“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (Matt. 26, 39)
Today, we will look at Our Lord’s Prayer in the Garden of Olives on that sad and beautiful night which began His Passion and saving death for us. Our basis for this is Father Groenings’ classic, “The Passion of Jesus and Its Hidden Meaning”, from TAN Books. It is available in Kindle and paperback.
As He left the Upper Room, Jesus led His disciples in a Passover hymn, the only time the scriptures record that He sang. When they reached the Garden of Gethsemane, He cautioned the disciples to “Watch, lest ye enter into temptation”. Taking Peter, James and John, He went a bit further and told them, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch.” Going forward, He fell on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
Twice, Jesus interrupted this prayer to return to His apostles, and after each disappointment, returned to this same prayer, “not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Luke then tells us, “And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony, He prayed the longer. And His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.”
This passage of the Gospel is one of the richest troves of wisdom for meditation available to us, particularly for times of severest trial and at the hour of death. By working on this now, we prepare ourselves for these inevitable times to come. The first and most obvious thing we all notice is that Jesus is alone in His agony, His closest friends are sleeping, unaware of His great agony of spirit nor even noticing His precious blood being shed.
Think on this. Christ prayed while they slept, unaware of the danger. We too, arise at night and pray for our sleeping brethren, who close their eyes to the danger and sleep on, oblivious. But we who know, must arise and pray with Jesus, our Lord and God. Father Groenings tells us that, “in a family, a single member who knows how to pray well, is often the greatest blessing of the rest. But if those must pray who are among the sleeping, how much more those who are among the dead, i.e., among sinners.” Yes, exactly!
Finally, Christ prayed while His enemies were banding together to take Him prisoner and deliver Him to death on the Cross. In this instance, we are shown the wisdom of Christ, His lesson for us especially at this time. His enemies were uniting in one satanic focus, to destroy Him. His response was to pray! Thus, Our Lord Jesus Christ shows us by His eloquent example that prayer is the primary, the essential weapon when we are attacked or when the Church is attacked by the dark powers of this world. The attack came from within – Judas – and from without – the synagogue of satan. Just as today. Just as today. These things never change. And prayer is the weapon given to us by Our Savior Himself. Without prayer, our other actions cannot succeed.
When Peter attempted violence, striking at Malchus’ ear, Our Lord reproved him, commanding him to sheath his sword. Thus armed with prayer, Our Lord went forth to complete the task given Him by His Father. Father Groenings reminds us, “We also, in these troublous times, should use trustingly the weapon of prayer and confidently hope that the liberation of Holy Mother Church may be brought about by Him (God).” Note that the foregoing was written at the end of the 19th century. Even then, Father could speak of liberating the Church. This was because of the bitter war waged against the Papacy by the Masonic powers of that time, which were even then determined in their resolve to destroy the Church.
Another lesson we see in this prayer in the Garden is that Christ prayed earnestly that this suffering be taken from Him. Thus, we see that it is permissible to ask for the relief of temporal suffering. And then, we see also, that we always must accept God’s will for us, and trust in His providence. He who extends this chalice of suffering, offers us rich graces in unimaginable profusion, just for the asking – and the trusting!
For our prayers to be heard, they must be like to Christ’s, that is; they must be respectful. Christ “knelt down and fell upon His face”. Father Groenings tells us, “If ever any man could deem Himself dispensed from external marks of reverence it was certainly the God-Man … if the Savior did not dare to raise His countenance toward Heaven, what awe should not appear in the sinner?” …
“Is it not remarkable that there should be Christian men who are ashamed to bend the knee to God Almighty…? But those who, in the house of God, give scandal to others by silly and impertinent behavior can only be people of thoughtless brains or of depraved morals. They are proud spirits, slaves of human respect.” [Father Groenings must have had prescient knowledge of our current Pontiff, who refuses to kneel for the Consecration at the Holy Sacrifice, yet kneels for heretics to “bless” him, and places beach balls and soccer jerseys on the altar, denigrating the Blessed Sacrament.]
As we consider Our Lord in His agony, we also note that He expresses His tender love for God His Father and His willingness to accept His Father’s will. We see then that the ultimate test for us is to turn with loving obedience to our heavenly Father in our times of greatest affliction. For it is precisely in these times that we earn the greatest merit, and many graces come to us from this. If we are truly Mary’s children, we must follow her Divine Son in His perfect resignation to His Father’s will,
“Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt.”
The Effects of Christ’s Prayer in the Garden
The first effect of Our Lord’s Prayer was, “And there appeared to Him an Angel from Heaven strengthening Him.” Think on this! The Second Person of the most Holy Trinity, King of Angels, Consoler of hearts, is here consoled by an Angel! We recall that after His severe fast of forty days, Our Lord was ministered to by Angels. Do you see the humility of Our Lord? To take from His creatures consolation? Now think of His apparitions to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, begging our love in return for His love! How can we be so indifferent!
This most tender scene should move our hearts towards love of Our Lord and Savior and also instill in us trust in our allies, the Angels given to us to guide and guard, to sustain us in our struggles. What an exquisite example the most Holy Trinity provides us to remind us of God’s loving providence in all our needs.
And now we come to a most important lesson. Earlier, God demanded of Abraham the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. At the last moment, God spared Isaac. But here, in the Passion, the Father does not spare His beloved Son. The chalice does not pass from Him.
In the Last Joyful Mystery, Our Lord tells His Mother that He must be about His Father’s business. And now, in this, the First Sorrowful Mystery, we see precisely what is meant by His Father’s business. This chalice will not be removed. It will be consumed down to the last of its bitter dregs. The bitterness consisted of the realization that this precious sacrifice would be rejected, even despised by so many, to their own eternal damnation. Among those many damned souls would be so many shepherds. And today, their loss is the source of His continued sorrow in this, the Passion of His Church.
The Angel’s consolation renewed Our Lord’s determination and now, totally immersed in the will of His Father, He rouses His disciples, “Rise up, let us go”. By this example, Christ, our Head, leads us, His mystical body, as we too, rise up to meet the challenges of our day, the persecutions which await us all.
For although it appears that we are alone, among the sleeping and the dead, His Angels accompany us, and the Chalice of our bitter suffering, engraved with “Not my will but Thy will be done” comes to us from those loving, wounded hands.
Thank you for reading. I pray for you always!
This article originally published here in March, 2018.
† Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, obtain for us by your loving intercession the grace and courage to persevere in the coming trials of faith.
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
† Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
† St. Joseph, terror of demons, protect our priests!
† St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!
~ by evensong for love of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary and the most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin, give me strength against thine enemies.