The Double Agony

At a staff team day away yesterday, we mused over what Newman meant by this verse in the classic “Praise to the Holiest in the Height”

O generous love! that he who smote
in Man for man the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo.

What is the “double agony”? Is it

  1. The Father losing the first Adam and then the second Adam?
  2. Jesus suffering both a gruesome physical death and also the effect of all the elect’s sin?
  3. Something else?

Begin the discussion below!!!

6 Comments on “The Double Agony

  1. I suspect it may be the double death ie physical and spiritual. That on the Cross Christ suffers not only a physical death but also a spiritual one, so to speak.

  2. I have always taken this Agony to be defined in the next stanza:

    And in the garden secretly
    and on the cross on high
    to teach his brethren and inspire
    to suffer and to die.

    The double agony is thus the spiritual/mental agony of the Garden, and the physical agony of the Cross. To a Latinist the And…and construction is readfily recognised as the modern Both…and.

    The suggestion I saw fifty years ago (in the English Churchman) that this is unorthodox because it teaches only an Abelardian view of atonement is wrong, because Christus Victor is enshrined in the stanza you quote. The same writer opined that “Lead Kindly Light” is a hymn to the moon – so I suspect he had a blind spot where Newman is concerned!

  3. Of course, as an evil, liberal, chasuble-wearing crypto-papist I would take the view that Atonement is a whole lot bigger than our attempts to define it. ,g.

    By the way, the best hymnals print the stanza Peter quotes with a semi-colon at the end. No brainer?



  4. From my Roman point of view, I first agreed with your other cotributors peter, that the answer was number 2, a physical and a spiritual “suffering”. Being Catholic I then went to the Catechism which is my number two reference material after my trusty bible.

    Para 624 which can be viewed here clearly references both the physical pain and death of Christ but reminded me of the spiritual death (ie seperation from God) during the decent into hell, at which time depite being totally God, Jesus was also totally Human, and thus “died” a second time, spiritually.

  5. I think your first suggestion, Peter, is not likely to be right, as the hymn (especially in this verse) seem to concentrate on the Son, not the Father. Besides, the Father does not have a human nature but only an impassible divine one.
    As for the double agony, I have always associated it with Newman’s phrase ‘in Man for man’, which occurs no less than twice in that short verse; but the exact sense in which the agony was double in Newman’s thought is not something I could tell you as I am not familiar enough with his works. Is there anything in the surrounding text of the Dream of Gerontius (from which, of course, the hymn is taken) that would help? For what it’s worth I get the impression that the agony in question is attached to a single event not two events at different times, so if that’s true the next verse would be a bit of a red herring.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.