The meditation of Fr Holloway on Gethsemanie in his book Catholicism a New Synthesis seems appropriate for this Feast:
So much of the heart-core of the redemptive relationship of Christ to the Father is contained in the 14th to the 17th Chapters of the gospel of St. John. It is well worth reading the discourse of Christ at the Last Supper and the sacerdotal prayer, as a whole. The anguish of Christ for the storms to come upon those whom he must leave in the world, whose crucifixion is going to be so very much like his own in its loneliness and its desolation stands out : ‘Father keep them in thy name, whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we also are’. . . but observe the context a few verses earlier. It is the context of a work achieved, and a homecoming, a kingdom given in justice for a work which has been achieved: ‘I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do: and now glorify thou me, O Father, with the glory which I had, before the world was with thee . . .’ This is not the language or the relationship of the Son to the Father, which could make sense in a ‘punitive’ theology of Redemption. Christ himself lists the attributes of the work: manifesting thy name, witnessing, forming the mind and heart, confirming and restoring in the image of the Father, through forming and restoring in the likeness of himself by the direct labour of the Son . . . the end is to come home, and to receive the glory that I had with thee, before the world was. It is as Christ, God and Man this is said, and it is very doubtful that we can, in the context of Christ’s humanity, restrict this glory before the world was, to the nature of the Logos alone. Much more properly do we understand it of the Person of God the Son and the Son of Man in one, of the decree of creation itself, in which the glory of the Word Incarnate is the meaning of the material creation, the meaning of man, and the principle of the beatific vision for the spirit that is enfleshed.
Yet all is not yet finished, the cup is not drunk to the dregs, the prayer is said on the eve of the Passion, and it must needs include the totality of the work of Christ to the ‘consummatum est’ upon the Cross, to be true of ‘I have finished the work thou gavest me to do’. It is in the contemplation of Gethsemane that we can see the plenitude of the inner amends, and the total reconciliation of mankind with God, through Jesus Christ, who was God. We read in Luke of his entering into a prayer upon which there supervenes a sudden, awful shock and horror: almost a despair, ‘and his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground’ (c.22.v.44). At this some exegetes, the shallower sort, will murmur ‘midrash’ no doubt, as they always do at anything plainly divine and supernatural in the works or surrounding events of the life of Jesus Christ. They will be wrong, as usual, but they need not have worried, for the sweat of blood is known to medical science. It is a human phenomenon. Indeed said of the Son of Man in the moment of his supreme clash with evil, it is the Human Phenomenon, it is the committal of the Son of Man.
The sweat of blood is rare, and occurs when appalling tragedy occurs with awful shock. It is usually linked with horror. The horror in one incident recorded, is that of a mother whose infant wriggled from her arms at a bus stop, and fell, fell just as the vehicle swept in, so that she saw, and heard, the passing of the wheel over the infant’s head. When they picked up the unconscious mother, her skin was moist with a sweat of blood. . .
What was the shock, the grief, the horror, the pain of Jesus Christ which could wring from him in gasps ‘Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me . . . nevertheless, not my will but thine be done . . .?‘ There was first the agony of the total, world vision and experience of the reality of sin. It is the common teaching of theologians that at all times the Christ of God enjoyed the beatific vision of the Father, in his human soul. It seems the reasonable truth, for he was, in his one Person, the beatific vision in himself. He was God. It seems inconceivable that the being of God which communicated being and existence in the real order to his human individuality, should not communicate to his human spirit the joy and the possession of what and whom he was. He and the Father are one: always. To many there is here an insuperable difficulty: —the beatific possession of God is joy, sheer joy, without principle of pain or possibility of pain, how then could Christ in the Garden and on the Cross still enjoy the beatific vision, and truly suffer? So they presume the kenotic theory, that of this too, ‘he emptied himself out.’
It does not seem thus to the writer. In the case of the creature the beatific vision is a principle of joy unalloyed, because it is the end of the journey, and the completion of an order of being. It is the fulfilment in God which puts beyond the reach of created evil. It was quite otherwise for Jesus Christ, because he was God in essential being, also because in the Incarnation he was the Son of Man. Christ then, in the quite unique function of his human nature in the Person of God, was not ‘under the law’ by which the beatific vision is the end and the term of nature’s pilgrimage to its appointed fulfilment. Alone and uniquely the Son of God and Son of Man was at one and the same time both ‘viator’ and ‘comprehensor’ both ‘pilgrim’ and ‘possessor’ in the things of God.
His unique vocation as the Son of Man meant that he belonged to the scene of Nature, and fulfilled a vocation that while supernatural indeed, was of the order of Nature and of the very laws of Nature, because he was from the beginning the Heir of the Ages, for whom the very stones would have cried out, if men had not cried ‘Hosannah’ . . . He belonged by intrinsic right to the decree of creation, for through him it was framed and called. His then it is to love and to suffer as a man among men, for men, his the committal to the act of Salvation, now made the act of Redemption: he was engaged then in the fullness of his powers, divine and human, the work is a work of being and becoming, a work ontological in kind within the natural and the supernatural orders.
It was an appalling struggle, manifold in kind and aspect. Because he belonged to the world of men, was the principle of their root and being, the desire of the Father for them at all, because he was, as the Son of Man at the root of Nature itself, his work though supernatural in the very Person of God the Word, was also of creation, and of man. He had this through his human nature, mediated by the creature unto God in the womb of Mary, and through the fruit of that womb ‘all things do hold together . . .’ Therefore he could love and experience as ‘viator’ in the human way, in all things. He could toil, hunger, be weary in the human way, —though never know the sting of inordinate physical desire, —he could above all suffer in the spirit and the mind in the human way, despite the possession always of the beatific vision of the Father in the fullness of the Holy Spirit of them both. There was no contradiction, for to be the Son of Man was the vocation of his flesh.
We can say more: the possession of the beatific vision of the Father in the Holy Ghost would increase the pain of Christ the Son of Man, beyond all human telling and all human understanding. If a man, say a priest, because of his weak and imperfect knowing and loving of God can experience an untellable pain at the experience of a sweet and deep hearted child, full of promise and of generous goodness, being slowly corrupted and degraded before his eyes by subtle pressures of temptation and by the flattery of companions or by the general pressure of the devil, the world, and the flesh, . . . and this is human experience for a good parent sometimes, for a priest often, how much more so the Son of Man, whose knowledge and love of God as Man flowed from his substantial union with the Person of God! His soul was flooded with the possession of the Father by which he lived both as God and as Man, and can any man dare to imagine the reality of this to the human soul and heart of Jesus Christ? Better to note the observation, ‘and his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. . .’