From the Last Supper to the Agony Inclusive – Gethsemane [200-205], [290]

Mt 26:30–46; Mk 14:32–44; Lk 22:39-46


Usual Preparation Prayer.


First Prelude: The history:
This is the history of the
mystery. Here it will be as follows: Christ our Lord descended with the eleven
disciples from Mt. Sion, where the Supper was held, to the Valley of Josaphat.
Eight of the disciples were left at a place in the valley, and the other three
in a part of the garden. Then Jesus began His prayer, and His sweat became as
drops of blood. Three times He prayed to His Father and went to rouse His
disciples from sleep. After His enemies had fallen to the ground at His word,
and Judas had given Him the kiss, after St. Peter had cut off the ear of
Malchus, and Christ had healed it, Jesus was seized as a malefactor, and led
down through the valley and again up the slope to the house of Annas.


Prelude: The composition of place:
This is to see the place.
It will be here to consider the way from Mt. Sion to the Valley of Josaphat,
likewise the garden, its breadth, its length, and appearance.


Prelude: The petition:
I will ask for the grace I desire. In
the Passion it is proper to ask for sorrow with Christ in sorrow, anguish with
Christ in anguish, tears and deep grief because of the great affliction Christ
endures for me.


Ignatius also gives us two qualifying notes that
should be borne in mind throughout this third week of the Exercises.


In this second contemplation, after the preparatory prayer and the three
preludes given above, the same way of proceeding in the points and colloquies
is to be observed as was followed in the first contemplation on the Supper.

About the time of Mass and Vespers, two repetitions
are to be made of the first and second contemplations. Before supper the
Application of the Senses should be made on the subject matter of the two
contemplations. The preparatory prayer, and the preludes, adapted to the
subject of the exercise, are always to precede. The form to be observed is the
same as that given and explained in the Second Week.


As far as age, health, and physical constitution permit the exercitant to do
so, he will use five exercises each day, or fewer.


In [290], Ignatius gives us three very simple points
to follow:


When the Supper was finished, and after the hymn was
sung, Jesus, full of fear, goes forth with His disciples to Mt. Olivet. He left
eight of them in Gethsemane, saying, “Sit you here whilst I go yonder and


Accompanied by St. Peter, St. James, and St. John, He
prays three times to the Father, saying, “My Father, if it be possible let this
cup pass from me, yet not as I will but as thou wilt.” “And falling into an
agony He prayed the more earnestly.”


So great was the fear that overwhelmed Him that he
said: “My soul is sorrowful unto death.” And He sweat blood so copiously that
St. Luke says, “His sweat became as drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
This supposes that His garments were saturated with blood.




As with some of the other contemplations we have
considered, Ignatius doesn’t give a very detailed contemplation. He gives only
the basic steps and then reminds us to follow the same model as we did before:
to see the people, then to hear the people, then to examine what they are doing, each time
gathering some fruit for my life.


Fr. Ricciotti gives us a good description of the place
and the mood to help with our composition of place: “Right after he has
recorded the last words of Jesus’ prayer, John says: ‘After saying these
things, Jesus went forth with his disciples beyond the torrent of Cedron, where
there was a garden into which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who
betrayed him, also knew the place, since Jesus had often met there together
with his disciples.’ That the chosen garden was ‘beyond the torrent of Cedron’
is enough to establish it in the vicinity of the Mount of Olives and this is
confirmed by the Synoptics, which give us its name as well, Gethsemani. The
name “oil press,” suggests an olive grove containing a press and perhaps
surrounded by a wall.


“It was just a comfortable walk from the Cenacle to
Gethsemani. In the crisp spring nighttime, clear and bright with the moon at
the full, Jesus and the Apostles descended from the Upper City to the Tyropean,
probably down the ancient street of steps, crossed the Siloe quarter, and left
the city by the Fountain Gate. Then they began to climb again, in a northerly
direction, crossed the Cedron, and reached Gethsemani. The garden probably belonged
to some disciple or admirer of Jesus, and that is why he used it so freely. . .
.  Like other small groves of its kind,
Gethsemani must have had a little cabin near the gate that was used as a
shelter for the gardener or as a storehouse, and further on there was probably
a grotto in the side of the mountain in which (as is still the custom today),
was set the oil press which gave its name to the place.


“On that night of the Pasch, the whole region was
deserted, since almost everyone stayed at home with his family. And the
solitude matched the mood of the little company, for Jesus seemed sad along the
way, and so the Apostles were silent and thoughtful. When they reached the
garden, Jesus bade his disciples make themselves as comfortable as they could
for the night. For [those in the East], this was an easy matter, accustomed as
they were to sleep outdoors wrapped in their cloaks, especially since this time
there were shelter and dry leaves to be had in the cabin or the grotto.”[1]


deserted, silent setting, mirrors what is happening in Christ’s soul. Let us
now consider the matter of our contemplation.




When Jesus finished the Supper which was the memorial
of His Passion, He said, “Arise, let us go . . .” (John 14: 31). The
small group crossed the city which was at that hour completely deserted. It was
about ten o’clock in the evening. The bright moon, now at its full, gave
abundant light. Their walking was slow. They did not have to go far, and Jesus
had much to say . . . Just the narrations of the way to the Mount of Olives
occupies three chapters in John’s Gospel.


Two of these chapters contain Jesus’ conversation with
his disciples. He told them:

“I am the vine, you are the branches.
He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from me you can
do nothing.”
(John 15: 5)

“This is my commandment, that you
love one another as I have loved you. Greater love no man has than this, that a
man lay down his life for his friends.”
(John 15: 12-13)

“’A servant is not greater than his
master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” 
(John 15: 20)

“I have yet many things to say to
you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will
guide you into all the truth.” 
16: 12-13)


Then Jesus spoke with the Father. It is the prayer we
find in the third chapter:


“He lifted up his eyes to heaven and
said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may
glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal
life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know
you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
17: 1-3)




            As is
his custom, Jesus enters the garden with the Apostles. Gethsemane means:
“oil-press.” It was an enclosed part of the great olive plantation, which
covered the whole mountain. Here a press had been installed to crush the olives
that have been gathered. The place had plenty of shade. Jesus was accustomed to
withdraw to Gethsemane when He needed a secure place to stay. Sometimes He
would spend the night there.


first everything seems to happen as usual, except that Jesus, who normally
loves to pray alone, now takes with Him Peter, James and John, his favorite disciples.
“Stay here” he begged them “and watch with me.” (Mk 14: 34) He has
often spoken of
“watching” but He had never said “with me.” Now,
Jesus was begging them not just to watch but show to Him mercy.


the crucial moment of the agony begins. An agony that no human being can
endure. He does not merely kneel, but He “falls” upon his knees, and
lies prostrate with His face to the ground. And He weeps with his whole being.
Tears pour not only from his eyes but from his whole body in form of drops of


Christ says, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death.” Psalm 54
pre-announced his words, “My heart is troubled within me: and the fear of death
is fallen upon me. Fear and trembling are come upon me: and darkness has
covered me.” The son of Man has come to take as his own all the burdens of his


Then, Christ had three painful visions


First, his sufferings


wants to suffer all that He can, and He uses His omnipotence to increase, not
to alleviate, His suffering. He wants to suffer at that moment, what he will
suffer afterwards in detail. He sees Himself betrayed, bound, led from tribunal
to tribunal, calumniated, denied, spat upon, considered as a fool, worse than
the worst of men, scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed to the Cross, and finally
dying in an agony of torments. And he suffers now whatever each member of his
mystical body will suffer down the centuries, even to the end of the world. Saul,
Saul, why do you persecute me?
He suffers with his martyrs.


was skinned alive with Bartholomew, sawed in half with Simon, cut limb from
limb and left to die of thirst with the Martyrs of Uganda, kept in a cage and
torn by pliers with the Martyrs of Vietnam, beaten to death with Jerzy
Popiełuszko, burned alive with Joan of Arc, imprisoned, starved, and tortured
with thousands upon thousands of the victims of persecutions, and the list goes
on. . . . 


suffers with those who are persecuted for his cause. And we can see that his
suffering was greater than ours, because his Heart was infinitely more
sensitive than ours, and his knowledge was more penetrating than ours. Then,
Christ said, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death.”


Second, the sins of men


has come to atone for sin and to destroy its kingdom. “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him Who takes away the sin of the
(Jn 1:29). He came for sinners and He knew, all along, that He must
fully satisfy for each and every one of them. Now he is face to face with God’s
Justice and Sanctity. His face is crushed to the ground beneath the weight of
the almost infinite number of the sins of men. Who can imagine his horror when He finds His eyes and hands and feet,
his heart and soul, as if they were the eyes, hands, feet, heart and soul not
of God, but of the evil one.
(Cardinal Newman, The Interior Sufferings of Christ) And we too, sinners, were
present to Him there.


Sheen explains this well: “It is beyond human power to realize how God felt the
opposition of human wills. Perhaps the closest that one can ever come to it is
when a parent feels the strangeness of the power of the obstinate will of his
children to resist and spurn persuasion, love, hope, or fear of punishment. A
power so strong resides in a body so small and a mind so childish; yet it is a
faint picture of men when they have willfully sinned. What is sin for the soul
but a separate principle of wisdom and happiness working out its own ends, as
if there were no God? The Anti-Christ is nothing else but the full unhindered
growth of self-will.


sufferers look to the past and to the future, so the Redeemer looked to the
past and to all the sins that had ever been committed. He looked also to the future,
to every sin that would be committed until the crack of doom. It was not the
past beating of pain that He drew up to the present, but rather every open act
of evil and every hidden thought of shame. The sin of Adam was there, when as
the head of humanity he lost for all men the heritage of God’s grace. Cain was
there, purple in the sheet of his brother’s blood; the abominations of Sodom
and Gomorrah were there; the forgetfulness of His own people who fell down
before false gods was there; the coarseness of the pagans who had rebelled even
against the natural law was there; all sins were there. Sins committed in the
city, in the city’s fetid atmosphere of sin. Sins of the young for whom the
tender heart of Christ was pierced; sins of the old who should have passed the
age of sinning. Sins committed in the darkness, where it was thought the eyes
of God could not pierce. Sins committed in the light that made even the wicked
shudder; sins too awful to be mentioned, sins too terrible to name: Sin! Sin!


this pure, sinless mind of Our Savior had brought all of this inquiry of the
past upon His soul as if it were His own, He now reached into the future. He
saw that His coming into the world with the intent to save men would intensify
the hatred of some against God. He saw the betrayals of the future Judases, the
sins of heresy that would rend Christ’s mystical body. He saw the broken
marriage vows, lies, slanders, adulteries, murders, apostasies—all these crimes
were thrust into His own hands, as if He Himself had given them birth. Lies and
schisms rested on His mind, as if He Himself had conceived them. Blasphemies
seemed to be on His lips, as if He had spoken them. From the North, South,
East, and West, the foul ocean 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 the debt in our name, so that we might
once more have access to the Father. He was, so to speak, mentally preparing
Himself for the great sacrifice, laying upon His sinless soul the sins of a
guilty world. To most men, the burden of sin is as natural as the clothes they
wear, but to Him, the touch of that which men take so easily was sheer agony.”[2]


Then, Christ said, “My soul is sorrowful even
unto death.”


Third, the ingratitude of men


only He knew that there would be some poor return of love and gratitude from
those for whom He was suffering. But, he looks around . . . Where are the
Apostles? The main group of the Apostles had remained near the entrance of the
garden, and they had forgotten Him. The three special friends, Peter, James and
John, were very close. They were close enough to hear the moans of Jesus and to
realize his terrible suffering. But they were asleep. Peter and the two sons of
Zebedee forsake Him. They were the ones that he had associated with at every
important step in his public life and the sharers of His secrets. They were the
only witnesses of the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus and the Transfiguration.
Jesus had given them a proof of His confidence by allowing them to see His
human infirmity. These three forsake Him. They did not understand his
grief.  Only once in his life Jesus had
asked for help, but they would not give it to Him. In the meantime Judas was
plotting against Him


looks at all the ages


sees ingratitude and indifference from the overwhelming majority of mankind.
Millions will not even know Him; others will reject Him; many, even among
friends, will prove ungrateful. We can apply to him the words of the Prophet
Isaiah, “I looked about, and there was no
one to help. I sought, and there was none to give aid.”
(63: 5) And the
words of psalm (29: 10) “What profit is
there in my blood.”


            We can think of
Christ’s words to Saint Margaret Mary: “I feel this ingratitude and contempt
from men more than all that I suffered during My Passion. If only they would
make Me some return for My Love, I should think but little of all I have done
for them and would wish, were it possible, to suffer still more. But the sole
return they make for all My eagerness to do them good is to reject Me and treat
Me with coldness. Do you at least console Me by supplying for their
ingratitude, as far as you are able.”


Then, Christ says, “My soul is sorrowful even
unto death.”


are the three visions that oppressed the Savior to death. Look at him prostrate
on His face. The whole drama is enacted between Jesus and Heaven . . . And now
He prays to His Father. He appeals to the tenderness of the Father. “Abba,
Pater, Father.”
And he adds, “All things are possible to you, remove
this chalice from me.”
But this cry of distress is modified by a condition:
“If it is possible.” “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove
this chalice of sufferings from me; yet not what I will, but what you
(Mk 14: 36). “The ‘cup’ or ‘chalice’ was a frequent metaphor in
rabbinic writings to indicate the lot that fell to a person” (Ricciotti, Life, 587).


It is written (Philippians 2:8): “He became obedient” to the Father
“unto death.” His
offering was an offering of obedience. He came to fulfill the plan of the
Heavenly father, and now, he will accomplish it. In order to heal human race
from their disobedience, his obedience
was unto death
, “as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners:
so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just.” (Rm 5:19)


can see this encounter between the superior will of our Lord, determined to
suffer and die in obedience to His Father, and his inferior will, seeking to
flee from what is so repugnant to nature. In the midst of this conflict, the
tormented Heart of Jesus begins to beat with violence. Then, drops of blood
fall down. If his Heart does not break, it is because the Omnipotent Will of
Christ wants to drink this chalice completely. It is the Passion of the Divine
Heart to which we must specially direct our attention in our contemplation of
the Agony in the Garden. We are called to contemplate the depth of his sorrow.
We are called to contemplate the depth of his love.


Colloquy: With
a dialogue I will speak with Him, and renew my petition: sorrow with Christ in
sorrow, anguish with Christ in anguish, tears and deep grief because of the
great affliction Christ endures for me.


Also, I can reflect on myself and ask . . .


What have I done
for Christ?

What am I doing for

What will I do for

[1] Life of Christ, 586-587.

[2] Life
of Christ,

Take, Lord,

and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

(Spiritual Exercises #234. Louis Puhl SJ, Translation.)