Commentary on Father's Médaille's Contemplation of the Mystery of the Agony:

Throughout each person's life there comes a time of deep crisis. This can express itself in either an interior or exterior form, in a physical or spiritual "agony of soul". When this happens our whole humanity participates in the awesome purifying and transforming mystery. It may be that one has lost one's career or one's reputation, or perhaps one has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer or maybe it comes in an intensely felt absence of God. Whatever the "agony" for any particular person, and depending upon the intensity and length of our "night of soul", one's whole mind, body and spirit all share in the anguish, fright and dread of the impending situation and our future.

Father Médaille's contemplation of this mystery of the "agony" in Jesus' life shows us "what wonderful lessons I can learn from this mystery!" He introduces this mystery with a renewal of desire, both Jesus' desire and ours. He recalls: "At the beginning of your Last Supper, you revealed an intense desire to suffer and to die for us. "I have desired," you said, "with desire" (but to what excess of ardour this desire went!) to eat this pasch with you." Oh, how this ardour urges me on until the moment when I consume it!"

We see here how Father Médaille has combined the mystery of self-emptying love in the Eucharist and the mystery of self-emptying love in suffering. The desire to die to oneself and one's will so as to give life and nourishment and salvation to others is what motivates Jesus' action in both. A continual communion in love with the Father is what unites them and brings forth their fruition. "In this sacred mystery we have not only the example of all the sublime virtues but also the graces to help practice them." Father would have us ask ourselves, "Should I not ardently desire to suffer and die for you?" The grace to be able to respond "would acknowledge the benefits" that Jesus' act of redemption accomplished for all persons. It is only by being filled and animated by Jesus that one is enabled to "desire to suffer and die for you, Jesus."

So just how is one to "exercise" oneself in and through this night of crisis. We face obstacles and blocks within our psyche. We seem paralyzed to shift our pattern of thinking. We are engaged in an interior agony that becomes a contest or conflict between flesh and spirit. Like Jesus, we too must return to the Garden of Gethsemane three times before the resolution breaks through. Alone, in prayer the conflict ruptures and we come through to a redeeming and transforming effect which reconciles the conflicting opposites. The source of our new strength constellated by the intense and prolonged prayer is personified by the "ministering angel". We know inwardly a deep peace and can get up and leave the garden... to carry out whatever our destiny calls us to.

We observe with Father Médaille the humanity of Jesus as he undergoes his critical hours and we discover that it has actually driven him into an intense period of physical solitude in the Garden - probably a familiar place of prayer. But this time, Jesus is to be completely alone with his Father. Not even "the three chosen to witness the bloody agony" were with you. The Gethsemane experience is plagued by sleepiness. Even though Jesus pleads with them to stay awake and watch with Him... they sleep, they drift into unconsciousness... maybe to avoid or deny the reality before them. It's just too painful.

It will be true in our own experience that in the throes of our agony of soul we are actually driven into solitude. Family, friends and possibly even our spiritual guides must leave us for awhile. There seems to be only one refuge for the soul in this state - GOD ALONE. With all the heroism one can muster in one's heart, one knows one must plunge into the very core of the crisis in raw vulnerability and humbled reverence before God. There is a starkness to the inner poverty felt in this hour. It smarts to the core of our being! It really is a dying! The body's anguish of "blood, sweat and tears" is the outward extraction from this deep and agonizing reconciliation of wills that is going on in one's soul.

When we contemplate Jesus in his anguish of soul in the Garden we are appalled by "the terrors and horrors your sensitive soul endured and the physical pain that reduced you to an agony of shedding a copious sweat of blood." The humanity of Jesus passed through this night in all the entirety of his person. He taught us what to do in such an hour of crisis:

"Grant, Jesus, that I learn through these examples, to have recourse
to God in perfect confidence in my greatest sorrows.
... that I learn through them courageously to surrender to all
God's plans, and in my sorrows always to say: "My dear Father,
may your will, not mine, be done."

The simple and clear directive is "GO TO GOD." Usually God has brought one into such a solitude and place of deep communion with Him already. It may be a hospital bed, or a desert retreat, or an addiction recovery centre... whatever, God is already in that place waiting to receive us and hear our anguished cry from the depths of our being. There is something profoundly real and essential about this stark aloneness with God. Carl Jung spoke about this radical moment of decision in these words:

"The highest and most decisive experience of all... is to be alone with
one's own self, or whatever else one chooses to call the objectivity of
the psyche. The patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that
supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience
can give him an indestructible foundation."

(C. Jung, as quoted in The Christian Archetype, p. 74)

Father Médaille has us gaze into the Garden of Gethsemane and see how Jesus prays when he comes into this aloneness with his Father facing fully the realization that he is destined to be crucified! "It is here especially that I learn to pray well." Father Médaille contemplates upon the manner of Jesus' prayer, especially the interior dispositions that filled his communion with His Father. He mentions not a word that they spoke to each other, but the power of the silence was itself enough to bear his soul up to God. The Scriptures give us only these words: "Father, let this cup pass from Me, but not as I will but as you will." Sometimes the interior reality of one's resignation to God's will is simply an intense silence, but one "knows" it is done, it is all done now.

This is how Jesus prayed:

-"You humbled yourself with deep reverence in the presence of your Father.

-You made your prayer to Him, prostrate, face on the ground, reduced to agony under the genuine fear to which you had surrendered your humanity.

-You prolonged and renewed your prayer with even greater fervour.
-Through the intensity and deep reverence of your request, you merited to be heard.
-Withdrawing from your prayer and filled with a holy courage and eagerness you went forward to meet the suffering that had filled you with fear to the point of sweating blood."

Quite often our prayer is just such a prostration, an exhaustion, a falling flat on one's face. Oh, that our prayer in such times might be filled with the interior dispositions of Jesus' loving surrender. The sorrows and crisis of our lives have a potential for emptying us of our own wills, our own plans, our own desires and filling us with God's will, God's plan and God's desire. Our only peace in the sorrow or crisis will come when we surrender to God's will. It happens all at once in the moment and we are moved forward in whatever way is according to God's plan for us. It may be a moving forward to our personal death in peaceful acceptance, or a moving forward to a radically new lifestyle in serene faith and trust or it may be a moving forward to gratefully accept a disabling disease or chronic illness. Whatever it is, there will be a peace surpassing understanding in the doing of God's will! Our fears will be transformed into courage and our non-acceptance ("Let this cup pass") will be transformed into whole-hearted loving acceptance "(Let it be done.") With Father Médaille we pray: "When will my prayer have the dispositions and perfections of yours! O Jesus, pray through me and with me. Grant that I may draw from my prayer such fruits as you willed to draw from your own."

Before we leave the Garden Prayer, we might just pause awhile to deepen our contemplation of the graced moment of break-through that the whole person of Jesus underwent. The characteristics of his prayer that night were most important - solitary, humble, reverent, prolonged! We have in these later years gleaned insight and confirmation from the depth psychologists that the source of one's inner strength is constellated by prayer or active imagination. "As a psychological procedure prayer corresponds to active imagination, whereby one seeks to bring into visibility the psychic image or fantasy that lies behind the conflict of affects." Carl Jung goes on to describe just how helpful and necessary it is to find the images that lie behind the emotions we are suffering. He writes in Memories, Dreams and Reflections:

"To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images -
that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions
- I was inwardly calmed and reassured. Had I left those images hidden
in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them... As a result
of my experiment I learned how helpful it can be, from the therapeutic
point of view, to find the particular images which lie behind emotions."

(p. 74 - quoted in The Christian Archetype)


For Jesus "the cup" was the image that his psyche released for him. This image held the terrible emotions of terror, fright, abandonment, failure, dread of pain... These emotions were nearly tearing his humanity to pieces - in the "copious sweat of blood". When he spoke to his Father about drinking the cup "if that be his will", there was an inward calm and courage and consolation that flooded into his whole humanity. He got up and "went forward to meet the suffering that had filled him with fear."

As Father Médaille saw, too, that was the fruit of his prayer." He wanted us to learn how to pray like this especially in the critical hours of our lives. In my spiritual direction ministry, I have invited persons "to find the particular images that lie behind their intense emotions". The images may be given in prayer or in dreams. Relating with "the image" - getting the attention off the intense emotion - the person undergoes a transaction that redeems the situation and moves him/her forward in serenity and consolation.