I’ll be leading the Stations of the Cross at St. John’s on April 16th. I plan to do something different then the traditional fourteen stations that start with Jesus’s trial. I feel that this arrangement leaves too much out. And I want to focus more on the disciples and the others who surrounded Jesus, so that I can consider their (and our) reactions side by side with his suffering. Here is the first one. I plan to make a little chapbook of the seven stations I’ll be presenting for those who come to walk the stations with me. The page with the artwork I made and the prayer I wrote to accompany this station is above, and the reading from scripture and meditation is below. I’ll be following this format with the next six posts.
THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ -Luke 22:39-46
It is incredibly hard to stay awake. At this moment, little tragedies are happening all over the world, yet it isn’t these that make me want to sleep. It is the closer suffering, the nearer pains. Some moment when I caused offense, or someone offended me. An ache in the body, a tiredness with being human, the simple desire to restlessly escape. Such sleep, the sleep that runs from trouble, isn’t true rest, but merely misery expressed as a hiding away. And all the while God, who sees everything, and to whom our little sufferings are hardly unique, is awake.
This is the first reason for our sleep – that true wakefulness is divine, and we are ill-equipped for divinity. I am, at least. Teresa speaks of the wound of compassion, the piercing we feel when we glimpse the world through the eyes that looked out from the cross. Because we are limited, we might, when seeing such suffering, believe that all is loss. We cannot see that the bodies that suffer are also held, or see the way that love sustains souls in pain. We cannot see that for every person there is a balance of moments of joy and pain, that the eye of eternity sees everything at once, both one day’s weeping and another day’s play. If we could live, like God, beyond the bounds of time, the joy that keeps the soul awake would not forsake us when we suffer for compassion’s sake, and from the cross we’d survey the empty tomb, the resurrection, the closing of the wound.