I - The Garden of Gethsemane
"Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, 'My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.' He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.' When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, 'So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'"
(This post is part of a Lenten series on praying the Stations of the Cross - a devotional practice that is said to have started with Mary after the death and resurrection of Jesus. To start at the beginning, see the overview provided on March 5, 2023, and then go from there!)
As his time of deepest suffering commenced, Jesus did here what he had done throughout his earthly life – he grounded down into a connection with his Father. When filled with sorrow, feeling distressed, abandoned by his disciples, and longing for relief, prayer was the only way for him to stay true to his mission and find what he needed through it all.
Seeing Jesus down on his knees here, on the ground, I am struck by the humanity with which he clothed himself. Representation matters, and Jesus looks like us here – fully human. He is earthy, weak, and vulnerable. He brings God’s redemptive plan from within our earthy reality rather than imposing it from without. God still works this way now – in the earthiness of the sorrow, distress, abandonment, and longing for relief that we feel, we find what we need by grounding down into a connection with our Father.
Jesus is living here practical echoes of what he just prayed with his disciples before they walked to the Garden. “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you… Remain in me as I remain in you… I am the vine, you are the branches…“ (John 14:20, 15:4a & 5) This “remaining” turned out to be really hard for the disciples (they couldn’t even stay awake in the Garden while he was suffering), and it’s hard for me too. But Jesus’ earthy example shows that we can keep coming back to be grounded once again in God, who is the source of all we need through whatever we go through.
A note about mindfulness
How does this relate to mindfulness? I often experience mindfulness practice as a grounding down into what is deeper, calmer, and truer than the swirl of thoughts and feelings that normally consume my attention. Starting a prayer practice with mindful awareness of thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and urges/behaviors in the moment can be a way of noticing what we bring into God's presence. Then we allow all of that to be, just as it is, and ground our attention into the presence of God. Just like Jesus did, prostrate in the Garden of Gethsemane.
(For a list of mindfulness practices that can be useful in grounding your attention as you pray the Stations of the Cross, check out the Guides for Practice available here.)
Image Credit: Cathedral of St. Andrew
Artist: Suzanne Young
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I am Irene Kraegel. I am licensed as a clinical psychologist and teach mindfulness on a faith-based university campus. I practice mindfulness because it opens me up to God (a.k.a. brings joy). I am writing here in hopes of sharing some of my experiences and thoughts related to the practice of mindfulness in the life of a Christian. Thanks for reading!
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