Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Hilary of Poitiers

Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem.

Sure of protection on the day of battle, Christ prayed: “Lord, do not allow the wicked anything contrary to my desire.”

He who said, “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” hastened to fulfill the task he had undertaken out of obedience, though in such a way as to remind us that he possessed a will of his own. In fact, he willed whatever the Father willed.

His saying, “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me,” revealed who had sent him and whom he obeyed, but without detriment to his own power of willing.

Desiring to do everything the Father desired, Christ hastened to carry out his wishes with regard to his passion before the wicked could hinder him or prevent his doing so.

He had a great longing to eat the passover with his disciples, and he celebrated the paschal meal in haste.

He had an intense desire to drink the cup of his passion, for he said: “Shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me?”

When the search party came to arrest him and asked which man was Jesus, he stepped forward of his own accord.

He asked for the sour wine which he knew he was destined to drink, and having drunk it and achieved his great purpose he said: “It is accomplished,” thus expressing his joy at obtaining his heart's desire.

In the psalms Christ had often prayed for his life to be delivered from the sword. He had shown in advance that not one of his bones was to be broken, and he had prophesied that his tunic was to be acquired by lot.

He prayed that all these things willed by himself might come to pass so that prophecy might be fulfilled: that the wicked should have no control over them, that sinners should not hinder the celebration of that Passover for which he so ardently longed, that fear should not stop them from presenting him with the cup of his passion—for those who came to arrest him all fell to the ground at the Lord's first reply to them.

He prayed that the sour wine that was to be offered him might be ready, that the soldier's lance might not pierce his side before he had given up his spirit, and that no pretext for breaking his bones should be given by his slowness in dying.

He prayed that no prophecy should be unfulfilled, and that nothing should be allowed the wicked contrary to his desire, but that everything not only prophesied but also willed by himself should be accomplished.

He prayed about these things not because there was any danger of their not being accomplished, but so that everyone should perceive that the prophecies referred to himself.


(Commentary on the Psalms 39, 12: CSEL 22, 784-785)


Hilary (315-367) was elected bishop of Poitiers in 353. Because of his struggles with the Arians and his treatise on the Trinity, for which he was exiled, he has been called "the Athanasius of the West." He also wrote a commentary on Saint Matthew's gospel and another on a selection of the psalms. His style is difficult and obscure and he makes much use of allegory.


 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson