The agony of Jesus –
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Benot XVI: the power of lies and pride
2. The Lord’s Prayer
We have five accounts of the prayer on the Mount of Olives which now follow: first in the three Synoptic Gospels (cf. mt 26.36-46; Mc 14.32-42; lc 22.39-46); to this is added a brief passage in L’gospel of john, which however is inserted by John in the series of discourses given in the Temple on Palm Sunday (cf. 12,27f.); and finally a text of the Letter to the Hebrews, which is based on a particular tradition (cf. 5,7s.). Let us now try, paying attention to all these texts, to come as close as possible to the mystery of this hour of Jesus.
After the common ritual recitation of the Psalms, Jesus prays alone – as on so many nights before. However, he leaves close to him the group of three – which we know thanks to other contexts, in particular through the story of the Transfiguration: Peter, James and John. Thus, even if they are repeatedly overcome by sleep, they become witnesses to his nocturnal combat. Mark tells us that Jesus begins to feel dread and anguish. The Lord said to the disciples: My soul is sad in dying; Stay here and watch (14.33s.).
The invitation to vigilance has already been a background theme of the announcement in Jerusalem and now it appears here with imminent urgency. However, while being linked precisely to this hour, this call refers in advance to the future history of Christianity.
The drowsiness of the disciples remains throughout the centuries the favorable occasion for the powers of evil.
This drowsiness is a numbness of the soul which does not allow itself to be moved by the power of evil in the world, by all the injustice and all the suffering which devastates the earth. It is an insensitivity which prefers not to perceive all this; she reassures herself by telling herself that basically all this is not so serious, in order to be able to remain thus in the enjoyment of a life satisfied with herself. But this insensitivity of the souls, this lack of vigilance both with regard to the close presence of God and with regard to the threatening power of evil, confers on the Evil One a power over the world. In the presence of the sleepy disciples, unwilling to be alarmed, the Lord said: My soul is sad to die of it. It’s a word from Psalm 43.5, where we also find other expressions of the Psalms.
Also in his Passion – on the Mount of Olives as on the Cross – Jesus speaks of himself and God the Father, using the words of the Psalms. But these words, taken from the Psalms, have become completely personal. They are absolutely proper to Jesus in his proof: he is in fact the true prayer of these Psalms, their true subject. The most personal prayer and the action of praying with the words of invocation of believing and suffering Israel are here one and the same thing.
After this exhortation to vigilance, Jesus moves away a little. Then begins the actual prayer of the Mount of Olives. Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus falls face down – it is the attitude of prayer that expresses absolute submission to the will of God, the most radical abandonment to him; it is an attitude that the Western liturgy still foresees on Good Friday both for monastic Profession as well as for diaconal ordination, as well as for priestly and episcopal ordinations.
Luke says, however, that Jesus prays on his knees. From this position of prayer, he introduces this nocturnal fight of Jesus in the context of the history of Christian prayer: tiene, during his stoning, bends his knees and prays (cf. Ac 7.60); Peter kneels before resurrecting Tabitha (cf. Ac 9.40); Paul kneels as he takes leave of the elders of Ephesus (cf. Ac20.36), and again when the disciples told him not to go up to Jerusalem (cf. Ac, 21.5). In this regard, A. Stger remarks: All those, in the face of death, pray on their knees; martyrdom can only be endured through prayer. Jesus is the model of the martyrs (Das Evangelium nach Lukas, p. 247).
Then comes true prayer in which the whole drama of our redemption is present. Mark begins by saying, in summary, that Jesus prayed that if possible, this hour would pass away from him (14:35). Then he thus relates the essential phrase of Jesus’ prayer: Abba (Father)! everything is possible for you: take this cup away from me; yet not what I want, but what you want! (14.36s.).
We can distinguish three elements in this prayer of Jesus. There is first of all the primordial experience of fear, the confusion before the power of death, the terror before the abyss of nothingness which makes him tremble and even, according to Luke, makes him shed a sweat like drops of blood (cf. 22.44). In John (cf. 12.27), this upheaval is expressed, as in the Synoptics, with reference to Psalm 43.5, but using a word which makes particularly evident the abyssal character of the fear of Jesus: tetraktai – it’s the same word
tarssein which John uses to show Jesus’ deep turmoil before the tomb of Lazarus (cf. 11.33), as well as his inner turmoil when in the Cnacle he announces the betrayal of Judas (cf. 13.21).
In this way, John no doubt expresses the primordial anguish of the creature at the approach of death, but there is nevertheless something more: the particular turmoil of Him who is the very Life before the abyss of all power of destruction, of evil, of that which opposes God and which now overwhelms him, which he must now and without delay take upon himself, much more, which he must welcome within himself to the point of being personally made pch (2 Co 5.21).
And precisely because he is the Son, he can see with extreme clarity the whole filthy pool of evilall the power lies and prideall the cunning and atrocity of evil who puts on him the mask of life and works continually
destroy being, disfigure and annihilate life. Precisely because he is the Son, he proves in depth the horror, all the disgust and the perfidy that he must drink in this chalice which is intended for him : all the power of sin and death. It is all of this that he must welcome within himself, so that in him all of this may be deprived of power and conquered.
Bultmann rightly says: Jesus is there not only as the prototype in whom the behavior demanded of man becomes visible in an exemplary way… but he is also and above all the Revealer, the one whose only choice makes human option possible. for God in such an hour (p. 328). The anguish of Jesus is something much more radical than the anguish that assails every man in the face of death: it is the very clash between light and darkness, between life and death – the real drama of the choice that characterizes human history. In this sense, we can, with Pascal and in a completely personal way, apply the event of the Mount of Olives to ourselves: my sin, too, was present in this chalice of horror. These drops of blood, I shed them for you, such are the words that Pascal hears like him so many addresses by the Lord in agony on the Mount of Olives (cf.
Think VII 553).
The two parts of Jesus’ prayer appear as the opposition of two wills: the natural will
of the man Jesus, who balks at the monstrous and destructive aspect of the event and who would like to ask that the chalice be moved away; and the will of the Son , who abandons himself entirely to the will of the Father. If we want, as much as possible, to try to understand this mystery of the two wills, it is useful for us to take a look once again at the Johannine version of this prayer. Also in John we find the two requests of Jesus:
Pre, save me from this hour ! ;
Pre, glorify your name ! (12.27s.).
In John, the link between the two requests is not fundamentally different from that found in the Synoptics. The torment of Jesus’ human soul (my soul is troubled; Bultmann translates I am afraid, p. 327), prompts Jesus to ask to be saved from this hour. But the awareness of his mission, the fact that he has come precisely for this hour, makes him utter the second request – the request that God glorify his name. The Cross precisely, the acceptance of this horrible thing, the fact of entering into the ignominy of the annihilation of personal dignity, into the ignominy of an infamous death, all this becomes the glorification of the name of God. It is indeed precisely in this way that God manifests himself for what he is: the God who, in the abyss of his love, in the fact of giving himself, opposes all the powers of evil the true power of good. These demands Jesus made both of them, but the first, that of being saved, merges with the second, which asks for the glorification of God in the realization of his will – and thus the opposition in human existence. intimate of Jesus is recomposed in unity.
Table volume 2
1. The date of the Last Supper
2. The institution of the Eucharist ►
3. The theology of the words of the institution ►Benedict XVI
4. From the Supper to the Sunday morning Eucharist
1. On the march to the Mount of Olives
2. The Lord’s Prayer ►
3. The will of Jesus and the will of the Father
Jesus of Nazareth, volume 1
Sources: Original text of the writings of the Holy Father Benoit XVI –
This document is intended for information; it is not an official document
Eucharist sacrament of mercy –