Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Agony In The Garden ~ What Did Jesus See?

This painting, titled The Agony in the Garden, was painted by William Blake, poet and painter at the end of the 18th century. It invites a long, careful look. 

"And he had sight of an angel from heaven, encouraging him. And now he was in an agony and prayed still more earnestly; his sweat fell to the ground like thick drops of blood." Luke 22: 43,44

At the center of the painting is a majestic angel appearing to support Jesus through a divided and brilliantly colored cloud.The angel's gaze is locked on the face of Jesus who, in an overwhelming exhaustion, is thrown backwards in torment. Notice that the angel is not patting Jesus on the back but catching him by the waist. There is nothing sentimental here. 

Everything is expressed here through vertical lines - the angel's reaching arms, the grove of trees, even the lines of light reflected off the trees left and right that descend into the palms of Jesus which will be opened with nails the next day. 

The trees at night foreshadow horror and sorrow, but light is breaking in with the angel's appearance. Hidden amidst the olive trees are sleepy apostles, almost ghost-like, symbols of humanity asleep in our dark history and shadowy stupidity. 

This causes us to ask: "What did Jesus see that he began to sweat blood in the garden? Or sweat so heavy and dense it was like blood? A torment so great a bright angel appeared." Let's keep the answer current. 

  • He saw the atrocities and massacres we're living through these days. He saw the gun-fetish. 
  • He saw the people making millions off the sale of guns intended to take out large numbers of people quickly. 
  • He saw the industry which sexualizes and enslaves girls and young women. 
  • He saw the aftermath of the BREXIT vote and hateful brutes threatening perceived "foreigners" in England, throwing excrement on their doors and yelling for them to get out. 
  • He saw in our own time the new growth and realignment of the KKK, with small groups joining larger groups and the new sale of their evil costume, $145 for the standard white sheet outfit, $165 for the satin version. 

There's a YouTube out these days where the viewer is taken into a Carmelite monastery of nuns. We see the sisters going through their prayer-day and interviewed about their lives in an enclosed community. The prioress, after relaying that the nuns don't read newspapers, magazines or see television, is asked: "Do the sisters know about the priest sex abuse scandal in the Church?" The nun is quiet for a moment, and then, seemingly stunned and having a hard time expressing it, finally says, "Our hearts bleed for it." 

During this sex abuse scandal I've asked for years: Where's the tears? Where's the repentant fasting? Is anyone bleeding about this? Which, by the way, is more awful than we know. Jesus saw that on the Mount of  Olives. The very name of the place, Gethsemane, means olive press? That to extract the oil, the olives need to be crushed? Jesus was crushed that night - that's why thick drops of blood-like sweat (like oil) oozed out of him - he saw it all. But thanks be to God, there is more...

Bright angel of Gethsemane,
were your jewel-toned wings
flecked with Christ's Blood?
And were you the same one
who appeared
Easter morning,
announcing good news and
joy for all the world?


  1. When I think of these things, I think more clearly and of how we should all sweat blood and shed tears for them instead of accepting them with a shrug of acceptance. If more people thought more deeply about the atrocities committed on earth every day, we might step up and do something to stop them. But we are wrapped up in our own small worlds.

    1. St. Francis of Assisi said, "I can't do everything, but I can do something."

    2. Something just doesn't seem enough most times.

    3. Well, if we're sincere and doing our best, then we have to learn surrender. On the other hand, we might be deceiving ourselves into thinking we're doing more than we really are. "Doing something" can also mean stretching the heart and mind by learning. Not a few people give up learning at a young age.

  2. This has always been an uneasy time for me watching how scared Jesus really was. It is a wake up time also for me, to see how He will suffer for all my sins and those of the whole world. I see the wickedness of the devil and all his wiling ways. Yes, but with this comes Easter Joy, love has conquered sin. Your painting is a good choice.

    1. It's not an easy painting, is it? Many depictions of Christ's Garden Agony make it look antiseptic, rather mild and easy.

  3. Even after seeing all, Jesus still died for us and granted us our salvation. The angel saved him so that he might save us. And I pray that we might be an angel to someone here on earth that might need to be saved.

    1. Now there's a good idea. Thank you! This angel is grabbing hold of Jesus who is going down.