The Agony in the Garden

He said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here, and stay awake.’ (Mark 14:34)

Love is hard as Hell. Were we given the democratic opportunity to fashion the world as we wished, I imagine we’d have it otherwise. Love would be a comfort, an abstract — a flaccid feeling forever tickling us into smiles. But then again, why speculate? This is our zeitgeist. We live in an Age of Softening — our Love is but a pink-tinged means to ignoble ends. I’m in love with another, therefore I deserve a divorce. An affair. A marriage with my own sex, with a building, with myself. I love, therefore I deserve children. I love, therefore I deserve recognition and acceptance. I love and it feels great.

In an age of scandal, nothing is more scandalous than the Gospel, nothing more hideous than the Christian called to publicly proclaim “I love, therefore I die.”

Let the world soften the very fabric of the Cosmos. Let them make of Love a polite perfume. The bizarre and frightening followers of the Christ will forever point to Him lying on the floor in agony and say, “There is Love. Love smells like sweat. Love tastes like blood. Love feels like the very brink of destruction. Love is the hardest thing in existence — it will impale you to the ground.”

For Love is desiring the ultimate good of another. The Agony in the Garden is infinite proof that this desire doesn’t always feel great. No, it is far more often sorrowful — sorrowful to the point of death.

The first blood mentioned in Christ’s Passion comes not from the whips, nor the thorns, nor the cross, but from His anguish of Love. Gethsemane, the garden where the Lord began his Passion, mean oil-press. And here Christ, the first-fruit of God, was squeezed. In his anguish he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. (Luke 22:44). Why are we given this image? Because we’ve already been told: Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he handed it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many’ (Mark 14:23). We know that His blood is poured out for us. And here we see it: Christ is a living libation, a cup overflowing. Only the Christian can honestly bow before the sweat of Man.

Perhaps it would be best to remind ourselves of what the Christ is facing. He and he alone — being an infinite being — can redeem mankind’s infinite distance from God. He must become Sin, and be destroyed, so that Sin may be destroyed. He must take on the guilt and condemnation that belongs to every genocidal monster, pedophile priest, rapist, and murderer who ever existed. He must experience the sting of every human insult, hatred, oppression, and violence. He must enter every broken, masturbating, porn-addicted, drug-riddled shell of a man, and experience the total sum of our modern loneliness. This is what Love demands. Again, Love is desiring another’s ultimate good. What is our ultimate good? Eternal union with our Father. What price must the Christ pay for our ultimate good? Suffering unto death, the death of God.

And so Love sweats blood. In stark contradiction to the pretty shape our modern world would have us draw, Christ offers us a heart of meat, ventricles and arteries pounding.  Let’s together cease pretending Love is anything else. Let us cease splitting Love from it’s meaning — wanting the ultimate good of the other — and thus from suffering. Let us instead look to Christ’s Agony in the Garden, and beg God to set us ablaze with His uncomfortable, aching Love, the only kind worth having.

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