Life Of Christ:
Christ Announces To St. Peter His Supreme Pastoral Charge
Private Life Of Jesus During His Ministry
Sorrow Caused To Jesus And Mary By The Persecution Of The Jews
Jesus Triumphantly Enters Jerusalem
Jews Lay Plans To Put Jesus To Death
The Last Supper
Farewell Discourse And Prayer Of Jesus
Jesus In The Garden Of Gethsemani
Treason Of Judas, And The Apprehension Of Jesus
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Jesus In The Garden Of Gethsemani
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE time had now arrived when the first act of the great tragedy of the Passion of Our Lord was to begin. " 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 xviii. 1.) "Then Jesus came with them to a country place which is called Gethsemani, and He said to His disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray. 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. 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." (Matt. xxvi. 36-39.)
This sadness was produced by the foreboding of that fearful storm of suffering and of cruel indignities that was about to burst upon Him. He experienced all that sinking of heart, that nervous, agonizing dread, that shuddering repugnance that men feel when they anticipate some great calamity that is impending over them. His sorrow was so great that the agony of it made Him exclaim : " My soul is sorrowful even unto death." There was before Him an awful night of indignities and out-rages, to be followed by a day of suffering so intense, that we shudder even now at the bare recital of it. He knew every incident that would happen; He heard every taunt and gibe that would be spoken, and felt every blow that would be struck. He saw the mock trial, the blood-stained pillar, the ignominious cross, and the three hours of lingering agony. He endured beforehand every torture of His bitter passion.
Consider, Christian soul, that in this mental agony of Our Lord, as well as in all His other sufferings, each of us had a hand. The sins we have committed hovered around Him in the gloom of the olive-trees and glared upon Him like savage spectres. He saw them all. He knew that they were the creations of our wicked hearts, and prayed His Father to forgive us.
The three apostles were well aware that Christ was overcome with sorrow, not only for His own sake, but on their account also. As He Himself revealed to a saintly soul, the blessed Baptista Varani, He felt compassion for their present and future fate. " It was another sorrow," He said to her in a vision, " which deeply afflicted My soul, when I foresaw that My poor disciples would be dispersed, and that for My sake they would be subjected to all kinds of torture. I then saw how for the sake of My name one would be crucified, another scourged, a third beheaded. Thou mayst in part know what a pain this caused Me when thou dost reflect how thou shauldst feel afflicted if a person whom thou lovest with holy affection were to suffer intensely, and withal innocently, for thy sake. Now, as I was the cause of My disciples' suffering, I cannot describe to thee the pains I suffered on their account."
The place where Our Lord suffered His agony was a grotto, which served, probably, as an oil-press. It is still shown. A small, iron door in the west side leads into it. Its key is in the possession of the Franciscan Fathers. Eight steps lead down into a sort of cave of irregular shape, which has been transformed into a chapel. Three pillars cut out of the rock sustain the ceiling, in which is an opening, covered by a wooden grating, which admits some light. The main altar is in the east, and on its right and left are side-altars, all three of marble, but of simple design. Beneath the table of the central altar are kept burning a number of costly lamps, which throw their light on a rosette bearing the inscription in Latin: "Here His sweat became as drops of blood trick-ling down upon the ground." Mass is celebrated in the chapel every day.
Let us now consider Our Lord's petition. St. Mark says : " He fell flat on the ground : and He prayed that if it might be, the hour might pass from Him." (Mark xiv. 35.) Why does Christ pray that this hour might pass? Christian soul, if you would find the reason, just contemplate the appearance of your Redeemer. There He lies prostrate on the rough and cold ground. The burden of the sins of the whole world lies upon Him like a mountain, and oppresses His heart so as nearly to break it. The agony brings a cold sweat out of Him, and the fear of His bitter suffering almost kills Him. Should Christ, then, not pray that the hour might pass? Never, during all His life had He passed an hour like the three hours in this grotto; for He suffered there in His soul what 'He suffered later in His body, and this so intensely that all men together could not sustain this pain. Might He, then, not pray that this hour pass?
And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him." (Luke xxii. 43.) O miracle of humility and love! The only-begotten Son of the eternal Father humbles Himself so deeply and so thoroughly as to accept the assistance of one of His creatures in His agony. This surely is a great and incomprehensible condescension. By it He wished to impress us with the excellence and efficacy of prayer. Abandoned by all men, even by His chosen apostles, who, thoughtless and unsympathetic, have dropped to sleep, He turns to His heavenly Father for assistance. Encouraged by His ex-ample, the zealous Christian turns, in the time of trial and temptation, to prayer. It is his best and only comfort; it is taught him by word and example by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani.
Let us now contemplate how Jesus awakened His sleeping apostles. "And He cometh, and findeth them sleeping." (Mark xiv. 37.) He finds them asleep, un-conscious, and apparently careless of the pain He is enduring. An hour before they were full of fervor, and had promised great things; and lo, they could not watch one hour with Him! Jesus Himself seems to be surprised at this, and addressing Peter, who had been loudest in his protestations of devotion, said to him in a tone of reproachful astonishment: "Simon, sleepest thou? Couldst thou not watch one hour?" (Mark xiv. 37.) Then, with another word of warning to be vigilant and prayerful, He left them, to continue His struggle against the repugnance of His human will to assume the crimes of a sinful world and to suffer for them.
Each one of us was of those who forced from the sacred body of Jesus that agonizing sweat of blood. As He lay prostrate upon the earth in the bitterness of His anguish, He saw you, too. He felt all the sins which you have committed, knowing well all their circumstances and all their malice. He bore the guilt of every evil thought you have formed, of every evil word you have spoken, of every evil desire you have cherished, and of every evil deed you have done. If you yourself are filled with confusion at their recollection, think of the agony they caused to your Redeemer in Gethsemani. Cast yourself, therefore, upon your knees in the presence of God, and humbly implore Him to pardon you the share you had in His sweat of blood. Pray that the precious drops which fell from Him that awful night may blot out your offences, and promise Him never to sin again. Beg of Him that, when you have to struggle against the seductive whisperings of corrupt nature, He will call t* your mind the sharp contest which covered His sacred body with that crimson sweat, and the memory of it will enable you to overcome your evil inclinations.
O Jesus, I adore Thee in the sorrowful mystery of Thy - agony. Accept, merciful Saviour, my sincerest gratitude for the anguish undergone for my sake, for the prayer which Thou didst offer for me, for all the precious drops of Thy bloody sweat poured out for love of me. O Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful to me, help me in my last agony, and let my end be commended to Thee.