First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden |
Thus at the Mount of Olivet we begin, with our Lord, the grueling trek to Calvary. There in the Garden He was alone for even His Apostles could not watch one hour with Him. How lonely it must have been, how harrowing the agony to see our sins and transgressions. How can we ease His suffering? By resolving not to place ourselves in the occasions of sin; by being part of the hope and light that sustained Him and encouraged Him to continue His course for He was a man, like us in every way, save for sin. Why, oh, why do we persist in offending the Son of God? And yet, while we still expect God to do so much for us, are we willing to spend even an hour a day with Him and for Him? Thoughts to meditate on as we begin the Sorrowful Mysteries in Lent.
"When considering sin and when trying to renew our repulsion to it we should consider what our sins did to our Lord when He was whipped with cords that had sharpened bones at the end that pulled the skin off His back, when thorns penetrated His skull and brain, when the dirt of the ground entered his wounds as he fell flat on His face while carrying the cross, when the spit mixed with the sweat, blood and dirt was on His face, when the wounds of His back were reopened when they ripped the clothes off His back, when the tremendous pain pulsated throughout His body as they drove the nails through His wrists and feet, when the flies and gnats flew in His eyes and up His nose with His arms nailed defenselessly to the cross, when He choked on His own breath, on the water that was building up in His lungs as He hung on the cross, and again; that pulsating pain throughout His whole body when He would pull Himself up on that cross just so He could breath and try to speak."
"Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani. And he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray.'" (Matthew 26: 36).
We will be looking more at our Lord’s humanity here than what we did for the Joyful Mysteries where we focused a bit more on His Divinity. The second person of the Trinity is never one without the other since the incarnation. That is, He is fully human and fully Divine, not part and part as we have mentioned before. He is not some great man like superman or something less than God though He is both God and man.
And going out, He went, according to His custom, to the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39)
The Last Supper precedes the agony in the Garden. After the third cup or chalice they go out into the Garden. There are four cups during the Passover and it seems to some that Jesus forgets the fourth cup. For now we will just say that our Lord did not forget what to do when celebrating the Passover nor did He “botch” anything. He did everything as He intended.
The cup or chalice can be taken to be the "chalice of suffering" as we see in Matthew 26: 27-28:
"And taking the chalice, He gave thanks and gave to them, saying: 'Drink ye all of this. For this is My blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins"
This is the only time the New “Covenant” or “Testament” is mentioned by Jesus. The laying down His life begins in the upper room and the Passover He begins is not completed until the crucifixion. The Agony in the Garden is the portal through which He must pass to begin His Passion.
He has, in a sense, returned to the “garden”, which takes us back to Genesis and the first Adam about to undergo an ordeal in the Garden of Eden.
"Before the festival day of the pasch, Jesus knowing that His hour was come, that He should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end" (John 13:1).
"These things Jesus spoke: and lifting up His eyes to Heaven, He said: 'the hour is come. Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee'" (John 17:1).
Some say His hour began at the beginning of the Passover celebration with His Apostles, others say it began at the wedding feast of Cana where our Lord implied to His Blessed Mother Mary that if He complied with her request about the servants having no wine that this first of miracles (the working of His first public miracle would change everything about His life from then on; people would KNOW that He was not just an ordinary man and this would begin His mission which would ultimately lead to His Death – once He performed this miracle there would be no turning back) would begin His hour, and others still when His first drop of blood spilled in the garden or later.
Jesus begins this prayer of unity in preparation of what He is about to undergo. The hour of his offering up Himself as the Sacrifice.
You may notice as you read the different accounts of our Lord's Passion and specifically His agony in the garden that the same apostles (Peter, James and John) He allowed to see the Transfiguration He allows to see Him in His anguish as He prepares for death.
The witnessing of the Transfiguration allowed the faith of His future three key bishops, who would form the foundation of His Church, faith to be strengthened enough to persevere through the ordeal they were now about to witness, which, would in turn, ultimately strengthen their faith and credibility even further.
Our Lord knew every detail of what He was about to undergo. He knew as well all the sins that were or would be committed in the history of the world. Each and every sin that we have and will commit, He saw. And each and every sin we have and will commit added to what He endured for us. Each and every sin we have or will commit negatively affect us and others as well.
He also knew the value of prayer and how prayer gives the soul strength to fight the spiritual battle, how it is the breath of the soul, how it helps the believer abide in their faith, how it helps us to endure unto the end, how it strengthens us in against temptations and how it helps us grow closer to God.
When we are baptized our soul is cleansed of Original Sin. But when we sin without seeking forgiveness, without truly being sorry for what we have done, without a firm purpose of amendment, without sincerely trying our best to avoid that sin in the future, our soul will become disfigured much like the countenance of our Lord became during His agony when He sweated drops of blood. And if this be a mortal sin our soul will be killed much like our Lord was on the cross. But thanks be to God and His holy sacrament of penance our soul will have the capacity to rise from the dead similar to what our Lord did at the Resurrection.
When considering sin and when trying to renew our repulsion to it we should consider what our sins did to our Lord when He was whipped with cords that had sharpened bones at the end that pulled the skin off His back, when thorns penetrated His skull and brain, when the dirt of the ground entered his wounds as he fell flat on His face while carrying the cross, when the spit mixed with the sweat, blood and dirt was on His face, when the wounds of His back were reopened when they ripped the clothes off His back, when the tremendous pain pulsated throughout His body as they drove the nails through His wrists and feet, when the flies and gnats flew in His eyes and up His nose with His arms nailed defenselessly to the cross, when He choked on His own breath, on the water that was building up in His lungs as He hung on the cross, and again; that pulsating pain throughout His whole body when He would pull Himself up on that cross just so He could breath and try to speak.
Yes, this is what we do to our soul when we sin. In a sense we also do this to our Lord. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou ME?"
Let us not kill our souls. When we sin, let us seek healing from the Divine Physician.
"And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. Then He saith to them: 'My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch with Me'" (Matthew 26:37-38)
"And they came to a farm called Gethsemani. And He saith to His disciples: 'Sit you here, while I pray' (Mark 14:32).
"When Jesus had said these things, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden, into which He entered with His disciples" (John 18:1).
The Garden of Gethsemane was a place where oil was pressed and was place of lodging for Jesus and His disciples so they obviously had been there before. This is said to be less than a mile from where they had the last supper, remember when you see the word “garden” to go back to the beginning and notice how the New Adam is undoing the damage the first Adam had done when he succumbed to a great temptation our Lord would not succumb too.
"But Jesus answered them, saying: 'The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified' (John 12:23).
Jesus’ “glorification” is His crucifixion. He let His apostles know that He was to be crucified but for whatever reason they are a little foggy on the issue. Do they just believe what they want to believe? Do we choose not to believe hard sayings when they are repugnant to us?
During Lent the Psalms truly are great prayers composed by God that also reveal and unlock some of the Mysteries in the New Testament to a degree. The Divine Office, composed of the Psalms, is the best prayer after the Mass and we should never forget that the Holy Rosary is based on the 150 Psalter. But onward with the First Sorrowful Mystery.
"My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39).
Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee: remove this chalice from Me; but not what I will, but what Thou wilt" (Mark 14:36).
"Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me: but yet not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42).
Here we find again the distinction between our Lord’s divinity and humanity. His human nature naturally recoils from this incredible suffering that His Divinity knows He is about to endure. He was to be mistreated all through the night, beaten and made fun of. Then He would be scourged to a point which was enough to kill a man and if that was not bad enough He would then be crowned with thorns - all before He was crucified, spilling every last drop he had and going through pain and torture unimaginable to me, racking every bone in His body.
(Some think Jesus begs the Father to take “this cup” from Him because He is confused and does not know what is going on) He had a deep understanding of what was going on. Jesus who is perfect, learned obedience through suffering – why would we think we are exempt? He was fully human and he cried out to God and His prayer was heard but the answer was “My Son you must do this if You are to fulfill My will.” He despised the shame but willingly endured it. There have been moments in our lives where we faced difficult decisions and there will be again. Jesus gives us the perfect example on what to do in these situations.
"Again the second time, He went and prayed, saying: 'My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, Thy will be done.' And He cometh again and findeth them sleeping: for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them, He went again: and He prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word'" (Matthew 26:42-44).
Why does Jesus pray over and over again (the same prayer three times)? This is not a name-it and claim-it attitude He has. If it was true for Jesus it can be true for me. When we find ourselves in great peril and have prayed begging God’s mercy and seem not to have received it we may need to come back and pray again.
"And going a little further, He fell upon His face, praying and saying: 'My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt' (Matthew 26:39).
How was all this recorded? His Apostles were asleep. He would have told them after His Resurrection probably. Jesus saw His disciples numerous times after His Resurrection.
It is interesting to notice how it seems our Lord needed the consolation of His human companions. Again and again we get a glimpse on how He took on our humanity in all ways except sin. You may notice that He wanted to be consoled by the Apostles and wanted to be alone as can be seen by His withdrawing a stone’s throw away from His closest friends. Just knowing they were near by seemed to be consoling to Him yet He wanted to be alone with His Father when He prayed to Him.
The normal stance for praying for Jews at that time was standing. Jesus falls on His face saying “Abba – Dad” pleading from a Son’s heart appealing to the Father’s mercy.
Teach us how to pray He was once asked. “Our Father” is the response. We have a relationship with God that is like son to father. It is good to appeal to the Fatherhood of God through and with the Son and in the Holy Ghost (having Him as our Advocate) which is most efficacious when we struggle with temptation and are free from Mortal Sin; otherwise our prayers will not have an effect until we go to the Sacrament of Penance.
We have mentioned several times in these articles how our Lord sees the sins of all mankind when He is suffering in the garden.
What sins does our Lord see? And why do they make Him sorrowful.
I'll try to answer the second question first. Our sins make Jesus so sorrowful because He loves us with an infinite love as parents who see their children do evil probably know. The more you love someone the less you like seeing them get hurt.
That is what we do when we sin; we get hurt and we hurt others. We are "kicking against the goad" as it were. Our Lord set up the moral order in a way that if we go against it we have to pay the price - Now, or later - temporarily, or eternally. This is true because He is just.
Some like to think of our Lord as a Santa Claus or Grandfather type figure who kind of just looks the other way when we do something wrong. You know, the "boys will be boys" type mentality. This just simply is not so.
Adults can be very childish - adults who simply never grew up. You can see this in both the political world and in sports - players, not only fighting with each other, but also spitting on one another, players with millions of dollars and world champions who despise other players because they hold certain statistical records or are more favored by the media.
How about in our world? When we see others attain success what is the first thing a lot of us do? Cry a tear of joy because we are so happy for them? No. Immediately we feel a hatred or envy well up inside and we start talking bad about them, right as they are receiving their award - as if WE are the Just Judge. They could be undergoing chemotherapy and having all sorts of problems at home and there we are, slam-dunking them during their moment of happiness.
How about those of us who are small and petty? Those of us who if we feel wronged by someone will treat them differently for years, helping them the least we can, avoiding them, not saying hi to them, pretending like we do not see them and trying to make life just a little harder on them when the opportunity arises. Is that Christ like? But how many of us do that? We can be so small sometimes. This is really sad.
Why the jealousy of others? Because we have a ME mentality. Instead of saying "Good for them" we say, "Why isn't this happening to me?” We don't think like this when we see something bad happening to someone however. Can you see the inconsistency there?
All members of the Roman Catholic Church are a part of the mystical body of Christ. When something good happens to one of our brothers it raises us all up like a ship when the water rises.
Some people are great friends in a one on one basis, it would seem. But when they get in a group or in front of their supervisor, they go from friend to "how can I get the credit for what he has done?” Then they will smile at you the next day like nothing has happened. Either because they think you are stupid or they just don't care.
When we see how serious these sins are, in light of the more grave ones that are also commonplace, we have somewhat of an idea of just how our Lord may have felt when He was contemplating all this in the garden.
Let us follow in our Lord's footsteps - in humility. Not in a comparative envious sort of way. But with a love for our neighbor that is unconditional and nonjudgmental.
Can we do this for our Lord? Let's try.
Our Lord understands the just wrath of His Father for the sinfulness of mankind. Through His death and Resurrection, Jesus appeased the wrath of His Father by making forgiveness available to us, not automatic. Forgiveness is available to those who seek it - for those who are truly sorry - for those who ask for it with a sincere and contrite heart and firm purpose of amendment.
For those who do not do these things while seeking forgiveness or who presume upon it and continually commit the same sins over and over again without truly being sorry within their hearts, forgiveness is not automatic, but still available, always available, if, they repent. But forgiveness is most certainly not automatic just because they believe or accepted Jesus some years back. It is this very belief that holds us accountable. Forgiveness is available for those who try their best to "go and sin no more lest something worse befalls them".
It is difficult for me to imagine the amount of anguish it would take to get me to the point where I would actually be sweating drops of blood and I have been in a lot of anguish in the past.
When considering the physical and mental sufferings of our Lord we have to distinguish the humanity of Jesus from His Divinity. In His humanity Jesus allowed Himself to suffer and not only that but to fear as well. As a human being our Lord would not only be capable of suffering but He would have the ability to fear suffering. His being God would not make the nails hurt any less. And in His humanity His will would recoil in fear at the impending doom that was to befall Him.
It is the very fact, we will notice, that His being God also allowed Him to know what was about to take place and how much He would suffer in advance. In fact, His whole life was a countdown to His death. He knew this was going to happen from the moment He was conceived and before. His food was to do the will of His Father and His torturous death was the will of His Father. Do we understand that? When bad things happen to us do we doubt that there is a God sometimes? Is this really the right attitude to have? Should we ask our guardian angels and all the angles and saints to pray with us and unite our prayers with all the Masses that have been offered, are being offered and will be offered throughout the world? Should we ask Peter, James and John to comfort us? Should we ask all the angels and all the saints to take our suffering and purify it - making it a sweet smelling oblation to the Lord that He can do with it as He wills? So He may apply this treasure which He allows us to merit to be applied to the souls who can benefit most from our suffering? So we may be purged from our past sins and help purge others from their sins.
"And there appeared to Him an angel from Heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony, He prayed the longer" (Luke 22:43).
Remember in Genesis how when Adam and Eve were banned from the garden and how the angels were there to guard the garden? Again, we have the garden, the New Adam and an angel. Jesus is making it so we can enter something far better than the Paradise in the garden enjoyed by Adam and Eve.
Angels also came after the temptation. The last time angels are referenced is at the tomb with Mary Magdalene. But in the garden they are there to console Him, and then they are gone and are not permitted to soften the difficulty for Jesus after that point - think of the humility of Jesus allowing Himself to be consoled by angels. He MADE the angels. Angels intercede for us and come to our aid in our weakness. We have a mighty warrior who prays on our behalf - our guardian angel. Who can forget Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael. Notice three angels - three Apostles with Christ in the Garden of Olivet. We should appreciate the angels. They are God’s gift to us.
When we face trials that are surely less than the trial our Lord faces here, we can know that He has gone before us and can console us.
And His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44)
When considering how our Lord sweat drops of blood due to His anguish consider how it is as if every pore in his body opened up to give Himself for our redemption.
"Because I came down from Heaven, not to do My Own will but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38).
Jesus was laying down His life, for us, to do the will of the Father and this is a call for us to do the Father’s will.
And He cometh to His disciples and findeth them asleep. And He saith to Peter: 'What? Could you not watch one hour with Me? Watch ye: and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'" (Matthew 26:40-41).
And He cometh and findeth them sleeping. And He saith to Peter: 'Simon, sleepest thou? Couldst thou not watch one hour? 38 Watch ye: and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'" (Mark 14:37-38).
Yes, I could watch one hour with You, Lord, but I do not feel like it. You know, that is pretty blunt but this is exactly what we are saying when we do not attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday. For Traditional Catholics, this could very much apply to them if they do not go to adoration an hour a day (where it is available) and daily Mass so long as it does not hinder their state in life. I say "could" in that I believe this depends as I have said on one's state in life or where one lives since the True Mass is not available as it was in pre-Vatican II days. All the more reason to watch with Him when we can.
One should not neglect essential duties to spouse and family, though a strong prayer life will definitely makes any burden lighter. A way I like to look at it is by thinking about how much time a day I spend in front of TV and how much time a day do I spend in prayer? This is kind of revealing. We do not like to think about it sometimes but there it is. I’m guilty as charged but I will at least admit that I could and should be doing better. Peter, James and John may have had an excuse - they were really tired and unable to stay awake. Jesus felt incredibly alone and his three best friends could not stay awake during the moment when He needed them most for comfort. Though they may have had an excuse we oftentimes do not. Jesus mentioned our keeping Him company for just one hour and this was recorded in Scripture as a reminder to us.
For whatever reason the Apostles were overcome by sleep. They could have been incredibly tired. Maybe they felt so down and perplexed about what their master was doing that they did not know what else to do? Perhaps they had an overwhelming sense of fear crippling them. The spirit is willing but the flesh is week. They desperately wanted to help their master but there was not much they could do apart from just being there. “Just being there” can be good in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament - when we let God do the talking. We have to be vigilant in responding to God’s grace.
Then He cometh to His disciples and said to them: 'Sleep ye now and take your rest. Behold the hour is at hand: and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise: let us go. Behold he is at hand that will betray Me' (Matthew 26:45-46).
“Rise.” A subtle inference to the resurrection? Jesus had dealt with His temptation. His followers will have to deal with many temptations.
One might ask where was our Lady and Queen in all this? You mothers know better than the rest of us. The heart of the mother is always present when her son is suffering. Not being able to be with her Son would be one of her sufferings. She could pray. There is His mother praying at the same time in a different place that would perhaps in some way mitigate the tremendous evil about to unfold against her Son. She was agonizing more over the peril of her Son than those who were witnessing it.
Jesus makes it clear that everything is happening to fulfill the scriptures He is in complete control. Jesus loves the Father with all his heart, soul and mind, temptation precedes the ushering in the Kingdom of God. Judas is the only Apostle not sleeping. Evil never sleeps. Isn’t it interesting how the people of the world will sell their soul (usually without realizing it until it is too late) for passing success and worldly possessions, but Catholics with their minds on the things above are sometimes afraid to speak out or do anything that would make them seem different?
What are we to think of Judas’ betrayal of the best friend he could have ever had?
"While I was with them, I kept them in Thy name. Those whom Thou gavest Me have I kept: and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the scripture may be fullfilled" (John 17: 12).
"And he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is He. Hold Him fast" (Matthew 26:48)
"As He was yet speaking, behold a multitude; and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus, for to kiss Him. And Jesus said to him: ' Judas, dost thou betray the Son of man with a kiss?'" (Lk 27:47-48)
"And Jesus said to him: 'Friend, whereto art thou come?' Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and held Him" (Matthew 26:50).
"Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. And the name of the servant was Malchus. Jesus therefore said to Peter: 'Put up thy sword into the scabbard. The chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?'" (John 18:10-11).
"And Jesus said to the chief priests and magistrates of the temple and the ancients, that were come unto Him: 'Are ye come out, as it were against a thief, with swords and clubs? When I was daily with you in the temple, you did not stretch forth your hands against Me: but this is your hour and the power of darkness.'" (Luke 22:52-53).
"Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth and said to them: 'Whom seek ye?' They answered him: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith to them: 'I am He.' And Judas also, who betrayed Him, stood with them. As soon therefore as He had said to them: I am he; they went backward and fell to the ground. Again therefore he asked them: 'Whom seek ye?' And they said: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered: 'I have told you that I am He. If therefore you seek Me, let these go their way, That the word might be fulfilled which He said: Of them whom thou hast given Me, I have not lost any one'" (John 18:4-9).
Jesus could have kicked their butts from here to Hell and back but He didn’t. It is absolutely incredible the amount of humility and meekness our Lord showed and it should be an ideal example to us to bear all wrongs patiently and to turn the other cheek for we know, as this sorrowful saga played out, that it has a happy, oh yes, very, very happy ending. May your Lent contribute to that goal and may your prayers, sacrifices and penance in expiation of your sins and others be less weight on our dear Lord's heavy shoulders for the cross awaits, as we know, for Him, and for us in this veil of tears. If we are willing to watch with Him, you'll be amazed how much more willingly we will be able to carry our crosses.
"Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH" Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373