Then Jesus came with them to a country place, a farm, which is called Gethsemani. And He said to His disciples: 'Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray. Pray, lest ye enter into temptation.' And taking with Hi Peter, and James and John the two sons of Zebedee, He began to grow sorrowful and to be sad, to fear and to be heavy. Then He saith to them: 'My soul is sorrowful even unto death; stay you here and watch with me.'1
- 1. Matt. 26:36-38; Mk. 14:32-34; Lk.22:40.
Three distinct stages are noticeable as Our Lord climbs the hill of Olivet. First, at the foot of the hill He leaves the main body of the Apostles. Judas is already absent; three He takes further with Him; the eight He bids sit and wait, as He had probably bade them often enough before, while He goes as usual for His evening meditation in the Garden. But this night He adds a word of warning. While they sit and wait they must "pray, lest they enter into temptation." The Blessed Sacrament will not of itself save them; their own protestations will not save them; in a very short time the mob will be on them and they will run away. They have had their warning; let them take heed. There is nothing strange in this. How often has it happened to all of us that we have foreseen a crisis of great danger, and the very fore sight of it has prompted us to prepare for it by prayer. Sometimes we have listened to the prompting, and have come through safely; sometimes we have not, and have been "scandalized".
Then He climbs the hill with the three chosen companions, the companions on Thabor, the companions in the government of the Church that was to be; if companions in glory, companions also in sorrow, which has always been the lot of the faithful rulers of God s people. In their presence He lets Himself break down; this is the first step in their temptation, and He knows they will not falter, though for some of the others it might have been too much. St. Matthew and St. Mark use four words to describe this first collapse: sorrow, sadness, fear, heaviness. Perhaps we may paraphrase them thus: sense of utter failure, sense of black depression, sense of physical unnerving, sense of gloom and foreboding those four agonies which
beset every broken soul. And these were not only in His heart, but this time appeared to the three in His eyes, in His face, in His whole behaviour.
Sometimes, in the company of a true friend, there is sanctity in revealing one's heart. For friendship means equality, and equality demands that we should share all that we have, the sorrows with the joys. "Come to Me all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you," He had said on one occasion; it was now His turn to be burdened and to need refreshment. His manner compels Him to speak, for their sake as much as for His own; He must explain His strange behaviour. He is beaten, He can scarcely support Himself, He never needed a companion more than now. He knows that His only support can be in prayer, yet He feels that even for this He must have the com panionship of others. "My soul is sorrowful
even unto death": it would gladly die; to live as it is now is worse than to die, it is living death. "Stay you here": do not leave Me as a dying man begs not to be left alone "and watch with Me": just be present with Me.
- First the eight are left, warned of danger, and warned to prepare for it.
- Then the chosen three are permitted to witness His first agony.
- To whom He confesses His depression and His need of a companion.