Thursday, July 28, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus is Crowned with a Crown of Thorns - Part II

Genesis 1:26-28:

[26] And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. [27] And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. [28] And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.

Genesis 2:8-9:

[8] And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed. [9] And the Lord God brought forth of the ground all manner of trees, fair to behold, and pleasant to eat of: the tree of life also in the midst of paradise: and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

CCC 396:

God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" spells this out: "for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die."276 The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil"277 symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.

Genesis 3:4-5:

[4] And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. [5] For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

In Part I of this Mystery, I said that in this Part II, I would take a deeper look at Jesus' Kingdom, and how it relates to human history, human suffering and human flourishing. To that end, I would like to explore the essential aspects of this Kingdom in light of Scripture and Church Tradition. We cannot understand properly what this Kingdom is, without understanding first the need for it, and the need for it derives all the way back to our first parents, Adam and Eve.

Adam, King of the Earth

Though Adam is not directly called a King in Scripture, he is said to be given dominion over the Earth, and commanded by God to "subdue it and rule over [it.]" By right of this rulership, of this dominion, Adam may certainly be thought of as a King. This is especially true when we consider that all of humanity has followed after him in sin. A King, if nothing else, is a leader of a people. He and Eve lead us into sin.

By this, we may understand that the legacy of his rule is sin, it is suffering, it is death. But, what did his kingdom look like before his Fall?

It was perfect. It was paradise. And, principally, it was a mastery of the self. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil "symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust." The Tree, then, is a symbol that pertains to man, himself, and not principally, or even necessarily, to anything outside of him. This being true of the Tree, we may conclude that the Garden of Paradise itself is principally a symbol of man. Namely, it symbolizes man in his original perfection, as he was created.

It is specifically called a "paradise of pleasure." Human perfection isn't a dour, boring state. It is filled with joy and pleasure. God permits man to partake of all trees in this paradise, including that which stands at its center, the Tree of Life, except that one tree called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life is a symbol of the friendship of God. That is, the indwelling of the Life of God, the Holy Spirit.

What this imagery evokes is this: within the bounds of human nature, human capacity, human ability, nothing was prohibited except to try to reach beyond his own natural limits. By doing so, man would distort his own nature, injuring it, corrupting it. This corruption would inevitably lead to death, and the disobedience done by the act would injure the relationship he had with God, causing the Life of God to depart from him. The Serpent's temptation was that they would "be as gods," a temptation to exceed the boundaries of their own nature.

The imagery of this story makes sense when we understand that the Jewish word "Adam" meant "Earth." Thus, when man has fallen, the natural consequence to sin is that he would have to "till the earth" and toil in order for the earth to bear fruit. This speaks to the fact that in the weakened human condition, virtue, or "good fruit" no longer comes naturally to man, but that he must work at it, that virtue is now difficult. We call this concupiscence. It is the inclination to, or the ease by which we fall into, sin, and the difficulty by which we return to virtue.

We may summarize. Adam's Kingship began in perfection, in friendship with God, and in pleasure and happiness. Adam's sin was to reach for self-divinity, something a creature is incapable of. This was an act of pride, and of disobedience, and of death. Thus, the legacy of Adam's Kingdom, the legacy we have all inherited from him, is pride, disobedience, and death.

Adam's Kingdom in History

What we have seen in human history is a reflection of the sin of our first King. Throughout history, we have seen the rulers of great nations fancy themselves gods. Roman emperors were thought to be divine, as were the Egyptian Pharaohs, just to name a couple.

Our ancestors devised new systems of morality, and cosmological paradigms. It was a hubris that attempted to redefine reality in their own terms. This power belongs to God alone, but we ever seek to be gods unto ourselves. This pride has not left us. Even today, we seek to define "truth" and "morality" according to our own, individual, determinations. "What's true for you, is true for you, but what's true for me, is true for me."

And this gets to the heart of pride: it is a denial of truth, and once you deny truth, you then proceed to deny virtue, or goodness, because virtue is grounded in the truth. Deny truth, and morality because entirely subjective. Thus, pride, the denial of truth, leads to disobedience, the denial of goodness. And once goodness is denied, death follows, because if you do not behave in accordance with your nature (in our case, that's human nature), which is the standard of virtuous behavior, then your nature deteriorates, leading to suffering and death.

But this is the legacy of our first King.

But, of course, he wasn't just a King. He was also a husband. His Fall involved also the Fall of his wife, Eve. In one and the same act, not only did they damage human nature itself, but they damaged human relationships, both human-Divine relationships, and human-human relationships. Where the original marriage was one of mutual love and respect, of an understanding of how each fit the other properly as part of a unified whole, of open sincerity and without shame, relationships since then have been marked by the will of the man to dominate and use, and of the woman to manipulate that domination, and to also use.

The beauty and joy of life was lost. The freedom to live well was lost. The truth was lost in human arrogance.

Jesus, King of Heaven

Jesus arrives at the heart of human history to restore what was lost. Jesus came to restore humanity's relationship to God. He came to restore humanity's relationships to one anther. He came to restore our ability to freely live virtuous lives. He came to restore joy and life and love to the world. He came to restore the truth. He came to give us Himself, whom He names the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

This is His Kingdom, it is a Kingdom of restoration, of healing. It is a Kingdom of goodness and truth. He shows us the Way into this Kingdom. He teaches us the Truth that resides only there. He sends to us the Holy Spirit, the Life of God, to take up His rest within our Hearts, that we may freely enjoy the beauty of His creation, to freely receive the love that He offers, and to freely share that love with each other in goodness and virtue.

How does He accomplish all of this, and what does He expect from us? We can talk about that in Part III.

God bless.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus is Crowned with a Crown of Thorns - Part I

Matthew 27:27-31:

[27] Then the soldiers of the governor taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band; [28] And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. [29] And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews. [30] And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head.
[31] And after they had mocked him, they took off the cloak from him, and put on him his own garments, and led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:16-20:

[16] And the soldiers led him away into the court of the palace, and they called together the whole band: [17] And they clothe him with purple, and platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon him. [18] And they began to salute him: Hail, king of the Jews. [19] And they struck his head with a reed: and they did spit on him. And bowing their knees, they adored him. [20] And after they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own garments on him, and they led him out to crucify him.

John 19:2-15:

[2] And the soldiers platting a crown of thorns, put it upon his head; and they put on him a purple garment. [3] And they came to him, and said: Hail, king of the Jews; and they gave him blows. [4] Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith to them: Behold, I bring him forth unto you, that you may know that I find no cause in him. [5] (Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment.) And he saith to them: Behold the Man.
[6] When the chief priests, therefore, and the servants, had seen him, they cried out, saying: Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith to them: Take him you, and crucify him: for I find no cause in him. [7] The Jews answered him: We have a law; and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. [8] When Pilate therefore had heard this saying, he feared the more. [9] And he entered into the hall again, and he said to Jesus: Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. [10] Pilate therefore saith to him: Speakest thou not to me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and I have power to release thee?     [11] Jesus answered: Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin. [12] And from henceforth Pilate sought to release him. But the Jews cried out, saying: If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar' s friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar. [13] Now when Pilate had heard these words, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat, in the place that is called Lithostrotos, and in Hebrew Gabbatha. [14] And it was the parasceve of the pasch, about the sixth hour, and he saith to the Jews: Behold your king. [15] But they cried out: Away with him; away with him; crucify him. Pilate saith to them: Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered: We have no king but Caesar.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

I'm going to approach this mystery a little bit differently. I feel this is a very important mystery to reflect upon, and I want to make sure I do it right. It has recently been brought to my attention by a very dear friend of mine that my many of my posts are missing what he considers to be an essential quality. Namely, that of the joy and hope and love and happiness of the teachings of Jesus and the life that the Church offers us.

While it was my intention to dig into more of the historical and theological truths found in these mysteries, I admit that for some of them, particularly those relating to Jesus' Kingdom, this was a definite oversight on my part.

Therefore, because in this current mystery we see Jesus crowned, it is fitting that I expound in much greater detail the meaning of His Kingdom, and the purpose He has set for it for our great good.

The approach that I am going to take with this mystery is to present it in three parts. The first part, which I will be doing today, will be the typical kind of reflection that you've seen from me before. I will examine the event itself, talk about some of the meaning that can be found in it, and hopefully elucidate some of the theological importance of some of it.

The second part will be a deeper examination of Our Lord's Kingdom, how it relates to the whole of human history, human suffering, and human flourishing.

In the third part I will delve deeper into the centrality that suffering takes in His Kingdom, at least for the time being. I will examine how Jesus approaches suffering both in this mystery, and the others, why He approaches it this way, and why doing likewise will lead to great joy for us.

So, without further adieu, let's begin.


Immediately following Jesus' scourging, Jesus is dressed in purple robes and crowned with thorns. It is difficult to imagine that, even at this point, Jesus could endure any more pain and suffering. Even so, He does. The primary form of suffering He endures here is that of mockery, but don't be fooled, this is accompanied by much physical pain as well.

The Purple Garments and The Crown of Thorns

Together, along with the reed scepter, these things that were placed upon Jesus was symbolic of Roman royalty. Purple was relegated strictly to the Roman royal houses and guards. This may be why there is variation among the Gospels regarding the colour, alternating between purple and crimson. It may have been red, but treated by onlookers as representing the royal colours. That was certainly the apparent intention of the Roman soldiers who dressed Him in these robes.

The crown is something of an oddity to us, because of our place in history. When we think of crowns, we typically think of those medieval, highly jeweled golden crowns with high ridges. Or, we think of the dainty tiaras that princesses and queens might have worn.

The Roman crown was much different. In fact, crowns were not relegated strictly to kings or emperors. Rather, there were a wide variety of crowns in Roman culture, the vast majority of which were presented to Roman soldiers who had accomplished some feat of victory (varying by degree) on the battlefield.

There were some such crowns (of the kind presented to soldiers), presented for certain particular feats of victory, that were made of gold, but in general the Roman crown was a plant. These varied from laurel leaves, to flowers, to shrubs, ivy, oak leaves, parsley, and more.

The kind of crown worn by a Roman emperor were called "Corona Radiata." This kind of crown was also presented to the gods and deified heroes, and were typically symbolic of the emperor's own divinity.

So, as a matter of kind, because Jesus was crowned and mockingly adored as a king by the Roman soldiers, this crown would also have been a symbol of divinity. Little did they know, they mocked the true King, and the true God, and crowned Him as such.

There were five kinds of crowns that were made out of flowers (which included roses). They were the "Corona Obsidionalis," which was the highest military honour, granted to generals who broke a siege, the "Corona Funebris" and the "Corona Sepulchralis," which were worn at funerals, the "Corona Convivialis," which was worn at private celebrations of festivals, and the "Corona Nuptialis," which was a crown picked by a bride for the wedding.

So, all at once, this crown made of the stems of roses, and used for mock kingship, represented:

1) Jesus' Divinity
2) Jesus' Kingship
3) Jesus' breaking of the siege of Sin on humanity, the highest victory
4) Jesus' death
5) Jesus as Bridegroom
6) Jesus' Resurrection, a new festival celebrated in perpetuity in His Kingdom, the Church

This is no insignificant event. While the Gospels of Matthew and Mark make a brief account of this, John's Gospels goes to some length to highlight the meaning of this question of Jesus' Kingship, involving Pilate's interrogation of Jesus in light of this, and Jesus' answer that His Kingdom is not of this world.


The central character of Jesus' suffering here is humiliation. Before I go into this in some depth, I want to call to mind something that may be missed by many who meditate on this mystery, which is the physical suffering that Jesus' continues to endure here.

We may have this image of Jesus scalp being pierce by the thorns that are pressed down onto Our Dear Lord's holy and innocent head. We all know how painful a very small and minor pinprick can be. We can imagine how much more painful this must have been. Indeed, if you've ever worked with roses, pricking your fingers on the thorns is really, very unpleasant. But these were many thorns, pressed into His scalp. His precious blood must have run down His holy face, and down His neck. I really don't know how He endured so much pain.

But there is perhaps an even greater pain than this that He suffered at this time. When the cloak was placed on His torn, wounded, and bleeding body, the stinging pain of the garment on His open wounds must have been terrible. While the robe settled on His bleeding body, His blood must have begun congealing against it, causing it to stick. After they finished mocking Him, they tore this cloak off of Him, reopening all of His wounds, and tearing off bits of flesh from all over His body. Then, in this state, they place His own clothes back onto Him, which He had not worn since before His scourging.

I can't even imagine. It makes my heart ache to think on this, on how all the muscles, all the nerves endings must have screamed out in pain, how His body must have shaken.

But, beyond all of this physical agony, the central sorrow of this mystery is the humiliation that Jesus suffered at the hands of the Roman soldiers. Not only did they laugh at Him, laugh at His pain, laugh at His wounds, and laugh at His rightful Kingship, but they also spat on Him, and beat Him, punching His holy face.

In the Garden of Gethsemani, Jesus suffered the sorrow of betrayal and abandonment. Now, He suffers scorn and rejection.

All of Jesus' pain has accumulated. Nothing has gone away. He has still been abandoned, He has still been betrayed. He stills carries the weight of the world's sins on His shoulders. He still faces death. The Mystery of the Agony is still with Him. The Mystery of the Scourging is still with Him. All of His wounds are still there. They continue to be re-opened and exacerbated each time He moves, and the robes brush against His open wounds.

As His ordeal continues, we see new forms of suffering added onto those that have gone before, none leaving Him even to His death. Now, added to these sufferings, He receives humiliation. Why? What is the purpose of all this suffering. To what end is He moving?

I will examine these questions in more detail in later parts. God bless you.

Monday, July 18, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus is Scourged

Matthew 27:26:

[26] Then he released to them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him unto them to be crucified.

Mark 15:15:

[15] And so Pilate being willing to satisfy the people, released to them Barabbas, and delivered up Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

Luke 23:22-25:

[22] And he said to them the third time: Why, what evil hath this man done? I find no cause of death in him. I will chastise him therefore, and let him go. [23] But they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified; and their voices prevailed. [24] And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. [25] And he released unto them him who for murder and sedition, had been cast into prison, whom they had desired; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

John 18:38-19:1:

[38] Pilate saith to him: What is truth? And when he said this, he went out again to the Jews, and saith to them: I find no cause in him. [39] But you have a custom that I should release one unto you at the pasch: will you, therefore, that I release unto you the king of the Jews? [40] Then cried they all again, saying: Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

[1] Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Following Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemani, Jesus is arrested by the betrayal of Judas. Jesus' Disciples all flee, abandoning Him to the authorities. Jesus is taken before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. There, false accusations are brought against Him, and in the middle of it, Jesus pronounces the Holy Name in reference to Himself. This is regarded as blasphemy, for which the sentence is death. But because this sentence occurs during the Feast of the Passover, the Jews are not permitted to put Him to death at that time, so they present Him to the Roman authorities as a seditionist who was inciting the people to rebel against Rome, so that they might put Him to death lawfully.

Jesus is therefore taken before Pontius Pilate who interrogates Him, but Jesus remains silent before him. In Luke's Gospel, Pontius Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, because he realizes Jesus is from his district. Neither Herod nor Pilate find any fault in Jesus, and Pilate says so to the crowd that had gathered to witness Jesus' trial and execution.

The crowd, urged on by the chief priests, shout that Jesus should be crucified. Pontius Pilate, not wanting to put Him to death, offers the people, according to the custom of the Feast, the option to have one of two people freed: Jesus or Barabbas. The people ask for Barabbas to be released, and Jesus to be executed. Pilate permits their choice. Barabbas is freed, and Jesus is sent off to be scourged.


In the Gospels, this prisoner that is chosen over Jesus is called a robber, and was said to have been in prison for the crimes of murder and sedition. There are a number of things worth noting about this figure.

During Jesus' time, and in the centuries leading up to His coming, it was believed that the Messiah was going to be a military man, someone who would liberate Israel from foreign occupation. It was therefore not entirely uncommon for freedom fighters and rebels leaders to claim to be the promised Messiah, and throughout Israel's history, you had such figures pop up to lead attempted rebellions against foreign occupiers.

Barabbas was such a man. He had been arrested for sedition, and murder. Likely, he had incited acts of rebellion against Rome, like theft and violence. So, he was a Messiah figure. Moreover, his very name offers a striking juxtaposition against Jesus. Barabbas is a consonant name made up of two Aramaic words "Bar" and "Abbas", meaning "Son of the Father."

So, what we see here, when Pontius Pilate makes this offer, is a choice for the Jews between which kind of Messiah they would have for themselves. Their choice was between a military freedom fighter, who would liberate Israel from Roman occupation, and reinstate the Kingdom of Israel, as Israel's new king. Or something entirely different, someone who preached obedience to the ruling authority of an occupying state, who's central teaching was about inner obedience to the Law, not just outward obedience. Someone who claimed that His Kingdom was "not of this world."

This wasn't just about the Messiah, though, but it was also about what it means to be a "Son of the Father." Was "Son-ship" about earthly gain, health and prosperity, and self-governance? Or, was "Son-ship" about a righteous heart, and an obedient will?

This the essentially the choice the Jews faced in the selection. It is essentially the choice we all face when confronted with sin. The Jews chose Barabbas. The punishment for sedition was public torture and execution. Jesus, therefore, was sentenced to scourging and crucifixion.

Jesus is Scourged

In the place of the sinner, Barabbas, for whom such a punishment was just, the innocent Jesus willingly submits Himself to Roman scourging. This is a sign of the suffering He accepts as a consequence of all of our sins. It was a common procedure prior to crucifixion under Roman law, but it was brutal.

The whip that was used, both on Jesus, and in common practice at the time, was called a flagrum. It had a short handle, and two or three long, thick thongs. Each thong was weighted toward the tips by a lead ball or mutton thong. The thongs cut this skin, while the weights caused deep contusions, and internal hemorrhaging. The idea wasn't just to cause pain to the victim, but to break their wills, destroying their resistance to their impending execution.

Under Roman law, the number of lashes to be dealt had no limit. This was in contrast to Hebrew law, which limited the number of lashes to 40. The only limit to Roman law was that the prisoner had to be able to bear his cross to the place of execution. We know Jesus' scourging was unusually severe, because Jesus didn't have the strength to carry His cross to Calvary by Himself. This may be due to the fact that Jesus had an unusually strong will.

Take note of that, because Jesus would have been aware of how Roman executions were performed. He could have faked his resistance to His persecutors, in order to receive a less severe flogging. But He didn't, and He deliberately prolonged the scourge. For those who believe that the Shroud of Turin is authentic (and I do), the number of wounds that have been identified through it as lash wounds are between 100 1nd 120.

Jesus would have had His hands bound, tied to the column above his head, making Him unable to protect Himself with His arms. You can see that the image I have posted to this article is inaccurate in this regard. It's inaccurate in many regards, not the least of which is the lack of wounds to His body, or the serenity on His face. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though, as such depictions are the result of a pious love for Our Redeemer, and a sensitivity toward the viewer.

If you are interested to see what else the Shroud of Turin reveals about Jesus' scourging, you can read a bit about it here.

You will notice that the Gospels do not give detail about His scourging. This is likely because it was so common that the word alone evoked enough imagery in the mind of the hearer that no explanation was necessary. Let us be thankful that we are not witness to such torment in our own time.

So, for those of you who suffer bodily pain of any kind, whether that inflicted upon you by an aggressor, or simply the infirmities of old age, you can look to Jesus who suffered physical pain that we can't even imagine. If you've ever been punched by someone, as hard as they could, imagine that happening all over your body for a prolonged period of time. Have you ever been hit by a bb-gun, or a sling shot? Remember that paper cut, or the time you slashed your thigh open with a box cutter? Or how about that time you hit your head on the top bunk when you were getting out of bed, or when you slammed your fingers in the car door? Imagine these things happening all over your body, over and over again, and you're unable to protect yourself from it, and you can't tend to the wound. Blood is everywhere, dirt is getting in all your sores. The whips haven't been cleaned from the last flogging.

Thank you Jesus, for taking all of that for me.

Monday, July 4, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus Suffers Agony in the Garden

Matthew 26:36-45:

[36] Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray. [37] And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. [38] Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me. [39] And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying, and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. [40] And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?
[41] Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak. [42] Again the second time, he went and prayed, saying: My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done. [43] And he cometh again and findeth them sleeping: for their eyes were heavy. [44] And leaving them, he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word. [45] Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith to them: Sleep ye now and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Mark 14:34:

[34] And he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death; stay you here, and watch.

Luke 22:39-46:

[39] And going out, he went, according to his custom, to the mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him. [40] And when he was come to the place, he said to them: Pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
[41] And he was withdrawn away from them a stone' s cast; and kneeling down, he prayed, [42] Saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. [43] And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. [44] And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. [45] And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow.     [46] And he said to them: Why sleep you? arise, pray, lest you enter into temptation.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

We now enter into the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. These five mysteries comprise key events in Jesus' Passion and Death. For many, these five mysteries are the most difficult to meditate upon. While many of the other mysteries may be difficult to understand, or fit into Salvation history in terms of context and import, these are difficult because of the terrible suffering involved. Nevertheless, immersion into these mysteries is, in my opinion, most edifying, and allows you to grow closer to Our Lord in ways meditation on the others do not.

I will keep my exploration of this mystery to just two thoughts: Jesus as the New Adam, and the form of Jesus' suffering: agony. I think these two ideas will are very important here.

The New Adam

The Gospels do not directly refer to Jesus as an "Adam figure," but we do know this is how the early Christians thought of Him, as demonstrated by 1 Corinthians 15:22-45, and Romans 5:14. However, there are certainly events and images within the life of Christ that also point to this connection.

In this passage, in particular, Jesus enters into a "Garden." You might have noticed that the above Gospel passages don't actually call it a Garden. Well, the Gospel of John does. Alternatively, Matthew calls it a "country place" and Mark calls it a "farm." These three descriptions should suffice to establish the "Garden of Eden" symbolism. The original Garden was, well, called a Garden for one thing. For another thing it was a place of work, since man was created to work it (Genesis 2:15), as one might work the earth on a farm. Finally, the original Garden predated cities, and was therefore, by default, a "country place."

So, the setting is a Garden, and in this Garden Jesus experiences solitude, as did the original Adam. Twice Jesus came back from prayer to find His followers asleep, even though He had specifically asked them to stay awake and pray with Him. The Bride had not yet appeared.

In the original Garden, Adam was in friendship with God, and He was said to have walked with him there. Here, in the Garden of Gethsemani, Jesus is in friendship with God, and prays to the Father.

Most importantly, though, is that in the original Garden, when Eve was tempted by the Father of Lies, and fell to the temptation, and offered the same sin to Adam, Adam was silent throughout, gave in, and then blamed her for his own failing. Indeed, he even blamed God for giving Eve to him in the first place.

Jesus is essentially faced with the same problem. He foresees the death that is upon Him. He sees that the source of this death is the Bride, the Church, who is filled with sin and sinners, and it is by Her sin that He, Himself will suffer and die. The same consequences that Eve's sin presented to Adam. But, what is Jesus' response here? He asks the Father to take this cup from Him, but if He must take it, then the Father's will be done.

Why? First, because it is the Father's will, and it was the selfish will of man, in contradiction to the Word of the Father, which resulted and continues to result in sin and suffering and death. Second, because it is through this action, this submission to the Father's Holy Will that the Bride will come to be saved. So, rather than staying silent and acquiescing, like Adam, Jesus goes forth boldly to save His Bride, even from Her own sins.

So, what we are seeing here is the beginning of the New Creation. This is the work of the New Adam, set in His Garden, preparing to right what was wronged so long ago. Just as Adam, after sinning, was condemned to tilling the earth by the sweat of his brown, now Jesus is tilling the earth of salvation by sweating blood, by bleeding for us. He begins, and His beginning is that of suffering, because suffering is the first consequence of sin.


Jesus first suffering, during His Passion, is agony. I think many of us tend to think of agony as just an extreme form of suffering. But agony is actually a particular kind of suffering. Specifically, it is mental suffering, anguish, terror. It comes from the Greek word agonia, which literally means "a mental struggle for victory."

That's what we're seeing here, in Jesus' Garden. Jesus tells Peter, James and John (the three who witnessed His Transfiguration), who were nearby during Jesus' agony, "My soul is sorrowful even unto death." We ought to recognize the incredible mental anguish that Jesus was suffering here. Jesus knew He was going to suffer an excruciating kind of death. He asked His Father three times to let this trial pass Him by.

Do you remember when Jesus was in the desert, and he was fasting and praying, and the devil came to Him to tempt Him? Jesus was no doubt very hungry, probably undergoing the grouchiness effect that hunger pangs bring upon us. Yet, He had absolutely no problem telling the devil where to do. He wasn't even phased.

Here, we see something entirely different. Jesus is indeed being tempted. He speaks of temptation several times to His Disciples, here. But this temptation is of an entirely different scale. Nevertheless, despite asking repeatedly to be allowed to forego this horror, Jesus remains obedient to the Father, and accepts what is to happen to Him.

Can you imagine? Jesus was sweating blood, His anguish was so immense. Have you ever sweat blood because of how hard you had to fight against temptation? The weight of it had to have been staggering. Yet, as the word agonia suggests, His passage through it was a victory.

Mystics throughout Christian history, who have received visions of these events, tell us that what Jesus suffered here wasn't merely the terror of impending death. Rather, in this moment, Jesus opened Himself to all sin, and all suffering, from every living person, from the beginning of time to the end, and even into eternity, and exposed the horror of it to His humanity, that by this, He could make a fitting offering of Himself, and with Himself, all humanity, for the sake of our Salvation from it.

For those of you who are suffering agonies of your own, and anytime you who are not now suffering agony find yourself in such a state, pray to Jesus. He knows your pain better than you could know. He's already suffered it with you, and He is suffering it with you, and He wants nothing but to take it from you and carry it on His own shoulders. So, go to Him in the Eucharist, in the Mass, and offer it to Him. Never stop offering it to Him. It is fitting.