Monday, March 21, 2016

Rosary Meditation: The Agony in the Garden

The Rosary is such a beautiful devotion that includes both vocal prayer and mental prayer, in particular meditation on the scriptural life, passion, death and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Even though the Blessed Mother has specifically asked for us to pray the Rosary daily numerous times, including through her apparitions at Fatima, so many of us still struggle with it.  One of the common complaints I have heard others say over and over about the Rosary is that they have difficulty with the mental prayer portion of the devotion.  They find themselves praying the Our Fathers (i.e. the Lords prayer) and Hail Marys (i.e. Angelic Salutation), but they have real difficulty praying these prayers while visualizing each particular mystery. So I thought I'd share what types of things come to my mind when I'm meditating on the various mysteries of the Rosary.  Since we have entered into Holy Week 2016, the climax of our Lenten season, I have been focusing more on the Sorrowful Mysteries lately, I thought what better way to prepare for this week than to meditate on these five mysteries.  Let's begin with the first Sorrowful Mystery, the Agony of the Garden.

NOTE:  This is my own personal interpretation of scripture.  If you'd like exact quotations or actions, feel free to read each gospel account of these mysteries.

TIP:  Sometimes I meditate on all portions of this scene and sometimes just on a few moments.  I allow God to guide my mind and if I get distracted (which can happen from time to time with kids in the room), I simply return to the last moment I can recall.

 The Agony in the Garden

I see the 12 lounging at the table around our Lord, just finishing up the Last Supper.  Full.  Satisfied.  Our Lord just consecrated the bread and wine, transforming it into His body and blood right in front of His apostles, yet they know not what He has done.  They understand not what this sacrifice truly means.  He dips the bread into the wine at the moment Judas does the same.  Their eyes meet and Judas knows he cannot hide his plan from Jesus.  Jesus speaks.  Go.  Do what you must.  And Judas walks out.  The remaining 11 look at each other having no idea what just transpired.  

Jesus sits, amidst His beloved 11, yet completely alone.  He rises and they head out to the Garden of Gethsemane, leaving His Mother and the other women who prepared the meal to finish their work.  The moment the door shuts, His Mother, Mary, stops what she is doing.  She feels His presence leave the house.  She knows.  It is time.  It has begun.  Mary closes her eyes and prays for Her Son. 

In the darkness of the night, He asks His 11 to stay and wait for Him, while He prays.  He takes Peter, James and John with Him and asks them to stay and wait with Him.  They say "Of course" but look at each other questioning what He means.  Kneeling on the rocky ground, moonlight and shadows dance across His face, He begins to pray.   Sweat and blood trickle from His forehead.  Take this cup away from me.  Not my will but yours be done.  He falls prostrate on the ground.  The three, Peter, James and John, hear the muffled pains of His prayer, look to one another and shrug, not knowing what awaits.  

Jesus returns to the group now sleeping.  Can you not stay awake with me for one hour?  Keep watch that you may not be put to the test.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  The feeling of isolation creeps in again.  Alone.  Again He leaves to pray a second time.  Kneeling, lying prostrate, face down on the ground.  Shaking.  Sweating.  Bleeding.  Where are You, Father?  Who will stay with me?  

Jesus returns to His apostles, His friends, and again he finds them sleeping.  Leaving a third time to pray, Jesus knows what lies ahead of Him.  He knows He will be doing this on His own.  His disciples will not stay with Him.  He sees that now.  

Jesus returns the third time and finds them asleep again.  Wake up.  The hour is at hand.  Looking up, Jesus sees Judas with a dozen Jewish soldiers arriving.  Judas walks up to Him, smiles and gives Him a kiss on the cheek.  Judas, do you betray your Lord with a kiss?  Soldiers try to handcuff Jesus and chaos breaks out.  Jesus' legs and hands are shackled and His neck is tethered.  Several disciples scatter.  Peter draws his sword and cuts the ear off of a roman soldier.  Peter!  Do you not know, those who live by the sword will die by the sword?  Peter looks with tears into Jesus' eyes, and he knows he cannot win this fight.  So Peter runs and hides in the forest watching from afar.  In His great mercy, Jesus heals the soldier and then He is pulled like cattle to the High-Priest's house.  Peter follows, far behind, not wanting to leave our Lord but remaining hidden among the brush.

The soldiers arrive taking Jesus to see Caiaphas, at a secret night meeting where only those high-priests who feared or hated Jesus are present.  Out in the courtyard Peter is confronted.  Aren't you one of them?  Aren't you with Jesus of Nazareth?  Didn't I see you with him?  Peter responds.  No.  You are mistaken.  It wasn't me!  Then the cock crows.  Peter fleas.  From the holding place where our Lord is shackled to the wall, He looks toward the courtyard, knowing Peter has denied Him a third time and He hangs His head.  Completely alone.

Jesus is questioned by the high priests but He refuses to answer to them, mere men.  They hit Him, spit upon Him, curse Him.  He stands.  He takes it all upon Himself.  They decide to send Him to Pontius Pilate.

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