Agony in the Garden: Contrition by Cassandra Poppe

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“We offer Thee, O Lord Jesus, this sixth decade in honor of Thy mortal Agony in the Garden of Olives and we ask of Thee, through this Mystery and through the intercession of Thy Blessed Mother, perfect sorrow for our sins and the virtue of obedience to Thy Holy Will.”  (St. Louis de Montfort)

All Catholics would agree that Jesus was always fully God and fully human throughout His time on earth.  But certain events in scripture seem to highlight one of these natures more than another.

His Godly nature, of course, was most apparent whenever He performed His public miracles. His human nature, however, took center stage in His more private moments, usually when dealing privately with a person, or when He experienced suffering.  But nowhere in scripture do we observe His human nature more clearly than during the events that took place in the garden.  For it is here where we watch His Godly nature gently recede into the background, bringing forward His human nature for us to behold – almost appearing as though He were reduced to a mere mortal, placing His last hours on earth at the feet of God Almighty, and asking for God’s mercy while He suffered in agony.

Agony, by general definition, is the intense physical, mental or spiritual suffering humans face right before death.  Our Lord’s greatest suffering came in the form of spiritual agony.  He had not yet received a single physical blow to His body, but He did see His Passion – how every drop of His Most Precious Blood would trickle or gush forth for each of our sins.

Every name and face of every person was before Him, and He loved each soul unto His death.  Yet He knew the vast numbers of people who would defiantly turn from His great sacrifice, making all His suffering for them in vain.  These thoughts tormented Him to such an extreme, He required an angel to administer to Him, lest He perish before His Passion was complete!

Meditate on this a few moments and perhaps you will begin to open yourself up to receiving the first great grace we pray for in this mystery: the grace of perfect contrition.

In simplest terms, perfect contrition is sorrow for your sins out of love for the one you sinned against.  Contrition in any form is good to have, but perfect contrition is golden, for it has the power to obtain forgiveness for our sins and to open the gates of Heaven to us in a very special way.

The Church, through Christ’s direction, has provided us with the sacrament of confession as the normal means of obtaining forgiveness of our sins.  But confession comes with its set of rules to make sure the sacrament was efficacious.  Contrition is one of these mandatory conditions for forgiveness.  You must be sorry for your sins. Thankfully, imperfect contrition, or a fear of the punishment of Hell, suffices when we are in the confessional, and as long as we are sincere in this fear, we will be absolved of our sins.  However, imperfect contrition is not enough to save us, should we die with a mortal sin on our soul.  To believe otherwise is a sin of presumption.

We can never assume we can face Our Lord without absolution and be saved.  Instead, we should always take immediate advantage of the confessional when mortal sin is on our souls.  Perfect contrition, unlike presumption, would naturally drive us to the confessional without hesitation, for this grace is most easily observed by a deep love for Our Lord and an intense desire to repair the sins committed against Him.  But, should we be in an accident or our lives suddenly cease, we could still be forgiven without the aid of confession, if we truly had a perfectly contrite heart.  But this is a condition only Our Lord could know for sure, and we must never assume our salvation is guaranteed.

It is clear to see why perfect contrition has been rightly referred to as “the golden key to heaven”, as it obtains for us the greatest gift we can imagine – forgiveness and entrance into heaven!  But it is a grace obtained only through meditating on our sins and the unspeakable sufferings Our Lord endured for our sake, and by persevering in our prayers to receive it.  Let us remember to ask for this most valuable treasure every time we pray the first sorrowful mystery.

“Grace of Our Lord’s Agony, come down into my soul and make me truly contrite and perfectly obedient to Thy Will.”

Copyright 2010 Cassandra Poppe

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1 Comment

  1. Cassandra,
    What a beautiful article, I loved it. It is so true that we need to meditate on this beautiful mystery. I always feel closest to Our Lord when thinking about the Agony in the Garden. When I am in fear and when my dad lay dying that’s what we spoke of how this was his “Agony in the Garden”. It comes to us all and if we believe Jesus went through it and triumphed over all, it is greatly comforting.

    God bless.

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