St Luke 22: 39-46

St Luke 22:

39 Et egressus ibat secundum consuetudinem in monte Olivarum. Secuti sunt autem illum et discipuli. 40 Et cum pervenisset ad locum, dixit illis: Orate ne intretis in tentationem. 41 Et ipse avulsus est ab eis quantum jactus est lapidis: et positis genibus orabat, 42 dicens: Pater, si vis, transfer calicem istum a me: verumtamen non mea voluntas, sed tua fiat. 43 Apparuit autem illi angelus de cælo, confortans eum. Et factus in agonia, prolixius orabat. 44 Et factus est sudor ejus sicut guttæ sanguinis decurrentis in terram. 45 Et cum surrexisset ab oratione et venisset ad discipulos suos, invenit eos dormientes præ tristitia. 46 Et ait illis: Quid dormitis? surgite, orate, ne intretis in tentationem.

 [39] And going out, he went, according to his custom, to the mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him. [40] And when he was come to the place, he said to them: Pray, lest ye enter into temptation.[41] And he was withdrawn away from them a stone' s cast; and kneeling down, he prayed, [42] Saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. [43] And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. [44] And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. [45] And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow.[46] And he said to them: Why sleep you? arise, pray, lest you enter into temptation.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 39.—And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the mount of Olives. Bede gives the reason of this: “The Lord, when about to be delivered up, came to the retirement of this accustomed place, that He might be found the more easily. Where are they who maintained that He feared death, and was crucified against His will? Christ was wont, in these last days of His life, to preach in the temple by day, and to retire at night to the mount of Olives to pray. This, Judas, as being an Apostle, and a companion of Christ knew; and hence he came to this mountain with his followers, and there betrayed and delivered up Christ to them.”

Ver. 43.—And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven. The angel appeared in a body assumed visibly that he might comfort the eyes and ears of Christ by his appearance and voice. Jansenius thinks that the angel appeared at each of Christ’s three prayers, and therefore comforted Him three times, to teach us that God always hears those who pray, and gives them grace and strength unceasingly. F. Lucas, and others, think with more reason, that the angel only appeared once, at the third and last prayer, and comforted Him when He prayed more earnestly, and sweated blood, to show that we ought to persevere in prayer, and that the fruit of such perseverance is the comfort of God, and the vision of angels. For after this consolation from the Father by the angel, the agony of Christ seems to have passed away, and He appears to have prayed no more but to have prepared bravely for death. This angel was Gabriel, says Gabriel Vasquez (I. p. tom. ii. disbut. 244, No. 3), for Gabriel has his name from his fortitude, Gabriel being Geber-el the man of God, or Gebura-el the fortitude of God; for he has the office of comforting the weak, afflicted, and fearful. But he comforted Christ not by strengthening His weakness, but by praising His surpassing fortitude. Lud. de Pont. thinks the same in his “Meditation on the Agony of Christ in the Garden,” because Gabriel was the legate and messenger of the œconomy of Christ, as at the Incarnation (Luke i. 26), and of the seventy weeks of Daniel, which foretold the time of the nativity of Christ.

Others, however, as F. Lucas, think that it was Michael, for he is the highest of all angels, and it became him, as such, to perform this office for the supreme God, that is Christ.

Strengthening Him. “The praise and due adoration of Christ,” says Titus, “being premised,” he comforted Christ by speaking to Him outwardly and setting before Him the will and glory of the Father, and the rich fruit which would ensue, both to Christ Himself, to men, and to angels, from His Passion. For the angel could not affect the inner mind of Christ, nor immediately change His inner powers. And as He could only be tempted by Satan, externally, so He could only be comforted by the angel outwardly. He could not be taught nor illuminated by him, for He was above all angels, and from the first moment of His conception, was full of wisdom and knowledge. So say the schoolmen with S. Thomas (3. p. q. 12, art. 4): The angel spoke the following, or like words to Christ, “0 Lord, bravest of men, Thy prayer is most acceptable to Thy Father; because, notwithstanding Thy natural dread of death, Thou resignedst Thyself wholly to the will of the Father boldly to undergo the death appointed for Thee by Him. Lay aside therefore this Thy horror and grief with which Thou hast voluntarily invested Thyself, and reassume Thy former mind and strength, and come bravely to the work of human Redemption, by which Thou wilt most signally celebrate the glory of God, rejoice the angels, redeem men from Hell, and bring them back to the glories of heaven. Endure the cross for the joy that is offered Thee, as the future author and perfector of the faith of very many. Heb. xii. 2. Thus Thou wilt cause SS. Peter and Paul, Laurentius, Vincentius, Agnes, Cœcilia and very many other martyrs and virgins, men, and noble heroes and heroines boldly to undergo martyrdom for God, and the faithful, with other holy men, who triumphed gloriously over the flesh, the world, and the devil. I know that Thou, 0 Lord, hast no need of any strengthening of mine, who am myself strengthened by Thee both to be and to live; but, that this my ministry which I execute as a steward at the command of God Thy Father may be acceptable to Thee, I pray again and again.”

Theophylact thinks that the angel spoke thus, “0 Lord, Thine is the strength, for thou art powerful against death and hell, to set free the race of men.”

Ver. 44.—And being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly. The “et” here in the Hebrew is causal, and means quia, because. That is, the angel comforted Him; because being in an agony and praying more earnestly, He sweated blood, and then appeared to need comfort, and to merit it. The following, was the order of events. Christ had prayed the first and second time, but felt no help of God. Then His feeling growing on Him, He, permitting the agony (that is, a more vehement horror and anguish) to arise in Himself, He sweated blood. To overcome this, He prayed a third time more earnestly, teaching us that as temptation increases our prayers should increase equally. The angel therefore appeared to Him immediately, comforting Him; whereupon He ceased to pray and to fear, and to grieve, and, suppressing and overcoming His agony, He manfully prepared Himself for His Passion, and went forth of His own accord to meet Judas.

More earnestly. The Greek is ε̉κτενέστεζον, that is, more exclusively, more intensely. For this, as appears from SS. Matthew and Mark, was the third prayer of Christ, and He appears to have remained in it longer. More earnestly, because, as the anguish pressed upon Him, Christ, to overcome it, at once directed the contention of His mind, by praying; and He prayed with a more intense feeling and ardour. Luke includes in one as in a compendium, the three prayers of Matthew and Mark, and therefore relates some things of it, which took place in the first and second, and some which took place in the third.

And His sweat was as it were great drops of blood. The Greek has θζόμβοι, gouts, thick masses. The Arabic and S. Irenæus have globi. The Arabic says, “His sweat was (made) as distilling blood descending on the ground.”

Note.  Firstly, Some copies have nothing about this bloody sweat, as S. Hilary shows (De Trinit. lib. x.); S. Jerome (lib. ii. against Pelagius), lest men should ascribe infirmity of mind and weakness to Christ. But now all versions, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, have the same account, so it is certainly to be read, according to the agreement of the Council of Trent, Session IV.

Secondly, Christ is said to have sweated blood not improperly or as a by-word, and an allegory, as we say of one who is grievously afflicted and tormented, “he sweats blood,” as Euthymius and Theophylact explain it—but truly and properly. Hence the words “as it were” denote not resemblance but the truth. So SS. Hilary, Jerome, Augustine passim. The Ethiopic renders it plainly, “And His sweat was made as the sweat of blood flowing down upon the earth.” The Persian agrees with it. S. Athanasius, also, in his sixth book to Theophilus, which is on the Beatitude of the Son of God, says, “Anathema to those who deny that Christ sweated true blood.”

S. Bernard, treating of this prayer of Christ in the garden, says, “Not only with His eyes does He seem to have wept, but, as it were, with all His members, that His whole Body, which is the Church, might be the more effectually purged by His tears” (Serm. 3 on Palm Sunday). The love of Christ indeed was not content with the watery tears of His eyes, but wished, by the bloody tears of His whole Body, to lament and blot out our sins, and these tears of Christ were most efficacious with God the Father. “For,” says S. Irenæus (Lib. v. cap. i.) “the blood of Christ has a voice and ‘speaketh better things than that of Abel,’ Heb. xii. 24. The blood of Abel calls for vengeance, that of Christ for mercy.”

Symbolically, “the reason was,” says S. Augustine, “that Christ might show that from His whole Body would proceed the passions of martyrs” (Seutent. sent. 68). Again, “The blood of Christ,” says Bede, “flowed down upon the earth to show that men of the earth would be moistened by it.”

Ver. 45.—And when He rose up from prayer. For sorrow contracts the heart, and hinders the vital and subtle spirits from being sent to the head; wherefore the black and crass vapours which are the cause of sleep, invade the brain. But there is a hysteron proteron here. For these things happened before the bloody sweat which took place in the third prayer of Christ, while the former happened in the first prayer, as is clear from SS. Matthew and Mark. The reason is that S. Luke compresses the three prayers into one, and unites what happened at different times in the three prayers as if they had been done in one and the same. For after the first prayer, Christ, visiting the Apostles and finding them asleep, said as follows,

Ver. 46.—And said unto them, Why sleep ye? See what has been said on Matthew xxvi. xxvii.

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