Says Man Finds Himself By Conforming His Will to God

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 25, 2008 ( True freedom is the ability to say "yes" to God and conform one's will to the divine, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square, which he dedicated to the figure of St. Maximus, a seventh-century monk.

He said the monk, known as the Confessor, merited the title "because of the intrepid courage with which he was able to give witness --'to confess' -- even while suffering, the integrity of his faith in Jesus Christ."

The Holy Father praised the monk, who was born in Palestine, for his role in defending the Church's faith against the Monothelite heresy of the seventh century, which refused the presence of an integral human will in Jesus Christ.

"Maximus did not accept any attempt to minimize the humanity of Christ," said the Pontiff.

He explained: "The theory had arisen according to which Christ had only one will, the divine. To defend the uniqueness of his person, they denied he had a true human will.

"At first glance, it might appear to be something good that in Christ there was 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," Benedict XVI continued, "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."

The Pope said that St. Maximus "demonstrates that man finds his unity, the integration of himself, his totality not in himself, but in surpassing himself, by coming out of himself. Thus, also in Christ, man, coming out of himself, finds in God, in the Son of God, himself."

He explained that the monk taught what is true freedom. "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," the Holy Father underlined. "Only in saying 'yes' does man really become himself.

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

Maximus was accused of heresy in his 80s by the emperor of Constantinople, who held the Monothelite position. He was eventually convicted. As punishment his tongue was cut out and his right hand was cut off, so he could no longer preach and write about the two wills of Christ.

Benedict XVI recalled that the "holy monk, thus mutilated, was exiled in Colchide, on the Black Sea, where he died, exhausted by the sufferings undergone, at the age of 82."
"The life and thought of Maximus remain powerfully illumined by an immense courage in witnessing to the integral reality of Christ, without any reduction or compromise," said the Holy Father. "And so we see who is truly man, how we must live to respond to our vocation.

"We must live united to God, and thus be united to ourselves and the cosmos, giving the cosmos itself and humanity their just form."

The Pope said "Christ's universal 'yes' shows us with clarity how to give the right place to all the other values," such as tolerance, liberty and dialogue.

He noted that "tolerance that is no longer able to distinguish between good and evil would become chaotic and self-destructive. So, moreover, would a liberty that does not respect the freedom of others and does not find the common measure of our respective liberties, it would become anarchic and destroy authority. Dialogue that no longer knows what to dialogue about becomes empty chatter."

The Pontiff continued: "All these values are great and fundamental, but they can remain true values only if they have the point of reference that unites them and gives them true authenticity.

"This point of reference is the synthesis between God and the cosmos, and the figure of Christ in which we learn the truth about ourselves and so learn where to place all the other values, because we discover their genuine meaning.

"Jesus Christ is the point of reference that gives light to all the other values."