As we enter Holy Week and prepare for the Sacred Triduum, the Capuchins present a reflection on the suffering of Jesus in the garden. The following is an excerpt from The Agony of Jesus
by St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).
Most Divine Spirit, enlighten and inflame me in meditating on the Passion of Jesus, help me to penetrate this mystery of love and suffering of a God, Who, clothed with our humanity, suffers, agonizes, and dies for the love of the creature! ... The Eternal, the Immortal Who debases Himself to undergo an immense martyrdom, the ignominious death of the Cross, amidst insults, contempt and abuse, to save the creature which offended Him, and, which wallows in the slime of sin.
Man rejoices in his sin and his God is saddened because of sin, suffers, sweats blood, amidst a terrible agony of spirit. No, I cannot enter this wide ocean of love and pain unless Thou, with Thy grace, sustain me. Oh, that I could penetrate to the innermost recesses of the Heart of Jesus to read there the essence of His bitterness, which brought Him to the point of death in the Garden; that I could comfort Him in the abandonment by His Father and His own. Oh, that I could unite myself with Him in order to expiate sins with Him.
Mary, Mother of Sorrows, may I unite myself with Thee to follow Jesus and share His pains, and Thy sufferings.
My Guardian Angel, guard my faculties and keep them recollected on Jesus' suffering, so that they will not stray far from Him.
Arriving at the close of His earthly life, the Divine Redeemer, after having given Himself entirely to us as food and drink in the Sacrament of His Love, and, having nourished His Apostles with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, goes with His own to the Garden of Olives.... (There) Jesus teaches His disciples. He prepares them for the impending separation, for His imminent Passion, and, prepares them to undergo, for love of Him, calumnies, persecutions and death itself.
He is there to begin His dolorous Passion. Instead of thinking of Himself, He is all anxiety for you.
Oh, what an immensity of love does this Heart contain! His face is covered with sadness and at the same time with love. His words proceed from His innermost Heart. He speaks with a profusion of affection, encouragement, comfort, and, in comforting, gives His promise. He explains the most profound mysteries of His Passion.
This journey of Thine, O Jesus, has always touched my heart with an increase of love so profound and so deep for those who love Thee, with an increase of love that hurries to immolate itself for others, to ransom them from slavery....
Arriving at the Garden, the Divine Master withdraws apart from His disciples, taking along only Peter, James and John, to have them as witnesses of His sufferings....
Entering the Garden, He tells them: "Remain here. Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation!" "Be on your guard," He seems to say to them, "because the enemy is not asleep. Arm yourselves against him beforehand, with the weapon of prayer, so that you may not become involved and led into sin. It is the hour of darkness."
Having admonished them, He separates Himself from them about a stone's throw, and prostrates Himself on the ground. He is extremely sad; His soul is a prey of indescribable bitterness.
The night is advanced and bright. The moon shines in the sky, leaving shadows in the Garden. It seems to throw a sinister brightness, a foreboding of the grave and dreadful events to come, which make the blood tremble and freeze in the veins--it seems as if stained with blood. A wind, like the forerunner of the coming tempest, agitates the olive trees, and, together with the rustling of the leaves, penetrates to the bones, like a messenger of death, descending into the soul and filling it with deadly grief.
Night most horrible, like which there will never be Another !
What a contrast, O Jesus ! How beautiful was the night of Thy birth, when Angels, leaping for joy, announced peace, singing the Gloria. And, now, it seems to me, they surround Thee sadly, keeping at a respectful distance, as if respecting the supreme anguish of Thy spirit....
He deprived His most sacred humanity of the strength bestowed on it by His Divine Person, submitting it to indefinable sadness, extreme weakness, to dejection and abandonment, to mortal anguish. His spirit swims in these as a limitless ocean.... (that) brings before His spirit the entire sufferings of His imminent Passion, which, like a torrent that has overflowed its banks, pours into His Heart, torments, oppresses and submerges it in a sea of grief.
He sees first Judas, His disciple, loved so much by Him, who sells Him for just a few coins; who is about to approach the Garden to betray Him and give Him over into the hands of His enemies.
He, the friend, the disciple, whom a little while before He had nourished with His Body and Blood.... (Jesus hoped then that Judas) would repent and be saved. But, no, he goes to his ruin and Jesus weeps over his voluntary perdition.
He sees Himself bound and dragged by His enemies through the streets of Jerusalem, through those very streets which only a few days before He had passed triumphantly, acclaimed as the Messiah.... He sees Himself before the High Priest beaten, declared guilty of death. He, the author of life, also sees Himself led from one tribunal to another, into the presence of judges who condemn Him.
He sees His own people, so loved by Him, the recipients of so many of HIS benefits, who now maltreat Him with infernal howls and hissing, and, with a great shout, demand His death--the death on the Cross. He hears their unjust accusations, sees Himself condemned to the most awful scourging; crowned with thorns, derided, saluted as a mock-king and struck.
Finally, He sees Himself condemned to the ignominious death on the Cross, then ascending to Calvary, fainting under the weight of the Cross, pale and falling to the ground repeatedly. Having arrived on Calvary, He sees Himself despoiled of His garments, stretched out on the Cross, pitilessly crucified, raised up on it in the sight of all. He hangs on the nails which cause excruciating torture ... Oh God, what a long agony of three hours will overwhelm Him amidst the insults of a crazed, heartless crowd.
He sees His throat and entrails on fire with a burning thirst, and, to add to this agony, a drink of vinegar and gall.
He sees the abandonment of His Father and the desolation of His Mother.
At the end, the ignominious death between two robbers; the one to acknowledge and confess Him as God and be saved, the other to blaspheme and insult Him and die in despair.
He sees Longinus approach and, as a final insult and contempt, pierce His side. Christ beholds the consummation of humiliation in the separation of soul and body.
Everything, everything, passes before Him, torments Him, terrifies Him, and this terror takes possession of Him, overwhelms Him. He trembles as if shaken by a violent fever. Fear also seizes Him, and His spirit languishes in mortal sadness.
He, the innocent Lamb, alone, thrown to the wolves, without any refuge ... He, the Son of God ... the Lamb dedicated voluntarily to be sacrificed for the glory of the same Father Who abandoned Him to the fury of the enemies of God, for the redemption of the human race; forsaken by those very disciples who shamefully flee from Him as from a dangerous being. He, the Eternal Son of God, has become a laughingstock of His enemies.
But, will He retreat? ... No, from the very beginning He embraces everything without reservation. Why and whence then this terror?
Ah! He has exposed His humanity as a target to take upon Himself all the blows of divine justice offended by sin.
Vividly He feels in His naked spirit all that He must suffer; every single sin He must expiate with each single pain, and, He is crushed because He has given over His humanity as a prey to weakness, terror, fear.
... At the extremity of (His) suffering ... He is prostrate with His face to the ground before the majesty of His Father. The Sacred Face of Him Who enjoys, through the hypostatic union, the beatific vision of the Divine Glory accorded to both Angels and Saints in Heaven, lies disfigured on the ground.
Ah yes! I understand. It is to teach me, proud man, that to deal with Heaven I must abase myself down to the centre of the earth.
It is to make reparation and expiation for my haughtiness, that Thou bowest down thus before Thy Father. It is to direct His pitying glance upon humanity, which turned away from Him by rebellion. It is because of Thy humiliation that He forgives the proud creature. It is in order to reconcile earth with Heaven, that Thou abases Thyself down to it, as if to give it the kiss of peace.
O Jesus, may Thou be blessed and thanked always and by all men for all Thy mortifications and humiliations by which Thou hast atoned for us to God to Whom Thou has united us in the embrace of holy love!