The Agony In The Garden: Sin And The Soul

By Tony Capobianco

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Artwork Attribution: Jacopo Ligozzi Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the first sorrowful mystery, we find Jesus suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Within the Sacred Humanity of our Blessed Lord, we see the visceral effects of sin as He who is without sin allows Himself to bare the enormity of the sins of the whole world. Our first parents, Adam and Eve sinned and fell from grace in the Garden of Eden. Fittingly Jesus begins His Passion and Redemptive Hour in a garden. Sin entered the world in a garden and sin is undone in a garden. Adam and Eve disobeyed The Lord God and they found themselves naked and condemned to death. Jesus Christ is obedient to The Father’s Will, even to death on a cross and from Him and through Him, death itself is condemned. As Jesus endures His Passion for us, we can see as if in an inversion, the effects of sin on our souls manifested in the Sacred Flesh of Our Lord. 

In her book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich gives us a vivid depiction of the terrible ordeal Jesus suffered for us in the garden:

“When Jesus left his disciples, I saw a number of frightful figures surrounding him in an ever-narrowing circle.

His sorrow and anguish of soul continued to increase, and he was trembling all over when he entered the grotto to pray, like a wayworn traveller hurriedly seeking shelter from a sudden storm, but the awful visions pursued him even there, and became more and more clear and distinct. Alas! this small cavern appeared to contain the awful

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picture of all the sins which had been or were to be committed from the fall of Adam to the end of the world, and of the punishment which they deserved. It was here, on Mount Olivet, that Adam and Eve took refuge when driven out of Paradise to wander homeless on earth, and they had wept and bewailed themselves in this very grotto.

I felt that Jesus, in delivering himself up to Divine Justice in satisfaction for the sins of the world, caused his divinity to return, in some sort, into the bosom of the Holy Trinity, concentrated himself, so to speak, in his pure, loving and innocent humanity, and strong only in his ineffable love, gave it up to anguish and suffering.

He fell on his face, overwhelmed with unspeakable sorrow, and all the sins of the world displayed themselves before him, under countless forms and in all their real deformity. He took them all upon himself, and in his prayer offered his own adorable Person to the justice of his Heavenly Father, in payment for so awful a debt. But Satan, who was enthroned amid all these horrors, and even filled with diabolical joy at the sight of them, let loose his fury against Jesus, and displayed before the eyes of his soul increasing awful visions, at the same time addressing his adorable humanity in words such as these: 'Takest thou even this sin upon thyself? Art thou willing to bear its penalty? Art thou prepared to satisfy for all these sins?'

And now a long ray of light, like a luminous path. in the air, descended from Heaven; it was a procession of angels who came up to Jesus and strengthened and reinvigorated him. The remainder of the grotto was filled with frightful visions of our crimes; Jesus took them all upon himself, but that adorable Heart, which was so filled with the most perfect love for God and man, was flooded with anguish, and overwhelmed beneath the weight of so many abominable crimes. When this huge mass of iniquities, like the waves of a fathomless ocean, had passed over his soul, Satan brought forward innumerable temptations, as he had formerly done in the desert, even daring to adduce various accusations against him.” [] http://www.jesus-passion.com/THEPASSION.htm#CHAPTER%20I 

In choosing to sin mortally we choose to reject God’s Grace. Without God’s Grace, we drift into the darkness of the abyss. When we first sin, our conscience stings and informs us that something is amiss. This early warning system is possible because The Lord has written The Natural Law on our hearts. However, if the sinner is unrepentant then the intellect will grow darker and darker with each recurring or new sin. Essentially sin makes us stupid and blind. Ultimately if we continue committing grave sins we will eventually kill our God Given consciences and lose the ability to decipher right from wrong. A corrupted intellect can and will justify virtually any temptation as an acceptable choice to make. One mortal sin can easily turn into a hundred and then an entire lifetime of sin, if we refuse to repent and accept the Lord’s Infinite Mercy. In rejecting God’s Will, we eagerly exchange Truth for a lie and become slaves of a strong delusion. Initially concupiscence makes sin look attractive but after we satiate our desires we inevitably feel disappointed like a junkie coming down from a high. At the advanced stage the cycle continues and the sinner, like a drug addict looks for his next fix, just to get by. Sinful acts often become a tragically misguided attempt to feel something/anything, to fill the hole deep inside the spirit that can in reality only be filled by God. In St. Augustine’s classic book Confessions Book 1 he aptly writes: ”Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Filling the hole with created things instead of with The Creator Of All Things, causes agony, desolation and despair. 

When we commit mortal sin, we separate ourselves from God. This leads to guilt, fear, doubt, restlessness, anguish, anger, anxiety, loneliness, emptiness, apathy, and despair within our soul. If you have ever had the unfortunate experience of feeling the presence of a diabolical spirit, then I am sure that you can relate to the “heavy/vile feeling” that often accompanies them. The Damned, both fallen angels and humans, experience continuous agony for eternity. Disordered guilt, shame and condemnation that lead to despair are the fuel and weapons of the demons. Mortal Sins cause The Most Holy Trinity to depart from our interior lives and thereby leaves an opening for the devil and his demons to attack us. In a certain sense, when we commit mortal sin, we grant the demons certain rights over us and our lives. Once the demons have this foothold they will seduce you to sin further and then after you consent to the sin, they will accuse you and torment you. They will whisper ideas such as being worthless, unlovable, unforgivable, irredeemable, a detriment to your family and loved ones, and having a rotten dead soul that can only end up in Hell. Satan will fill your imagination with your past sins and obsess your mind with the evil that you have done in the past. He will incessantly suggest the evil that you may yet do in the future. This psychological and spiritual attack has one end in mind. That is to cause you to despair and abandon all hope and thought of The Living God. The Evil One hates you and wants you to be condemned to the second death and to the pit of Hell for all eternity. These diabolical lies and attacks weigh heavily on the mind of the person living out their own agony in the garden. 

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s vision of Christ’s Agony in the Garden vividly shows us that Jesus endured a psychological and spiritual torment from the Devil. According to Emmerich, Our Lord felt the combined weight of every sin from Adam and Eve till the end of the world. No matter how dark our depression, no matter how tempted we are to believe that we are alone, we absolutely must remember that we aren’t alone. Our Most Adorable Savior felt our personal depression and isolation combined with everyone else’s grief during His Agony in the Garden. Jesus Christ, The Only Begotten Son of The Father, faced down Satan, sin and death and Our Lord overcame them completely and definitively. As with all the Mysteries of the Life of Christ, we must particularly look to His Passion, Death and Resurrection. The weight of our sins will crush us without the liberating power of Christ and His Cross. We must repent from our sins, trust in His Promises and pick up our cross and follow Him. When we experience our own agony in the garden, we need to look to Christ and offer Him our suffering as a sacrifice and ask Him to have Mercy on us and Deliver us. Trusting that either in this life or the life to come, He will Deliver us from our agony in the garden.

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