Tag Archives: Gethsemane

Thursday, 1st Week of Lent

Lent 1

Matthew 7,7-12

Does God answer prayers? A question people often ask. Some say God–if there is a God-doesn’t pay attention to us at all. We’re on our own. No one’s listening and no one cares.

Certainly, Jesus believed his Father listens and cares. He trusted God and asked God for things and taught us to pray as he did. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals a trust that’s unfailing. Over and over he asks that his life be spared. “Father, let this cup pass from me.” He knocked and the door opened; the answer came, yet not as he willed, but as His Father willed. “An angel came to strengthen him,” to accept that answer.

His experience is a model for us. Yes, God gives good gifts to his children, but according to his will; he knows what we need. He gave his only Son the gift of new life, yet he had to first pass through death.

St. Paul of the Cross recognized the mystery surrounding petitionary prayer. Ultimately our prayer is answered, but often enough in mysterious ways that’s hard to understand. Our faith is tested when we pray for things.

“I thank the Father of Mercies that you are improved in health, and you say well that the Lord seems to be playing games. That’s what Scripture says: “God plays on the earth,” and “My delights are to be with the children of men.” How fortunate is the soul that silently in faith allows the games of love the Sovereign Good plays and abandons itself to his good pleasure, whether in health or sickness, in life or in death!”
(Letter 920)

Lord,
I ask, I seek, I knock.
Let me never tire of prayer.
“In the day I called you answered me.”                                                                                 So attentive, so quickly you turn when I call.                                                                   Hear me
and let it be done
according to your will.

The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden

Mount Olives 3


Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, the gospels say. He brought them up a mountain–a traditional place to draw close to God. There he taught them the prayer we call the “Our Father” or the “Lord’s Prayer”, a prayer deeply rooted in the Jewish prayer tradition. (Matthew 6, 9-13)

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray “in a certain place”, on the plain, in the course of his ministry. (Luke 11, 2-4) He prayed daily on the journey. The prayer he taught them is more basic than the prayer found in Matthew’s Gospel..

“When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11,2-4)

Mark, Matthew, Luke recall Jesus praying in the garden before his Passion and the lesson he taught there. His disciples do not join him, but fall asleep.  

They’re sleeping because the flesh is weak, Mark says.

They’re sleeping because they can’t keep their eyes open, Matthew says.

They’re sleeping because of grief, Luke says.

Stay awake and pray, Jesus tells them. Prayer brings you through times of testing and temptation.

Facing the weakness of the flesh, death by crucifixion, Jesus doesn’t wave it away in stoic resignation or look to his own power. “Not my will, but your will be done,” he says. Facing the consequences of his mission, the limits of human power, the “form of a slave,” he depends on his Father for the strength he needs.

In the garden Jesus teaches his disciples how to face trials that come. He kneels on the ground and humbly looks beyond himself to his Father, “Abba”, who hears him. He falls to the ground, trusting his Father’s strength and not his own. Troubled and distressed, for an hour’s time he pleads for help. . 

“He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke says. Then, an angel comes to strengthen him. The cup of suffering isn’t taken away; he will drink from it, but it will not crush him. God will raise him up.

He teaches us pray as he did and promises to pray with us in our trials.

The Feast of Jesus Praying in the Garden is another feast St. Paul of the Cross recommended to begin the lenten season. We will know the mystery of his cross through carrying it ourselves and entering the garden to pray there with him.

Asleep in the Garden

Creation of Eve. Byzantine mosaic in Monreale, 12th century.

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday (Year I)

Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128

The creation story of cosmic and human origins in Genesis is shrouded in mystery, enigma, and impenetrable conundrums. The first chapter poetically captures the goodness, beauty and delight taken by the Creator God in the heavens and the earth, culminating in his “rest” (shabath) on the seventh day as in a temple. The second chapter develops the story of human origins in particular and also sets up the conflict and plot to follow. As soon as the two trees of life and knowledge are pointed out to Adam, the possibility of death is introduced.

You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

Genesis 2:16-17

The tree of knowledge of good and evil is enigmatic at this point, for “evil” would have been meaningless in a world fresh from the Creator’s hand. A limitation set on human freedom did not detract from the goodness of creation, for it was a gift to exercise Adam’s trust and love and bring him to maturity. 

Will Adam pass the test? At this point, God observes something wanting in Adam: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). 

After Adam names the animals, none of whom are “a helper suited” to him, God casts him into a deep sleep, “and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh” (Genesis 2:21). 

The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of man this one has been taken.”

Genesis 2:22-23

Adam, who was one, is now physically two. Yet “male and female” were already in the single nature of Adam before Eve was taken out of his side. 

St. Ephrem the Syrian (fl. 363-373) writes:

God then brought her to Adam, who was both one and two. He was one in that he was Adam, and he was two because he had been created male and female.1

St. Ephrem’s intuition is confirmed by Christology, the apex of Christian anthropology. John’s Prologue states that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). The Greek word for flesh (sarx) translates the Hebrew word for flesh (basar) in Genesis 2:24 of the Greek Septuagint (LXX). The New American Bible (Revised Edition) translates basar as “body,” but offers the alternative “flesh” in its footnote.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body (flesh).

Genesis 2:24

The implication is that Christ, the second person of the Trinity, in assuming “flesh,” assumed both halves of humankind at once, plus all living beings, which are encompassed in the idea of sarx

The text of Genesis does not elaborate on why it was “not good” for Adam to remain as he was, but the task of cultivating the garden and securing the fruit of the tree of life now became the joint vocation of Adam and Eve. 

Psalm 128:3 evokes garden imagery to express the goodness of the home and family, a sacred space like Eden:

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table. 

Jesus Christ (second Adam) and the Blessed Virgin Mary (second Eve) are the ultimate answers given in the course of salvation history, for together they overcame evil and gained access to the tree of life for all living beings. The vocation of Adam and Eve to become “one flesh” and integrate the cosmos in their humanity was accomplished by Jesus and Mary virginally. Ultimately, the story is “good” because freedom, love, trust and obedience were perfected in our humanity.

Within the cosmic temple, Adam is a microcosmic temple—a dwelling place for God, the temple’s essence. Temple imagery appears in the creation of Eve from Adam’s “rib,” for the Hebrew word for rib (tsela) also refers to the side chambers of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:5), Ezekiel’s visionary temple (Ezekiel 41:5), and the side of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:20). 

Jesus referred to himself as God’s temple (John 2:19-21).2

As Adam and Eve compose the temple of God, Christ and the Church compose the temple of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Many patristic commentators reflect that as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, the Church came forth from the side of Christ on the Cross.

St. Augustine (354-430):

Even in the beginning, when woman was made from a rib in the side of the sleeping man, that had no less a purpose than to symbolize prophetically the union of Christ and his Church. Adam’s sleep was a mystical foreshadowing of Christ’s death, and when his dead body hanging from the cross was pierced by the lance, it was from his side that there issued forth that blood and water that as we know, signifies the sacraments by which the Church is built up. “Built” is the very word the Scripture uses in connection with Eve: “He built the rib into a woman.” …So too St. Paul speaks of “building up the body of Christ,” which is his Church. Therefore woman is as much the creation of God as man is. If she was made from the man, this was to show her oneness with him; and if she was made in the way she was, this was to prefigure the oneness of Christ and the Church.3

Quodvultdeus (fl. 430):

The great mystery is that Adam hopes after receiving the promise. He sees that the spouse in whom he believed is now united to him. Therefore he symbolically announces to us that through faith the Church will be the mother of humankind. It is evident that since Eve had been created from the side of the sleeping Adam, he has foreseen that from the side of Christ hanging on the cross the Church, which is in truth the mother of the whole new humankind, must be created.4

St. Ambrose (c. 333-397):

If the union of Adam and Eve is a great mystery in Christ and in the Church, it is certain that as Eve was bone of the bones of her husband and flesh of his flesh, we also are members of Christ’s body, bones of his bones and flesh of his flesh.5

If all Scripture speaks of Christ,6 Psalm 128:3 is the voice of the Bridegroom about his Bride, “the wife of the Lamb.”7 The poem evokes the children of God the Father around the Eucharistic table:

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table. 

The resurrection of Christ and the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary reclothed Adam and Eve in their robe of glory at their “wedding.”

The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.

Genesis 2:25

They were not ashamed because of the glory with which they were clothed.

St. Ephrem the Syrian8

Asleep in the garden,
Eve emerged from Adam’s side—
His perfect companion,
Most beloved friend and bride.

Awake in Gethsemane,
Prayed Adam for his wife.
In a grove of olive trees,
His life pledged for her life. 

Asleep on the Tree of Life,
The Church flowed from Jesus’ side—
Blood and water from the temple,
Divine life to save his Bride.

-GMC

1 St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 2.12. From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Genesis 1-11, Andrew Louth and Marco Conti, editors, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 69.

The Ancient Christian Commentary footnote explains: “Before Eve, Adam was two in that Eve was already implicitly within him. After Eve was created, he was two because he had been created male and female. Yet in all this duality he did not cease to be a single person, hence one.”

There is ambiguity in this explanation concerning the notions of “person” and “nature.” Based on Trinitarian anthropology, the nature of the universal Adam is one, but persons are multiple. Neither St. Ephrem nor the Ancient Christian Commentary footnote addresses whether Adam and Eve are unique “persons.” Current theological anthropology is still ambiguous on distinctions between person, nature and individual. Since humankind is materially divisible yet metaphysically one, the conundrum is magnified. In the case of Adam’s division, St. Ephrem intuits the simultaneity of duality and unity, but has not hardened them into concepts.

2 See New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote for other references.

3 St. Augustine, City of God 22.17. From Ibid., 71.

4 Quodvultdeus, Book of Promises and Predictions of God 1.3. From Ibid.

5 St. Ambrose, Letters to Laymen 85. From Ibid.

6 “All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ.” From Catechism of the Catholic Church 134, quoting Hugh of St. Victor. 

7 Revelation 21:9.

8 St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 2.14.2. From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Genesis 1-11, Andrew Louth and Marco Conti, editors, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 72.

Friday Thoughts: Pure Extra Virgin

by Howard Hain

william-dyce-the-garden-of-gethsemane-1860

William Dyce, “The Garden of Gethsemane”, 1860*


To your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, no more than a watch in the night.

—Psalm 90:4


.One good olive.

There are so many factors.

The altitude. The light. The soil. The temperature. The rainfall. The wind. The dew point and humidity. The age of the tree.

Then there are those factors that we can control: pruning, watering, fertilizing, fanning, netting, and wrapping chilly trees with burlap or fleece.

And of course there are those other factors, those that fall somewhere in-between, between our control and our complete lack thereof: most of these relate to the sneaky work of numerous little thieves—animals, birds, insects, and perhaps even fellow farmers or other hungry travelers who just happen to pass by.

But when all is said and done—when all the factors are poured into the olive equation, mixed-up well, and left to unify or settle out—the fruit that’s produced by the world’s most nostalgic, symbolic, and romantic of trees means very little (at least in digestive terms) if it’s simply left to shrivel up and fall to the ground.

———

Picking an olive is perhaps the highest part of the art.

———

When to do so? And toward what end?

If too early, great potential is squandered.

If too late, great taste is lost.

If indecisive, we might as well let nature enjoy it for the time being—for one way or another—God’s process will eventually return it to the earth.

———

And yet, we’re still not done, for even if the olive is picked at just the right time, from just the right tree—the one that has grown in all the right circumstances—when it comes to the culmination of olive production, all is moot if the precious fruit of the womb is never squeezed.

For no matter how good the olive, without applied pressure, there’s nothing left to be labeled “pure extra virgin”.


.But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a women…

—Galatians 4:4


 

* Gethsemane is the name of a garden on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It appears in the Greek of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark as Γεθσημανή (Gethsēmanē). The name is derived from the Aramaic ܓܕܣܡܢ (Gaḏ-Šmānê), meaning “oil press”.

 

(Dec/23/2016)

 

Come With Me

Jesus garden

You went into the garden and fell to the ground
and prayed
alone,
yet all humanity was there
holding the cup of death
and hearing itself in your words.
“Father, if it possible, let this cup pass from me.
The cup of death.
you drank
contained our fears and cries too,
our sweat of blood.
“Your will be done,” you said.
“Your will be done,”we say
and wait for an angel to strengthen us.