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Refutation of the Monethelite Heresy, That There Is But One Nature and One Operation Only in Christ

1. Those heretics who believe that there is only one will in Christ are called Monothelites, and the name is derived from two Greek words, Monos, one, and Thelema, will, and on that account many of the Arians, who asserted that Christ had no soul, but that the Word took the place of it, can be called Monothelites, as may, in like manner, many Apollinarists, who admitted that Christ had a soul, but without mind, and, consequently, without will. The true Monothelites, however, formed them selves into a sect, in the reign of the Emperor Heraclius, about the year 626. The chief author of this sect was Athanasius, Patriarch of the Jacobites, as we remarked in the History (Chap, vii, . 4), and his first followers were the Patriarchs who succeeded him, Sergius, Cirus, Macarius, Pirrus, and Paul. These admitted two Natures in Christ, the Divine and the human, but denied the two wills, and the two operations belonging to each Nature, asserting that he had but one will, that is, the Divine will, and one operation, the Divine one also; this they called Theandric, or belonging to the Man-God, but not in the Catholic sense, in which the operations of Christ in his humanity are called Theandric, as being the operation of the Man-God, and are attributed to the Person of the Word, which sustains and is the term of this humanity, but in a heretical sense, for they believed that the Divine will alone moved the faculties of his human nature, and used them as a mere passive and inanimate instrument. Some of the Monothelites called this operation Deodecibilem, or fitted to God, and this expression gives more clearly the peculiar meaning of their heretical tenets. It was a debated question among the ancients, whether the Moriothelites, by the word " will," meant the faculty of wishing, or the act of volition itself. Petavius thinks it most probable (1) that they understood by it, not the act of volition itself, but the power of wishing at all, which they say the humanity of Christ did not possess. The Catholic dogma, however, rejects it in both senses, and teaches that as in Christ there were two Natures, so there were Divine will and volition with the Divine operation, and human will and volition with the human operation. (1) Petav. l. 8, de Incar. c. 4, et seq.  


2. It is proved, in the first place, by the Scriptures, that Christ has a Divine will, for every text that proves his Divinity, proves that, as the will cannot be separated from the Divinity. We have already quoted all these texts against the Nestorians and Eutychians, so there is no necessity of repeating them here, especially as the Monothelites do not deny the Divine, but only the human will, in Christ. There are, however, numberless texts to prove that our Redeemer had a human will likewise. St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews (x, 5), applies to Christ the words of the 39th Psalm (ver. 8, 9): " Wherefore, when he cometh into the world he said Behold, I come; in the head of the book it is written of me, that I should do the will of God." In the 39th Psalm, also, we find: " In the head of the book it is written of me, that I should do thy will, my God; I have desired it, and thy law in the midst of my heart" (ver. 9). Now, here both wills are distinctly marked the Divine, " that I may do thy will, God;" and the human will, subject to the Divine will, " my God, I have desired it." Christ himself draws the same distinction in many places; thus in John (v, 30), he says: " I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me." And again: " I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (vi, 38). St. Leo explains this in his Epistle to the Emperor, for he says, that according to the form of a servant, "secundum formam servi," that is, as man, he came not to do his own will, but the will of him who sent him.  

3. Christ, who says in St. Matthew (xxvi, 39): " My Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." And in St. Mark (xiv, 36): "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee, remove this chalice from me, but not what I will, but what thou wilt." Now, the two texts clearly show the Divine will which Christ had, in common with the Father, and the human will which he subjected to the will of his Father. Hence, St. Athanasius, writing against Apollinares, says: " Duas voluntates hic ostendit, humanam quidem quæ est carnis, alteram vero Divinam. Humana enim propter carnis imbecillitatem recusat passionem, Divina autem ejus voluntas est promta." And St. Augustine says (1): " In eo quod ait, non quod ego volo, aliud se ostendit voluisse, quam Pater, quod nisi humano corde non potest; nunquam enim posset immutabilis ilia natura quidquam aliud vellc, quam Pater." (1) St. Augus. l. 2, Adv. Maximin. c. 20.  

4. The Catholic dogma is proved also by all those texts in which Christ is said to have obeyed his Father. In St. John, (xii, 49), we read: " For I have not spoken of myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak." And again: "As the Father giveth me commandment, so do il" (xiv, 31). And St. Paul, writing to the Philippians, says, "that he was made obedient unto death, even unto the death of the Cross." Many other texts are of the same tenor. All this proves that there must be a human will, for he who has no will can neither obey nor be commanded. It is most certain that the Divine will cannot be commanded, as it recognizes no will superior to itself. The obedience of Christ, therefore, to his Father, proves that he must have had a human will: " Qua," says Pope Agatho, " a lumine veritatis se adeo separavit, ut audeat dicere, Dominum nostrum Jesum Cristum voluntate suæ Divinitatis Patri obedisse, cui est æqualis in omnibus, et vult ipse quoque in omnibus, quod Pater?"  

5. We pass over other Scripture arguments, and come to Tradition; and, first of all, we shall see what the Fathers who lived before the rise of the heresy said on the subject. St. Ambrose says (2): " Quod autem ait: Non mea voluntas, sed tua fiat, suam, ad hominem retulit; Patris, ad Divinitatem: voluntas enim hominis, temporalis; voluntas Divinitatis, æterna." St. Leo, in his Epistle 24 (a. 10, c. 4), to St. Flavian, against Eutyches, thus writes: " Qui verus est Deus, idem verus est homo; et nullam est in hac unitate mendacium, dum invicem sunt, et humilitas hominis, et altitude Deitatis Agit enim utraque forma cum alterius communione, quod proprium est; Verbo scilicet operante, quod Verbi est, et carne exequente, quod carnis est." I omit many other authorities from St. Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Jerome, and others referred to by Petavius (3). Sophronius compiled two whole books of them against Sergius, as we find from the petition of Stephen Duresius to the Council of Lateran, under Martin I., in 649. It is proved also by the Creeds, in which it is professed that Christ is at the same time true God and true man, perfect in both Natures. If Christ had not human will, one of the natural faculties of the soul, he would not be a perfect man, no more than he would be perfect God, if he had not Divine will. (2) St. Ambros. l. 20, in Luc. n. 69, &60. (3) Petav. l. 3, de Incarn. c. 8 & 9.  The Councils whose Decrees we have already quoted against Nestorius, have defined that there are two Natures in Christ, distinct and perfect in all their properties, and that could not be the fact, unless each of the two Natures had its proper natural will and natural operation. A Portuguese writer, Hippolitus, in his Fragments against Vero, from the distinction of the different operations in Christ, argued that there was a distinction of the two Natures, because if there was but one will and one operation in Christ, there would be but one Nature: " Quæ sunt inter se ejusdem operationis, et cognitionis, et omnino idem patiuntur, nullam naturæ differ entiam recipiunt."  

6. All these things being taken into consideration, in the Third General Council of Constantinople, under Pope Agatho, it was thought proper to condemn, in one Decree, (Act. 18), all the heresies against the Incarnation condemned in the five preceding General Councils. Here is the Decree, in the very words: " Assequti quoque sancta quinque universalia Concilia, et sanctos atque probabiles Patres, consonanterque confiteri definientes, D.N. Jesum Christum verum Deum nostrum, unum de sancta, et consubstantiali, et vitas originem præbente Trinitate, perfectum in Deitate, et perfectum eundem in humanitate, Deum vere, et hominem vere, eundem ex Anima rationali et corpore, consubstantialem Patri secundum Deitatem, et consubstantialem nobis secunduin humanitatem, per omnia similem nobis absque peccato; ante secula quidem ex Patre genitum secundum Deitatem, in ultimis diebus autem eundem propter nos et propter nostram salutem de Spiritu Sancto, et Maria Virgine proprie, et veraciter Dei Genitrice secundum humanitatem, unum eundemque Christum Filium Dei unigenitum in duabus naturis inconfuse, inconvertibiliter, inseparabiliter, indivise cognoscendum, nusquam extincta harum naturarum differentia propter unitatem, salvataque magis proprietate utriusque naturæ, et in unam Personam, et in unam subsistentiam concurrente, non in duas Personas partitam, vel divisam, sed unum eundemque unigenitum Filium Dei, Verbum D. N. Jesum Christum; et duas naturales voluntates in eo, et duas naturales operationes indivise, inconvertibiliter, inseparabiliter, inconfuse secundum Ss. Patrum doctrinam, adcoque prædicamus; et duas naturales voluntates, non contrarias, absit, juxta quod impii asserucrunt Hæretici, sod sequentem ejus humanam voluntatem, et non resistentcin, vel reluctantem, sed potius, et subjectam Divinæ ejus, atque omnipotenti voluntati ….. His igitur cum omni undique cautela, atque diligentia a nobis formatis, definimus aliam Fidem nulli licere profcrre, aut conscribere, compenere, aut fovere, vel etiam aliter docere."  

7. The principal proofs from reason alone against this heresy have been already previously given. First Because Christ having a perfect human nature, he must have, besides, a human will, without which his humanity would be imperfect, being deprived of one of its natural powers. Secondly Because Christ obeyed, prayed, merited, and satisfied for us, and all this could not be done without a created human will, for it would be absurd to attribute it to the Divine will. Thirdly We prove it from that principle of St. Gregory of Nazianzen, adopted by the other Fathers, that what the Word assumed he healed, and hence St. John of Damascus (3) concludes that as he healed human will he must have had it: " Si non assumsit humanam voluntatem, remedium ei non attulit, quod primum sauciatum erat; quod enim assumtum non est, nec est curatum, ut ait Gregorius Theologus. Ecquid enim offenderat, nisi voluntas?" (3) St. Joan. Damas. Ora. de duab. Chris. Volunt,  


8. The Monothelites object, first, that prayer of St. Dionisius in his Epistle to Caius: " Deo viro facto unam quandum Theandricam, seu Deivirilem operationem expressit in vita;" that is, that in the God made man there is one Theandric or human-divine operation. We answer, with Sophronius, that this passage was corrupted by the Monothelites, by changing the word, " novam quamdam" into " unam quandam," or a new sort of Theandric operation, into some one Theandric operation. This was noticed in the Third Council of Lateran, in which St. Martin commanded the Notary Paschasias to read the Greek copy that was preserved, and the words were found to be novam quandam, &c., and not unam, &c., and this was in no wise opposed to the Catholic doctrine, and can be explained two ways in an orthodox sense. First As St. John of Damascus says, every operation (1) performed by Christ by the Divine and human nature is Theandric, or human-divine, because it is the operation of a Man-God, and is attributed to the Person of Christ, the term, at the same time, of both the Divine and human nature. The second sense, as Sophronius and St. Maximus lay down is this, that the new Theandric operation St. Dionisius speaks of should be restricted to those operations of Christ alone, in which the Divine and human natures concur, and, therefore, there are three distinct operations to be noted in him: first, those which peculiarly belong to human nature alone, as walking, eating, sitting, and so forth; secondly, those which belong purely to the Divine Nature, as remitting sins, working miracles, and the like; and, thirdly, those which proceed from both Natures, as healing the sick by touching them, raising the dead by calling them, &c.; and it is of operations of this sort that the passage of St. Dionisius is to be explained.  

9. Secondly They object that St. Athanasius (2) admits the Divine Will only, " voluntatem Deitatis tantum;" but we answer that this does not exclude human will, but only that opposing will which springs from sin, as the context proves. Thirdly They object that St. Gregory of Nazianzen (3) says that the will of Christ was not opposed to God, as it was totally Deified: " Christi velle non fuisse Deo contrarium, utpote Deificatem totum." We answer, with St. Maximus and St. Agatho, that there is not the least doubt but that St. Gregory admitted two wills, and the whole meaning of this expression is that the human will of Christ was never opposed to the Divine will. They object, fourthly, that St. Gregory of Nyssa, writing against Eunomius says, that the Deity worked out the salvation of man; the suffering, he says, was of the flesh, but the operation was of God: " Operatur vere Deitas per corpus, quod circa ipsam est omnium salutem, ut sit carnis quidem passio, Dei autem operatio." (1) St. Jo. Damas. l. 3, de Fide Or thodox. c. 19. - (2) St. Athanas. in I. de Adv. Chri. (3) St. Greg. Naz. Orat, 2 de Filio.  This objection was answered in the Sixth Council, for the Saint having said that the humanity of Christ suffered, admitted by that that Christ operated by the humanity. All that St. Gregory in fact wanted to prove against Eunomius was, that the sufferings and the operations of Christ received a supreme value from the Person of the Word who sustains his humanity, and therefore he attributed these operations to the Word. They object, fifthly, that St. Cyril of Alexandria (4) says that Christ showed some cognate operation, "quandum cognatam operationem." We reply, that from the context it is manifest that the Saint speaks of the miracles of Christ in which his Divine Nature operated by his omnipotence, and his human nature by the contact, commanded by his human will; and thus this operation is called by the Saint an associated one. Sixthly, they object that many of the Fathers called the human nature of Christ the instrument of the Divinity. We answer, that these Fathers never understood the humanity to have been an inanimate instrument, which operated nothing of itself, as the Monothelites say, but their meaning was that the Word being united with the humanity, governed it as its own, and operated through its powers and faculties. Finally, they oppose to us some passages of Pope Julius, of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, and some writings of Menna to Vigilius, and of Vigilius to Menna; but our reply to this is that these passages are not authentic, but were foisted into the works of the Fathers by the Apollinarists and Eutychians. It was proved in the Sixth Council (Act. XIV.), that the writings attributed to Menna and Vigilius were forged by the Monothelites.  

10. The Monothelites endeavour to prop up their opinions by several other reasons. If you admit two wills in Christ, they say, you must also admit an opposition between them. But we, Catholics, say that this supposition is totally false; the human will of Christ never could oppose the Divine will, for he took our nature, and was made in all things like us but with the exception of sin; as St. Paul says (Heb. iv, 15), he was " one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin." He never, therefore, had those movements we have to violate the Divine law, but his will was always conformable to the Divine will. (4) St. Cyril, Alex. l. 4, in Joan.  The Fathers make a distinction between the natural and arbitrary will; the natural will is the power itself of wishing, the arbitrary will is the power of wishing anything, either good or bad. Christ had the natural human will, but not the arbitrary human will, for he always wished, and could only wish what was most conformable to the Divine will, and hence he says; " I do always the things that please him" (John, viii, 29). It is because the Monothelites have not made this distinction of the will that they deny altogether to Christ human will: " Sicut origo erroris Nestorianorum et Eutychianorum fuit, quod non satis distinguerent personam, et naturam; sic et Monothelitis, et quod nescirent quia inter voluntatem Naturalem, et Personalem, sive Arbitrarium discriminis interesset, hoc in causa fuisse, ut unam in Christo dicerent voluntatem" (5).  

11. They say, secondly, that there being only one Person there must be only one will, because, the Mover being but one, the faculty by which he moves the inferior powers must be but one likewise. We answer, that where there is but one Person and one Nature there can- be only one will and one operation, but where there is one Person and two Natures, as the Divine and human nature in Christ, we must admit two wills and two distinct operations, corresponding to the two Natures. They say, very properly, that the will and the operations are not multiplied according as the Persons are multipled, for in the case where one Nature is the term of several Persons, as is the case in the Most Holy Trinity, then in this Nature there is only one will and one operation alone, common to all the Persons included in the term of the Nature. Here the Monothelites have reason on their side, for the Mover is but one. But it is quite otherwise when the Person is one of the two Natures, for then the Mover, although but one, has to move two Natures, by which he operates, and, consequently, he must have two wills and two operations. 

12. They make a third objection. The operations, they say, belong to two Persons, and, consequently, when the Person is but one, the operation must be but one likewise. We answer, that it is not always the case that when there is but one Person that there is but one operating faculty, but when there are more Persons than one, then there must be more than one operating faculty. There are three Persons in God, but only one operation common to all three, because the Divine Nature is one and in divisible in God. But as in Jesus Christ there are two distinct Natures, there are, therefore, two wills, by which he operates, and two operations corresponding to each Nature; and, although all the operations, both of the Divine and human Nature are attributed to the Word, which terminates and sustains the two Natures, still the will and operations of the Divine Nature should not be confounded with those of the human nature; neither are the two Natures confused because the Person is one. (5) St. Joan.Damas Orat. de 2 Chris. Volent.

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