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of hard smooth rock, about two feet from the ground, is shown as the spot where the three disciples rested. If we are looking at this bed of rock with our backs turned on Jerusalem and our faces to Mount Olivet, the ancient olive trees that are still standing are on our right hand; and the Grotto into which our Lord retired to pray is on the left, and a little behind us. It is somewhat nearer the high-road than the stone is on which the Apostles slept. To reach this Grotto, our Saviour had to descend rather abruptly about thirty or forty feet; but still it was not distant more than a stone's cast from the resting-place of the Apostles. To the entrance of the Grotto there is a descent of about twenty feet, and then from the entrance a flight of twentyseven steps leads down to the spot where our Saviour prayed. The olive gardens, which gave the Mount its name, have in great measure disappeared. Water was not abundant in Judea. We can see in many places of Holy Writ that a well was a valuable possession. At the present day, the writers of guide-books take care to tell travellers where they are likely to find a good spring of water. The number of cisterns found in and around Jerusalem is quite wonderful. The small number of well-springs throughout the country is scarcely less wonderful. The olive gardens, therefore, planted in terraces, were irrigated by artificial means. As, then, this artificial irrigation has in great measure been abandoned throughout Judea, Mount Olivet and many other hillsides stand now quite bare of trees.
There are very few new plantations to be seen, and, on the other hand, a large number of persons go out of the city every day to dig up even the roots of trees, wherever they can be found, for firewood.
The Mount of Olives, then, stands very bare and rocky. But in an enclosure made by the careful Franciscan Fathers, there are still standing eight ancient olive trees, some of the trunks of which have to be supported by masonry. These trees are believed to have been on the spot on the night of our Lord's Agony, or at least to have sprung out of the ancient trunks. And there is this strong argument in favour of the belief, that from the third century up to now there is a chain of reliable evidence in favour of this tradition. These trees are, as we might expect, held in great veneration by the faithful. To prevent their being destroyed by pilgrims anxious for relics, it was necessary to raise a wall round them; and, moreover, heavy censures have been promulgated by the Holy See against all who attempt to cut or injure them.
The Grotto of the Agony is much wider and somewhat longer than the Grotto of the Nativity at Bethlehem. It measures about forty feet by thirty; and may be twelve or fourteen feet in height. It is, of course, arranged as an Oratory, and the Holy Sacrifice is continually offered there; but the Grotto or cave remains more in its natural state than does the Grotto of Bethlehem. There is not much more than the thickness of a wall dividing this Grotto from the ancient Sepulchre of our Lady, now changed into a chapel.
One reason, among others, why some paintings of the Agony in the Garden are less satisfactory, is that the painters depart from the tradition, and represent our Saviour as praying, not in a cave or grotto, but in the open air, with nothing above Him but the canopy of heaven.
And He was withdrawn from them a stone's cast, and kneel.
ing down He prayed (St. Luke xxii.). And when He
We must not forget what we have been told, that Jesus was already, before His Passion began, very much worn and emaciated. We may therefore contemplate Him making His way down the rough incline with very great difficulty. And though the three Apostles have been directed to stay where they were, yet we may perhaps assume that St. Peter and the sons of Zebedee, seeing how their beloved Master is tottering as He walks, follow Him a little way and offer Him help, till at length Jesus enters the Grotto where He wishes to make His prayer. Now it is that they see Him first sink down on His knees; and afterwards, as St. Mark relates (probably as he heard it from the eye-witness, St. Peter), He fell flat on the ground.
Then doubtless they understand from some sign given, or without a sign, that their Master wishes to be alone; and they go back in sadness to the bed of stone, where they lay themselves down. A little while surely they pray as their Master had bidden, but weariness and sadness cut short their prayer too soon, and oppressive sleep overcomes them on their hard bed.
He fell flat on the ground, and He prayed (St. Mark xiv. 35).
A. As He sinks down upon His knees, and then falls flat on the ground, with His sacred face pressed against the earth, we must once more call to mind that word He had just uttered: My Soul is sorrowful even unto death ; and those other words afterwards written by the inspired Evangelist: He began to fear and to be heavy, to grow sorrowful and to be sad.
Fear (pavere), heaviness, weary tedium (tædere), sadness (mæstus esse), and a sorrow unto death (tristis), are bowing down His worn Body to the ground.
Attendite." Full of anguish as this spectacle is, it is better far to go to this house of mourning than to any house of feasting. When Simon Peter said on Thabor : It is good for us to be here ! Let us make three tabernacles ; the inspired Evangelist adds: He knew not what he said. But if we come in spirit to the Grotto of the Agony, and say: It is good for us to be here ! no inspired voice from Heaven will ever chide us, nor tell us that we know not what we say.
It is good for us to be here, because by the sadness of His countenance, by the sadness of His sacred face pressed down to the earth, the mind of the offender is corrected (Eccles. vii.).
The mind and the heart of the poor sinner will be corrected and converted and changed here. It is wise to stay here : The heart of the wise is where there is mourning, and above all where the Lord Jesus, our Saviour, our Surety, our Brother, is in an agony.
B. He began to fear and to be heavy, to grow sorrowful and to be sad.
We are to look upon Him attentively; to listen to His sighs and His words, to watch His movements; to read, as well as we can, His secret thoughts; to gauge and measure, as far as we are able, the length, the breadth, the height, and the depth of His distress; and to think in wonder as we watch Him, that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, He can, if He pleases, entirely deliver Himself. He can shake off at once all suffering, all infirmity, and rise up in happiness ineffable. But with all His Heart He chooses and elects to be here, because He has loved me, and delivered Himself for me. We must then reflect and see what kind of thoughts rise up in our own minds.
While we contemplate His prostration, St. Ignatius bids us specially form strong desires for the grace of compassion, but compassion rightly understood, which consists not in some tender and pleasant emotions, but in a heavenly strength that makes us willing to share His sufferings. For what is compassion, what is sympathy, but a state of suffering with another who is suffering ?
C. He began to fear, to be heavy, to grow sorrowful, and to be sad.
To fear! “ If so," a faithful servant of our Lord exclaims, “ If so, how is it written: Who is like to Thee among the strong, O Lord ? I studied that I might know this thing. It is a labour in my sight” (Psalm lxxii.).
One good answer is suggested by a word written by St. Denis the Areopagite. He speaks of the Almighty
ALMIGHTY WEAKNESS OF HIS GOODNESS during the Passion.
" True it is, dear Lord : “magna est ut mare contritio tua'. Great as the ocean is Thy crushing sorrow; and well may the Prophet ask: 'Quis medebitur tibi ' (Lament. ii.)—Who shall heal Thy deep wounds ?” Yet nowhere else is His great power and strength manifested as here in the ALMIGHTY WEAKNESS OF His GOODNESS. The oppressive thoughts come in upon His Soul like the waves of a great ocean; and every one of these oppressive thoughts has a darkness and a poison added to it by the wicked spirits who are for the hour the gods of this world (2 Cor. iv.).
But still, “never can the waters of this great ocean quench Thy charity, Lord Jesus, neither can the floods drown it.
He is fallen flat on the ground : yes, full of fear and heaviness and sadness and sorrow ; yes, but all the while He is not the conquered one, but the conqueror; the strong man armed, than whom no stronger can come ; the giant that shall run on His way rejoicing.
As then we stand in the Grotto of Gethsemani, it is to contemplate most reverently this ALMIGHTY WEAKNESS OF His GOODNESS.
D. He began to fear and to be heavy.
But now, again, asks His disciple, “ If He is full of fear and weighed down by heaviness of heart, what is to become of
faith ? How can I say to Him : Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God? Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ ; Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father ? ”
In answer, the holy and humble men who put this question give us this answer; that when the Eternal Son of God undertook to be our Saviour, it is an essential part of His plan that He is to be truly and really a man, a son of Adam, made after the model of the first Adam : Corpus autem aptasti mihi ”—Thou hast fitted a Body to Me, Thy only-begotten Son.
This is His word to His Eternal Father. A true human Body He is to have, and a true human Soul.
But this is not enough; for this difficulty still remains : how can a human body and a human soul suffer pain and sorrow, when fitted and united to the Son of God ? The blessed in Heaven will, after the final resurrection, have true human bodies and true human souls; but the body that was sown in corruption, shall rise in incorruption : sown in weakness, it shall rise in power (1 Cor. xv.). So, too, will the glorified soul be changed; nor mourning nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away (Apoc. xxi.). If this is to be so, because the blessed shall then be with God, and in the enjoyment of the Beatific