Our Lord’s Agony on the Mount of Olives.

Carl Heinrich Bloch – 1875
“Christ in Gethsemane”

















A Lenten reflection for Monday after the First Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications:

Prayer Before Meditation

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

Fix your attention, my soul, on the affecting and most impressive spectacle afforded by the Saviour of mankind “sorrowful unto death” in His agony in the Garden of Olives. Words cannot describe the horror that invaded His soul, the fear and apprehension of death, the shrinking of His human nature, when His approaching Passion in all its magnitude presents itself to His mental vision in a series of appalling images. Only contemplate Him in His agony of death; see how He falls prostrate in the dust; a cold sweat breaks out over Him, He trembles, His whole frame is convulsed with anguish. His sacred countenance is scarcely to be recognized; His lips are colorless, His hair stands on end. Can we wonder at this?

1st. He wrestles in the agony of death. St. Luke says: “Being in an agony He prayed the longer.” (St. Luke xxii. 43.) This agony was not caused by an ordinary fear of death; it was a conflict voluntarily entered upon to atone for our spiritual death. In that sad hour the flesh and the spirit strove together in the breast of the anguish-stricken Saviour. The flesh shrank in natural terror at the near approach of death, of a death moreover of a peculiarly painful and ignominious nature, while on the other hand the spirit consented to that death for our redemption. Now this conflict was rendered all the harder, so hard in fact that death itself could not be worse, because in the person of our Lord, soul and body, flesh and spirit, which had to be separated, were joined together by a strong bond of charity. For if the union of body and soul is so close and intimate even in us sinful mortals, although sin is always interposing to disturb that union and our whole life is an incessant warfare between the two, how peaceful and perfect must have been their junction in the person of the sinless Jesus! Hence it was that so hard and severe a contest ensued, in which, as of necessity, the soul gained the victory.

O my soul, it is to atone for all the defeats you have suffered when you allowed your flesh to triumph over the spirit, that Jesus enters on this struggle and gains a hard-won victory: if you would fain have your final struggle with the king of terrors rendered less difficult, see that in your daily contests between spirit and flesh the former is always triumphant.

2d. Consider that our Lord’s death-agony was a conflict between the natural fear and dread of the terrible suffering, the cruel death awaiting Him, and His zeal for God’s glory and man’s salvation. Zeal for the glory of His heavenly Father, who had been so grievously offended by sin, urged Jesus to endure His Passion, and charity towards mankind inspired Him to undergo death for the ransom of the human race. On the other hand the natural fear of death made itself very strongly felt. The price to be paid for our redemption was too great; it must be purchased at the cost of His delicate, virginal body, His precious blood, His sinless life. To this was added the certitude that this high price would be paid in vain for thousands, so that hence a pitiful struggle arose in His soul as He debated with Himself whether after all it was really worth while to endure so many, such bitter things for miserable mortals, until at length zeal for God’s glory triumphed over the fear of death. Learn from this, my soul, to suffer a thousand deaths rather than lose the salvation purchased at so immense a cost, and to yield up your life willingly when the glory of God is at stake.

3d. Consider finally, how terrible our Lord’s agony must have been merely from a natural standpoint. For if we see mortal men wrestling with death in so dreadful a manner, although dissolution is a law of their nature, and they are generally reduced to a state of extreme debility or are perhaps half unconscious, we may judge how awful must have been the struggle between life and death in the case of One who was in the full force of His virile strength; who entered upon the contest in complete consciousness; who being sinless, naturally revolted all the more against death, the “wages of sin,” and who was besides immortal in His divine nature. For your sake, my soul, our Lord endured this agony, in order to alleviate your death-struggle. But woe betide you if you are defeated in the strife between spirit and flesh, between your desire for God’s glory and your reluctance to suffer for it, for then your last agony will be all the more terrible because you will be tortured by the consciousness that you have made our Lord’s agony useless in your regard. Wherefore form the resolution to-day, and renew it every Thursday, when we commemorate our Lord’s agony in the garden, to prefer to fight now in order that in the hour of death you may not have to struggle so hard, to sustain so painful a contest.

Prayer After Meditation

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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