The Prayer of Gethsemane

A Hymn to the Theotokos

Weep not for Me, O Mother, beholding in the sepulcher the Son whom thou hast conceived without seed in thy womb.  For I shall arise and be glorified, and as God I shall exalt in everlasting glory those who magnify thee with faith and love.  (Ninth Irmos of the Holy Saturday Matins Canon, The Lenten Triodion, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, p. 51)

The Prayer of Gethsemane

This is the title of a Chapter in the book, His Life is Mine by Archmandrite Sophrony.  Now that we are in Holy Week I plan to quote something from the aforementioned Chapter and so, pass on a thought for consideration.  This will also serve as an introduction to an articles I will soon post: “Development of Personhood in Christ as a Calling to pray for the World.”  Archmandrite Sophrony believes that the prayer of our Lord in Gethsemane was a prayer for the salvation of all mankind.  And this is something to think about as we approach Holy Friday: What should we pray for at that time?  Maybe we need to think how the world seems to have basically rejected our Lord Jesus Christ and pray for the salvation of all.  So now a quote from Father Sophrony’s book, His life is Mine:

Christ’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is the noblest of all prayers by its virtue and power to atone for the sins of the world.  Offered to the Eternal God the Father in a spirit of divine love it continues to shine, a light that cannot be extinguished, for ever drawing to itself the souls that have preserved their likeness to God.  Christ included the whole human race in this prayer, from the first Adam to the last man to be born of woman.    We lack existential knowledge of such love and so its permanent significance is hidden from us.  Victorious in eternity, Christ’s love on the earthly plane spells extreme suffering.  No one has ever known such suffering as Christ endured.  He descended into hell, into the most painful hell of all, the hell of love.  This is a sphere of existence which can only be apprehended through spiritual love—of love that has been granted us to know from on High.  It is vital to have experienced, if only once, the heavenly fire which Christ brought with him; to know with our entire being what it is to be even a little like Christ….

When, as I have said, a shadow of a likeness to the Gethsemane prayer is granted him, man then transcends the boundaries of his own individuality and enters into a new form of being—personal being in the likeness of Christ.  By participating in the sufferings of his Divine love, we, too, in spirit can experience a little of his death and of the power of his resurrection.  “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death” (in deep prayer for the world and consuming desire for the salvation of all) “we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6.5).  when it is given to us from on high to enter this new sphere of Being, we arrive at “the ends of the world” (ICor. 10.11) and pass into the light of Divine Eternity.

And every man on whom God has bestowed the rare and dread privilege of knowing to a minute degree the agony of Christ’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane will stumble on, slowly and painfully, to a cogent awareness of the resurrection of his own soul and a perception of Christ’s undeniable, ineluctable victory.  He will know “that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him” (Rom. 6.9)  And now, O Christ, by the gift of Thy love which passeth all understanding I, too, have crossed from death to life…

Now—I am. (pp. 91, 95)