Agony in the Garden

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The Agony in the Garden - by El GRECO - from Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest


Agony in the Garden

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)Immediately after this final supper with His disciples, Jesus, goes to His customary place of prayer, a grove of olive trees on the Mount overlooking Jerusalem. The Agony in the Garden reveals Jesus' anguish and fear as He approaches His "hour." The climactic moment of His mission now is here: The Infinite Wisdom of the Father Who takes on the form of a slave, is obedient even unto death, even death upon the Cross - for us.

olives.jpg (171359 bytes)Often Jesus had gone to Gethsemani, the Mount of Olives. There He and His disciples would rest or Jesus would spend the night in prayer. Judas, one of the Twelve, knew the place well. For hours Jesus prayed to His Father while the disciples, not understanding that the hour of the cosmic clash between darkness and Light had arrived, fell soundly asleep.

We can well imagine that as Jesus prayed on the Mount of Olives, He looked across the narrow Kidron Valley into the Temple area. From the Roman fortress - the Antonia - situated at the northwest corner of the Temple esplanade, soldiers' lanterns began to file out of the darkness. Once outside the city walls, the column headed down the hill and then began to climb the Mount of Olives. Nowhere in the scriptural portraits does Jesus express such agonizing terror, such deep anguish and distress as He is about to fulfill His destiny: to offer His life in love to the Father, for us. For only in this way could the victory over Satan, sin and death be accomplished. Trembling with fear, drenched with the sweat of agony, He watches the torches coming up the hill towards Him. Judas, one of His closest followers is at the head of the contingent.

Run away? Would it not have been possible in the darkness of that night? But from the depths of His Being, He cries out "ABBA." The word of a Child for its own Father. A babbling sound of tender love , of firm obedience. "ABBA, Father, all things are possible to Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will but what Thou wilt."

The traitor, incredibly, is one of the Twelve. A kiss, a sign of love, consummates the betrayal: "Is it with a kiss, Judas, that you hand over the Son of Man?" Both Matthew and Luke speak not only of the sleep of the disciples but add that at the arrest, "they all forsook Him and fled." Saint Louis de Montfort comments: "He suffered in His disciples, one of whom bartered Him for money and betrayed Him; another, their leader, denied Him and the rest abandoned Him."

agony.jpg (26517 bytes) Alone, Jesus faces trial and condemnation. In utter loneliness, Jesus the Lord of Glory is led away to His trial. The eternal and incarnate Wisdom, the human face of God, infinite Love incarnate, is seized like a common criminal to be judged by His creatures. For our sins and for our salvation, He is "led like a sheep to the slaughter."

Quietly, walk into the Garden. Go up to Jesus as He trembles with fear, soaked with sweat of blood.


My Jesus, You are alone …
Give me the strength to remain with You
throughout Your passion and death.
Never let me betray You.
May I suffer and die with You.
With You, may I also be a holocaust of love to the Father.
Then with You I shall rise in glory.
We adore You O Christ and we bless You
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.


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