During the Lenten season, we pay special attention to our Lord’s Passion. You might have heard the old saying that there’s no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. Indeed, we couldn’t celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection if He hadn’t given up His life for us! This “Prayer to Agonizing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane” is taken from a Eucharistic Vigil Guide published in 1970’s.
It captures quite movingly the spirit of the first Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, the Agony in the Garden, in its references to our Lord’s struggle to keep His composure at Gethsemane. That night His Humanity was sorely tested to fulfill his mission in His Divinity to die on a cross so that we might have Eternal Life. Yet His quite natural fear of death, and despair at betrayal, could not keep him from carrying out His Father’s Will.
O Jesus, Who in the excess of Your love to win hearts, do give abundant graces to those who meditate on your holy passion in Gethsemane, I pray You to lead my heart and soul to think often of the most bitter agony You suffered in the Garden, to pity You and to join with You completely.
O most Holy Jesus, Who bore during that night the weight of all our sins and paid for them, please grant me the great gift of contrition for my many sins which caused You to sweat blood.
Most Holy Jesus, by virtue of the terrible struggle You endured in Gethsemane, give me the power of complete and final victory in the temptations that beset me, especially those to which I am most often subject.
O my Jesus, by virtue of the anxieties, fears and the unknown but intense pain which You suffered on the night in which You suffered on the night in which You were betrayed, give me the light to follow Your holy will and to think upon and to understand the enormous effort and formidable struggle You endured victoriously in fulfilling not your will, but the will of the Father.
Praise to You, O Jesus, for the agony and the tears poured out during the Holy Night, for the sweat of blood and the deadly distress You endured, that solitude more frightful than man can imagine.
Praise to You, most sweet but vastly sorrowful Jesus, for the prayer at once human and divine which poured forth from Your agonized heart during that night of ingratitude and of treason.
Eternal Father, I offer to You all the Holy Masses of this moment, of the past, and of the future, united with Jesus in agony in the Garden of Olives.
O Most Holy Trinity, cause the knowledge and love of the Sacred Passion of Gethsemane to be diffused in the world.
And, O my Jesus, may those who love You and look upon the crucifix remember Your incredible pain in the Garden, and may they follow Your example, learn to pray well, to fight and overcome so they may eternally glorify You in heaven. Amen.
We see Jesus often in a heroic pose, such as in this rendition above. We read in the Gospels of how he asked His Father three times to let this bitter cup of sorrow pass from Him, while, saying “but yet not my will but thine be done” (Lk 22:42) in loving, self-sacrificing obedience.
Yet Scripture doesn’t reveal much about Jesus’ emotional turmoil that night in the Garden before His arrest, show trial, and execution. He tells the apostles Peter, James and John as they approach Gethsemane that “my soul is sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt 26:38). Still, we are not given much detail.
However, we do get an intriguing inkling as to just how emotionally painful this brief period of time in prayer was for our Lord in these lines from Luke’s gospel: “And falling into an agony He prayed the more earnestly. And his sweat became as drops of blood, running down upon the ground” (Lk 22:43-44). We are called to reflect on Christ’s Agony in the Garden in the first Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. When I do the question often comes to my mind: what could make God sweat blood?
Church approved private revelations can shed some light as to the horrible nature of Jesus’ suffering at that moment! It wasn’t enough that He could foresee in great bloody detail his being scourged, mocked, and crucified the next day. There was something even worse than that: the thought that His redemptive suffering would be in vain for many ungrateful souls throughout the ages to come!
While His death would open up the gates of heaven it would be up to each of us to choose to follow Him there and accept His offer of salvation by how we live our lives. Yet many souls would be lost over the centuries to come, as people would reject Him through unrepentant attachment to their sins!
The 19th Century nun and mystic Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich describes Jesus’ grief in harrowing detail in the book The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In her visions we see Jesus overwhelmed by visions of humanity’s sins, as well by as the ingratitude of so many of those for whom He would be crucified!
She relates that Jesus at first “fell on his face, overwhelmed with unspeakable sorrow, and all the sins of the world displayed themselves before him under countless forms and in all their real deformity”. Sister Emmerich herself saw “all the sins, wickedness, vices, and ingratitude of mankind torturing and crushing him to the earth.”
Our Lord described the scene in riveting detail to another mystic Sister Josefa Menendez in the 1920’s, as related in the book Christ’s Appeal for Love.
He told her that “I saw the offences, sins, and crimes that were to be committed throughout the ages…I not only witnessed them but was invested in them [emphasis mine]…so that under the burden of their ignominy I was constrained to present Myself before the face of My all-holy Father and implore Him to show mercy. And there burst upon Me the wrath of an angry and offended God, and, in order to appease His Majesty I offered myself as security for sinful man, I, His Son to calm His anger and satisfy His justice. But so great was the anguish and so mortal the agony of My human nature under the strain and weight of so much guilt, that a bloody sweat poured from Me to the ground. O sinners who thus torture Me…will this Blood bring salvation and life, or will it be shed in vain for you? How can I express My sorrow at the thought of this sweat, this anguish, this agony this Blood…useless for so many souls!”
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his moving book Life of Christ writes that Christ saw “the broken marriage vows, lies. Slanders, adulteries, murders, apostasies—all these crimes were thrust into His own hands as if He had committed them...the foul miasma of the world’s sins rushed upon Him like a flood; Samson-like, He reached up and pulled the whole guilt of the world upon Himself as if He were guilty, paying for the debt in our name, so that we might once more have access to the Father.”
Thus, in that brief hour or two, Jesus somehow saw the next 2000 years of everyone’s sins, including yours and mine, as both Sister Emmerich and the great Theologian and Doctor of the Church Saint Alphonsus Liquori have grieviously observed.
In seeing all the strife and bloodshed to come Jesus well understood that, as the learned Simeon had observed shortly after His birth, He would be a sign that would be contradicted (Lk 2:34). Jesus Himself said in the Gospels that many conflicts, even among families would occur in His name (Matt 10:34, Lk 12:52).
Indeed, there have been many horrible verbal and physical clashes over Christ, His divinity, and the nature of His church over the past 2000 years! Jesus saw it all in great detail!
Witnessing even one murder or other such act of violence can traumatize any of us. We read often of soldiers surviving the slaughterhouse of war struggling with PTSD or other emotional disturbances. Imagine our Lord seeing so much hatred, coldness, and bloodshed combined, two millennia of Hell on Earth quite present before Him for about 2 hours!!!
And yet….we also read in the Luke’s Gospel how an angel gave Him strength in the midst of His agony, as seen in this touching famous rendition below (Lk. 22:43).
At one point as well, according to Sister Emmerich “angels presented to him all the bands of saints of future ages, who, joining their labors to the merits of his Passion, were, through him, to be united to his Heavenly Father. Most beautiful and consoling was this vision, in which he beheld the salvation and sanctification flowing forth in ceaseless streams from the fountain of redemption opened by his death… The army of the future saints passed before the soul of our Lord… This most affecting and consoling spectacle bestowed a degree of strength and comfort upon the soul of Jesus.”
It has been said that God sees all human history as a panorama, as He exists outside of our conception of time, in an Eternal Now, seeing human events at a glance.
Granted this is hard for us to comprehend but it raises a good question: In that panorama, does he see you and shed blood, sweat and tears? Or is He strengthened as Sister Emmerich noted. Can He look at you and say, "At least you get it"?
This to me is the great challenge of this event, to fulfill our calling to be among that number of saints in this heartbreaking mystery! It has been said that Christ gave up His life so that each and every one of us could be saved, and that includes me and you!
An important part of becoming a saint is living with Christ in you, and you in Him, through prayer, participating in His sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance, and striving to live as Christ-like as you can by showing His love, patience, and compassion in how you treat others.
Pray for God to give you the grace in the midst of your sins to give Him some comfort and strength. Pray that His blood sweat at Gesthemane and shed at Calvary may not have been in vain for you and others, both the good and the bad.
May none of us be lost in Hell, but rather experience God’s loving eternal embrace in heaven, our true home, where there are no tears! We here at Our Catholic Prayers wish you and yours blessings for the rest of Lent and for the Easter season!