Monday, July 4, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus Suffers Agony in the Garden

Matthew 26:36-45:

[36] 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. [37] And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. [38] Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me. [39] 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. [40] And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?
[41] Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak. [42] 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. [43] And he cometh again and findeth them sleeping: for their eyes were heavy. [44] And leaving them, he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word. [45] Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith 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.

Mark 14:34:

[34] And he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death; stay you here, and watch.

Luke 22:39-46:

[39] And going out, he went, according to his custom, to the mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him. [40] And when he was come to the place, he said to them: Pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
[41] And he was withdrawn away from them a stone' s cast; and kneeling down, he prayed, [42] Saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. [43] And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. [44] And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. [45] And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow.     [46] And he said to them: Why sleep you? arise, pray, lest you enter into temptation.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

We now enter into the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. These five mysteries comprise key events in Jesus' Passion and Death. For many, these five mysteries are the most difficult to meditate upon. While many of the other mysteries may be difficult to understand, or fit into Salvation history in terms of context and import, these are difficult because of the terrible suffering involved. Nevertheless, immersion into these mysteries is, in my opinion, most edifying, and allows you to grow closer to Our Lord in ways meditation on the others do not.

I will keep my exploration of this mystery to just two thoughts: Jesus as the New Adam, and the form of Jesus' suffering: agony. I think these two ideas will are very important here.

The New Adam

The Gospels do not directly refer to Jesus as an "Adam figure," but we do know this is how the early Christians thought of Him, as demonstrated by 1 Corinthians 15:22-45, and Romans 5:14. However, there are certainly events and images within the life of Christ that also point to this connection.

In this passage, in particular, Jesus enters into a "Garden." You might have noticed that the above Gospel passages don't actually call it a Garden. Well, the Gospel of John does. Alternatively, Matthew calls it a "country place" and Mark calls it a "farm." These three descriptions should suffice to establish the "Garden of Eden" symbolism. The original Garden was, well, called a Garden for one thing. For another thing it was a place of work, since man was created to work it (Genesis 2:15), as one might work the earth on a farm. Finally, the original Garden predated cities, and was therefore, by default, a "country place."

So, the setting is a Garden, and in this Garden Jesus experiences solitude, as did the original Adam. Twice Jesus came back from prayer to find His followers asleep, even though He had specifically asked them to stay awake and pray with Him. The Bride had not yet appeared.

In the original Garden, Adam was in friendship with God, and He was said to have walked with him there. Here, in the Garden of Gethsemani, Jesus is in friendship with God, and prays to the Father.

Most importantly, though, is that in the original Garden, when Eve was tempted by the Father of Lies, and fell to the temptation, and offered the same sin to Adam, Adam was silent throughout, gave in, and then blamed her for his own failing. Indeed, he even blamed God for giving Eve to him in the first place.

Jesus is essentially faced with the same problem. He foresees the death that is upon Him. He sees that the source of this death is the Bride, the Church, who is filled with sin and sinners, and it is by Her sin that He, Himself will suffer and die. The same consequences that Eve's sin presented to Adam. But, what is Jesus' response here? He asks the Father to take this cup from Him, but if He must take it, then the Father's will be done.

Why? First, because it is the Father's will, and it was the selfish will of man, in contradiction to the Word of the Father, which resulted and continues to result in sin and suffering and death. Second, because it is through this action, this submission to the Father's Holy Will that the Bride will come to be saved. So, rather than staying silent and acquiescing, like Adam, Jesus goes forth boldly to save His Bride, even from Her own sins.

So, what we are seeing here is the beginning of the New Creation. This is the work of the New Adam, set in His Garden, preparing to right what was wronged so long ago. Just as Adam, after sinning, was condemned to tilling the earth by the sweat of his brown, now Jesus is tilling the earth of salvation by sweating blood, by bleeding for us. He begins, and His beginning is that of suffering, because suffering is the first consequence of sin.


Jesus first suffering, during His Passion, is agony. I think many of us tend to think of agony as just an extreme form of suffering. But agony is actually a particular kind of suffering. Specifically, it is mental suffering, anguish, terror. It comes from the Greek word agonia, which literally means "a mental struggle for victory."

That's what we're seeing here, in Jesus' Garden. Jesus tells Peter, James and John (the three who witnessed His Transfiguration), who were nearby during Jesus' agony, "My soul is sorrowful even unto death." We ought to recognize the incredible mental anguish that Jesus was suffering here. Jesus knew He was going to suffer an excruciating kind of death. He asked His Father three times to let this trial pass Him by.

Do you remember when Jesus was in the desert, and he was fasting and praying, and the devil came to Him to tempt Him? Jesus was no doubt very hungry, probably undergoing the grouchiness effect that hunger pangs bring upon us. Yet, He had absolutely no problem telling the devil where to do. He wasn't even phased.

Here, we see something entirely different. Jesus is indeed being tempted. He speaks of temptation several times to His Disciples, here. But this temptation is of an entirely different scale. Nevertheless, despite asking repeatedly to be allowed to forego this horror, Jesus remains obedient to the Father, and accepts what is to happen to Him.

Can you imagine? Jesus was sweating blood, His anguish was so immense. Have you ever sweat blood because of how hard you had to fight against temptation? The weight of it had to have been staggering. Yet, as the word agonia suggests, His passage through it was a victory.

Mystics throughout Christian history, who have received visions of these events, tell us that what Jesus suffered here wasn't merely the terror of impending death. Rather, in this moment, Jesus opened Himself to all sin, and all suffering, from every living person, from the beginning of time to the end, and even into eternity, and exposed the horror of it to His humanity, that by this, He could make a fitting offering of Himself, and with Himself, all humanity, for the sake of our Salvation from it.

For those of you who are suffering agonies of your own, and anytime you who are not now suffering agony find yourself in such a state, pray to Jesus. He knows your pain better than you could know. He's already suffered it with you, and He is suffering it with you, and He wants nothing but to take it from you and carry it on His own shoulders. So, go to Him in the Eucharist, in the Mass, and offer it to Him. Never stop offering it to Him. It is fitting.


  1. This is beautiful. The parallel to the garden of Eden gave me goose bumps and the part about Jesus' suffering really hit home and will help me personally. Thanks for another wonderful blog post!

  2. I like the post, Chris. It's comforting that Jesus knows our pain more than we could. Peace!