Pope Benedict is discussing the teaching of Maximus the Confessor (c.580-662) that Christ possessed a human and a divine will (as was subsequently taught by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680-681 after Maximus and Pope Martin I had died as martyrs in defence of this truth).

At first glance, it might appear to be something good if in Christ there had been only one will.

However, St. Maximus understood immediately that this would have destroyed the mystery of salvation, because a humanity without will – a man without a will – is not a true man, but rather an amputated man.

Therefore, the man Jesus Christ would not have been a true man, would not have experienced the drama of the human being, which consists precisely in the difficulty of conforming our will with the truth of being.

Thus St. Maximus affirmed with great determination: Sacred Scripture does not show us an amputated man, without a will, but a true complete man:

God, in Jesus Christ, has truly assumed the totality of the human being – obviously except for sin – hence, also, a human will.

Stated that way, the question was clear: Christ is either a true man or not.

[…] Man must not “amputate” the human Christ to explain the Incarnation.

One must only understand the dynamism of the human being who is fulfilled only by coming out of himself. Only in God do we find ourselves, our totality and our completeness.

[…] For St. Maximus this vision does not remain a philosophical speculation. He sees it realized in the concrete life of Jesus, above all in the drama of Gethsemane.

In this drama of Jesus’ agony, of anguish and death, of the opposition between the human will not to die and the divine will that offers itself to death, in this drama of Gethsemane the whole human drama is realized, the drama of our redemption.

St. Maximus tells us, and we know that this is true: Adam – and Adam is us – thought that the “no” was the apex of liberty; that only he who can say “no” is truly free; that to truly realize his liberty, man must say “no” to God.

Only in this way, he thinks, he is finally himself; he has arrived at the summit of liberty. This tendency was also present in Christ’s human nature, but he overcame it, because Jesus saw that “no” is not the greatest liberty.

The greatest liberty is to say “yes”, to conform with the will of God. Only in saying “yes” does man really become himself.

Only in the great opening of the “yes”, in the unification of his will with the divine will, does man become immensely open, he becomes “divine”.

To be like God was Adam’s desire, namely, to be completely free. However, he is not divine, the man who is closed in on himself is not completely free.

He is so by coming out of himself, it is in the “yes” that he becomes free. And this is the drama of Gethsemane: not my will but yours.

Transferring one’s will to the divine will, that is how a true man is born. That is how we are redeemed.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): On Maximus the Confessor (translation by Zenit).