The Passions of Christ in High-Medieval Thought: An Essay on Christological Development

By Kevin Madigan | Go to book overview

7
Christus Orans?
A Praying God?

In the tenth book of De Trinitate, Hilary of Poitiers gave extended consideration to the motive and meaning of three prayers from the passion narrative: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt 26:39); “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34); and “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). All three prayers were used by the Arians in an attempt to establish the ontological inferiority of the Son to the Father. In fact, Hilary states (as we saw in the second chapter) that the latter two prayers comprise, together, the “chief weapons” in the Arian campaign to deny the divinity of the Son.1 In this chapter, we focus upon key ancient and medieval inquiries into the question, why did the Incarnate Son pray?


Hilary of Poitiers

Given the anti-Arian aim of De Trinitate, it is not surprising that Hilary argues vigorously that the Son's prayers in the passion narratives do not prove that he is a reduced divinity or a creature. Why, then, did he pray? Was he powerless to effect what only High Divinity could achieve? And did he pray for himself, as certainly appears to be the case in the biblical narrative? These sorts of questions put Hilary in a very awkward position, and his responses seem close to

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