If you didn’t know the significance of the 13,000 square foot space, you’d see it as a peaceful, little garden dotted with olive trees. However, it is so much more meaningful than that. Overlooking the Garden of Gethsemane last October, the site stirred intense emotions within me. I longed to cross the ornate iron fence that secured it and actually walk on that ground to ponder more fully.
The Garden of Gethsemane is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives, just above the Kidron Valley, in Jerusalem. Gethsemane comes from the Aramaic word gath semanim meaning “oil press.” The site is considered sacred as it is where Jesus often met his disciples (John 18:2, Luke 22:39) and the area in which he prayed prior to his arrest and crucifixion (See Mark 14:32-50 and Matthew 26:36-56). The Eastern Orthodox Church also recognizes the garden as the location where the Virgin Mary was buried and assumed into heaven after her dormition on Mount Zion.
Gethsemane is adjacent to the Church of All Nations which enshrines what is said to be the exact section of the bedrock from the garden where Jesus prayed. The church was built on the site of two ancient churches, one which was destroyed by an earthquake in 746 and a 12th century chapel built by the Crusaders that was abandoned in 1345.
On his last night in the garden, Jesus admittedly was concerned. He told Peter, James, and John that he was deeply grieved even to death and asked them to stay awake while he prayed. In fact, Jesus asked them three times. Each time, Jesus returned to find his friends asleep.
We can condemn Peter, James, and John for their failure to oblige Jesus’s request, but hanging over that iron fence of the Garden of Gethsemane, I had to ask myself, “Am I awake with Jesus?”
Pray the first Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden, with my book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer.
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