The word fear has a double meaning. For fear is natural when the soul is unwilling to be separated from the body, on account of the natural sympathy and close relationship planted in it in the beginning by the Creator, which makes it fear and struggle against death and pray for an escape from it. It may be defined thus: natural fear is the force whereby we cling to being with shrinking 2216 . For if all things were brought by the Creator out of nothing into being, they all have by nature a longing after being and not after non-being. Moreover the inclination towards those things that support existence is a natural property of them. Hence God the Word when He became man had this longing, manifesting, on the one hand, in those things that support existence, the inclination of His nature in desiring food and drink and sleep, and having in a natural manner made proof of these things, while on the other hand displaying in those things that bring corruption His natural disinclination in voluntarily shrinking in the hour of His passion before the face of death. For although what happened did so according to the laws of nature, yet it was not, as in our case, a matter of necessity. For He willingly and spontaneously accepted that which was natural. So that fear itself and terror and agony belong to the natural and innocent passions and are not under the dominion of sin.
Again, there is a fear which arises from treachery of reasoning and want of faith, and ignorance of the hour of death, as when we are at night affected by fear at some chance noise. This is unnatural fear, and may be thus defined: unnatural fear is an unexpected shrinking. This our Lord did not assume. Hence He never felt fear except in the hour of His passion, although He often experienced a feeling of shrinking in accordance with the dispensation. For He was not ignorant of the appointed time.
But the holy Athanasius in his discourse against Apollinarius says that He did actually feel fear. “Wherefore the Lord said: Now is My soul troubled 2217 . The now indeed means just when He willed, but yet points to what actually was. For He did not speak of what was not, as though it were present, as if the things that were said only apparently happened. For all things happened naturally and actually.” And again, after some other matters, he says, “In nowise does His divinity admit passion apart from a suffering body, nor yet does it manifest trouble and pain apart from a pained and troubled soul, nor does it suffer anguish and offer up prayer apart from a mind that suffered anguish and offered up prayer. For, although these occurrences were not due to any overthrow of nature, yet they took place to shew forth His real being 2218 .” The words “these occurrences were not due to any overthrow of His nature,” prove that it was not involuntarily that He endured these things.
St. John xii. 27.70b:2218