Can you explain Jesus’ human soul?
As today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (and as we are still the Christmas season, I will say to you again, “Merry Christmas”), we have a fitting opportunity to explore this question of theology of “who” Jesus Christ is in regards to His having a “human soul.” For it is on this day we celebrate the event of Christ’s being made known to the whole world through the arrival of and worship of the magi. Their worshiping and honoring of Jesus as the newborn king and their three gifts point to deeper understand of who Jesus really is – and therefore pointing us to the proper way to consider Jesus’ human nature.
Today as we hear the Scriptures for Mass, we hear of the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each one of these gifts is fitting for Jesus Christ in
relating to us “who” He truly is. Gold, for its part is the fitting gift to one who is a king; frankincense is offered to God; and myrrh is a burial spice (and therefore offered to one mindful of their death – which in the case of Jesus, refers both to His humanity [which would undergo death] along with giving greater emphasis to the fact that He who is God would undergo a human death). Thus, today’s feast points to Jesus who is both God and man, destined to be king.
When we take these basic truths of who Jesus is into account, naturally we should ask whether Jesus’ soul is human or divine? Throughout the early centuries of the Church, such saints as St. Athanasius and St. Cyril of Alexandria have aided the Church in articulating the proper way to understand who Jesus is as God and man. That Jesus is fully God and fully man (not part one and also part of the other) our faith is that Jesus is a unity of the two natures (divine and human) in one person. Accordingly, all that is of the human nature (including His human soul) are united to the fullness of His divinity. In this way, we consider Jesus as having a human soul in complete union with His divinity, lacking nothing of either, while at the same time both remaining distinct. To illustrate that Jesus has a human soul, the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 472 says, “This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge.” In His human soul (as in any one of us) was the capacity to learn and grow in understanding. Thus, when the Scriptures refer to Jesus’ growth in knowledge and understanding, we are assured that He was like any of us in reference to human learning and maturation. At the same time (as in paragraph 473), this human knowledge, “expressed the divine life of His person,” meaning that He had self-awareness of His divinity and expressed His divine nature (in signs, in knowing the hearts of others, etc.). Such is a great mystery of faith, rooted in the even greater and more fundamental mystery of God Incarnate.
Therefore, we believe it is absolutely true that Jesus is God and man; that He had a divine and a human soul; a divine and a human will. In His being there is perfect unity of the divine and the human, without confusing anything or lacking in any way. In His divine nature, He willingly humbles Himself to share in our human nature, to raise us up to be true heirs of His Kingdom. Thus, He is worthy of worship as Lord, as Son of God, and as our true King, symbolized today in the gold, frankincense, and myrrh.