Thursday, March 24, 2005

Maundy Thursday 

Gauguin, the Agony in the Garden

Maundy Thursday ('Maundy' means 'Command' as in Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another) is mostly associated with Jesus washing the feet of his Apostles, showing them what it means to be a true servant. But Holy Thursday is also when Christ suffered the Agony in the Garden (which is the title of Gauguin's painting above). Perhaps because I'm reading Emmerich's "The Dolorous Passion" or perhaps because we are all so focused on the events surrounding the starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo in Florida, but for whatever reason, the Agony calls out to me more this year than the Washing of Feet.

Anne Catherine Emmerich describes Jesus as a true scapegoat in the Garden of Gethsemani, sinless, but taking on all sins. She has Christ alone, his Apostles nearby, but asleep, as Satan taunts Him with the sins of all Mankind. The images of all of the sins of the world from the beginning to the end flood into Jesus and He understands completely the burden He must take on for us... for me. Satan dances around out of reach saying, "Who can take all these sins on, surely not you, you can't even stop your own disciples from sinning." If the image sounds like it came from the opening of Gibson's "The Passion" that's because Gibson's script was informed by this book.

It would be easy to compare the Apostles sleeping while Christ suffers the Agony with so many, today, ignoring the starvation of Terri Schiavo. But that comparison is really too simple. So very many people are praying today, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you." So many, too, are adding "Yet your will, not mine, be done." Perhaps it is throwing stones to point out the sin of what is being done in Florida (yet another sin heaped upon the Agony of Christ) and yet ignore the weight each of us has added to the burden on the Cross.

The Agony in the Garden is one of the sorrowful mysteries. The death of Terri Schiavo will not be a mystery: we see the cause, the decisions, and the result, even if we don't understand the purpose. What can our response be, this Maundy Thursday? I think, when our representatives are having our priest wash their feet this evening, I will be quiet and still -- like a sleeping Apostle, unaware of the scope of sins falling on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. I don't know what else to do.

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