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The Agony of Jesus

This meditation by Padre Pio is an excellent example of how the soul freely gives itself up to the movements of grace. Freely the various parts of meditation are interwoven; thoughts, affections, petitions flow naturally.

But do not make this meditation a mere study on prayer. Read it prayerfully, live the scenes with the author, share in his devout aspirations, affections, petitions, and especially his acts of love for Our Savior. It is a signal grace to enter ever more deeply into the mysteries of the Passion of Christ.

by Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, O.F.M. Cap.

Most Divine Spirit, enlighten and inflame me in meditating on the Passion of Jesus, help me to penetrate this mystery of love and suffering of a God, Who, clothed with our humanity, suffers, agonizes and dies for the love of the creature! ... The Eternal, the Immortal Who debases Himself to undergo an immense martyrdom, the ignominious death of the Cross, amidst insults, contempt and abuse, to save the creature which offended Him, and which wallows in the slime of sin. Man rejoices in his sin and his God is sad because of sin, suffers, sweats blood, amidst terrible agony of spirit. No, I cannot enter this wide ocean of love and pain unless Thou with Thy grace sustain me. Oh that I could penetrate to the innermost recesses of the Heart of Jesus to read there the essence of His bitterness, which brought Him to the point of death in the Garden; that I could comfort Him in the abandonment by His Father and His own. Oh that I could unite myself with Him in order to expiate with Him.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows, may I unite myself with Thee to follow Jesus and share His pains and Thy sufferings.

My Guardian Angel, guard my faculties and keep them recollected on Jesus suffering, so that they will not stray far from Him.

Arriving at the close of His earthly life, the Divine Redeemer, after having given Himself entirely to us as food and drink in the Sacrament of His love, and having nourished His Apostles with His Body and Blood Soul and Divinity, went with His own to the Garden of Olives, known to His disciples and also to Judas. Along the road which leads from the Cenacle to the Garden, Jesus teaches His disciples. He prepares them for the impending separation, for His imminent Passion, and prepares them to undergo, for love of Him, calumnies, persecution and death itself, to fashion in themselves Him, Who is their model.

“I shall be with you” and do not be troubled, O disciples, because the Divine promise will not fail. You will have a proof of this in the present solemn hour.

He is there to begin His dolorous Passion. Instead of thinking of Himself, He is all anxiety for you.

“There is no greater proof of love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.”

Oh what an immensity of love does this Heart contain! His face is covered with sadness and at the same time with love. His words proceed from His innermost Heart. He speaks with a profusion of affection, encouragement, comfort, and in comforting gives His promise. He explains the most profound mysteries of His Passion.

This journey of Thine, O Jesus, has always touched my heart with an increase of love so profound and so deep for those who love Thee, with increase of love that hurries to immolate itself for others, to ransom them from slavery. Thou hast taught that there is no greater proof of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And now Thou art about to put this seal on the proof of Thine own life. Who would not be overawed by such an oblation?

Arriving at the Garden the Divine Master withdrew apart from His disciples, taking along only three of them, Peter, James and John, to have them as witnesses of His sufferings. Would just these three, who had seen Him transfigured on Tabor between Moses and Elias, and who had confessed Him to be God, would they now have the strength to acknowledge the Man-God in pain and mortal anguish?

Entering the Garden He told them: “Remain here. Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation!” Be on your guard, He seems to say to them, because the enemy is not asleep. Arm yourself against him beforehand, with the weapon of prayer, so that you may not become involved and led into sin. It is the hour of darkness. Having thus admonished them he separates Himself from them about a stone’s throw and prostrates Himself on the ground.

He is extremely sad; His soul is a prey of indescribable bitterness. The night is advanced and bright. The moon shines in the sky, leaving shadows in the Garden. It seems to throw a sinister brightness, a foreboding of the grave and dreadful events to come, which make the blood tremble and freeze in the veins — it seems as if stained with blood. A wind, like the forerunner of the coming tempest agitates the olive trees and, together with the rustling of the leaves penetrates to the bones, like a messenger of death, descending into the soul and filling it with deadly grief.

Night most horrible, like which there will never be another!

“He deprived His most sacred human­ity of the strength be-stowed on it by His Divine Person, sub­mitting it to indefin­able sadness, extreme weakness, to dejec­tion and abandon­ment, to mortal anguish.”

What a contrast, O Jesus! How beautiful was the night of Thy birth, when Angels, leaping for joy, announced peace, singing the Gloria. And now, it seems to me, they surround Thee sadly, keeping at a respectful distance, as if respecting the supreme anguish of Thy spirit.

This is the place where Jesus came to pray. He deprived his most sacred humanity of the strength bestowed on it by His Divine Person, submitting it to indefinable sadness, extreme weakness, to dejection and abandonment, to mortal anguish. His spirit swims in these as a limitless ocean, and every moment seems about to be submerged. It brings before His spirit the entire sufferings of His imminent Passion, which, like a torrent that has overflowed its banks, pours into His Heart, torments, oppresses and submerges it in a sea of grief.

He sees first Judas, His disciple, loved so much by Him who sells Him for just a few coins; who is about to approach the Garden to betray Him and give Him over into the hands of His enemies. He! The friend, the disciple whom a little while before He had nourished with His Body and Blood ... prostrate before him He had washed his feet and pressed them to His Heart. He had kissed those feet with brotherly affection, as if by sheer force of love He wanted to hold him back from his impious, sacrilegious design, or at least, having committed the insane deed, he might enter into himself, recalling so many proofs of love, and perhaps would repent and be saved. But no, he goes to his ruin and Jesus weeps over his voluntary perdition.

He sees Himself bound and dragged by His enemies through the streets of Jerusalem, through those very streets through which only a few days before He passed triumphantly acclaimed as the Messiah ... He sees Himself before the High Priest beaten, declared guilty of death. He, the author of life also sees Himself led from one tribunal to another, into the presence of judges who condemn Him.

He sees His own people, so loved by Him, the recipients of so many of His benefits, who now maltreat Him with infernal howls and hissing, and with a great shout demand His death — the death on the Cross. He hears their unjust accusations, sees Himself condemned to the most awful scourging; crowned with thorns, derided, saluted as a mock-king and struck.

Finally He sees Himself condemned to the ignominious death of the Cross, then ascending to Calvary, fainting under the weight of the cross, pale and falling to the ground repeatedly. He sees Himself, arrived on Calvary, despoiled of His garments, stretched out on the Cross, pitilessly crucified, raised up on it in the sight of all. He hangs on the nails which cause excruciating torture ... Oh God, what a long agony of three hours will overwhelm Him amidst the insults of a crazed, heartless crowd.

He sees His throat and entrails on fire with a burning thirst, and to add to this agony, a drink of vinegar and gall. He sees the abandonment of His Father and the desolation of His Mother.

At the end, the ignominious death between two robbers; the one to acknowledge and confess Him as God and be saved, the other to blaspheme and insult Him and die in despair.

“He sees Himself before the High Priest beaten, de­clared guilty of death. He, the author of life also sees Himself led from one tribunal to another, into the presence of judges who condemn Him”

He sees Longinus approach and, as a final insult and contempt, pierce His side. Christ beholds the consummation of humiliation in the separation of soul and body.

Everything, everything, passes before Him, torments Him, terrifies Him, and this terror takes possession of Him, overwhelms Him. He trembles as if shaken by a violent fever. Fear also seizes Him, and His spirit languishes in mortal sadness.

He, the innocent Lamb, alone, thrown to the wolves, without any refuge ... He, the Son of God ... the Lamb dedicated voluntarily to be sacrificed for the glory of the same Father Who abandoned Him to the fury of the enemies of God, for the redemption of the human race; forsaken by those very disciples who shamefully flee from Him as from a most dangerous being. He, the Eternal Son of God has become the laughingstock of His enemies.

But, will He retreat? ... No, from the very beginning He embraces everything without reservation. Why then and whence this terror? Ah! He has exposed His humanity as a target to take upon Himself all the blows of divine justice offended by sin.

Vividly He feels in His naked spirit all that He must suffer; every single sin He must expiate with each single pain, and He is crushed because He has given over His humanity as a prey to weakness, terror, fear.

He seems to be at the extremity of suffering ... He is prostrate with His face to the ground before the majesty of His Father. The Sacred Face of Him Who enjoys through the hypostatic union the beatific vision of the Divine Glory accorded to both Angels and Saints in Heaven, lies disfigured on the ground. My God! My Jesus! Art Thou not the God of Heaven and earth, equal in all things to Thy Father, Who humiliates Thee to the point of losing even the semblance of man?

“He seems to be at the extremity of suf­fering ... He is pros­trate with His face to the ground before the majesty of His Father”

Ah Yes! I understand. It is to teach me, proud man, that to deal with Heaven I must abase myself down to the center of the earth. It is to repair and expiate for my haughtiness, that Thou bowest down thus before Thy Father. It is to direct His pitying glance upon humanity, which has turned away from Him by rebellion. It is because of Thy humiliation that He forgives the proud creature. It is in order to reconcile earth with Heaven, that Thou abasest Thyself down to it, as if to give it the kiss of peace. O Jesus, mayest Thou be blessed and thanked always and by all men for all Thy mortifications and humiliations by which Thou hast atoned for us to God to Whom Thou has united us in the embrace of holy love!

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