'Before the child knew or advanced in evil, He chose the good.' For the word 'before' indicates that he had by nature what is good, not inquiring and deliberating as we do, but because He subsisted divinely by virtue of His very being.
I underlined the sentence above because it is so crucial to an Orthodox understanding of Christ. Yes- Christ has fully taken on humanity in the Incarnation. But in a sinless manner (this relates to the Virgin birth in the mind of the Fathers). These two have always been central to Orthodox thought for otherwise we lose track of the very principle of salvation itself and of Who Christ is.
But this also relates to what we mean by salvation which is not in the Fathers 'sharing in everything that we are'. This never was something found in the Fathers for by 'what we are' they meant our true nature which aspires towards good and towards God. As I said in a previous post there is absolutely no salvation to be found in Christ just by 'sharing'. This is a modern concept without Patristic precedent and which verges towards the idea that he/she who shares emotionally with you best knows you and then redeems you.
However in this we are no longer speaking of Christ but of what we would wish for in our unregenerated state: that there is someone to stand by me. And if not Christ then how can we proclaim Him our friend and Saviour? If He hasn't gone through everything I have then how is He that true friend and Saviour?
Again though it is crucial to point out how debased this gets. How soon Christ is no longer sought for as God and Saviour in an Orthodox fashion because we unknowingly impose our standards on how we are to approach Christ in the first place.
Christ then is not found because we feel more assured in that He even knows what it means to sin. Rather He is gradually found in how we seek. And how we seek is the way always counseled from the time of Christ and the Apostles- 'take up your cross and follow Me'. Only to that degree will we come to know Him for only in that way will we understand the manner in which He has taken on our sin and forgiven it.
Edited by Fr Raphael Vereshack, 16 September 2011 - 03:42 PM.