Friday, April 06, 2007

In the two Gardens

I've been reading a book my brother gave me, and in poring over some pages several days ago, I came to appreciate the significance of two gardens mentioned in the story of salvation. In one a very fateful downfall started while in the other, obedience triumphed. I'm using a photo from the movie "The Passion of the Christ" since I can't find any other visual that represents the crucial elements of these episodes that took place in either of the gardens.

From "Inside the Passion: An insider's look at The Passion of the Christ" (Ascension Press, 2005) by Fr. John Bartunek, L.C., here's something that hopefully will enrich for you the meaning of this week's events that happened some two centuries ago, and in turn help you appreciate the things that one Man did for all of humanity.

The Garden of Gethsemane is the new Garden of Eden, the biblical place of testing and temptation, the place of spiritual battle described in Genesis. In the Garden of Eden, Adam (the biblical father of the human race) failed the test; in the face of the alluring, disconcerting, and threatening voice of evil, he let his trust in his Creator die in his heart. Arrogantly abusing his freedom, Adam disobeyed God. It was a crisis of faith, hope, and love that led to the human family's rebellion against God, what the Judeo-Christian tradition refers to as "original sin," or "the Fall." That sin, that lack of faith, hope and love, let evil and suffering into human history; in a mysterious way it subjected the human family to the power of selfishness and sin, to the power of the Devil.

After the rebellion, God promised a Redeemer, a Savior who would free fallen mankind from the clutches of evil. To do so, the Savior would have to reverse Adam's disobedience. In the face of temptation, in the face of the alluring, disconcerting, and threatening voice of evil He would have to keep His trust in God firm; He would have to lovingly obey His divine Father no matter what.

Jesus, Christians believe, is the Redeemer. His Passion is the climax of His successful combat against the ancient enemy who had defeated Adam and subjected the human race to sin. Jesus' Passion is the definitive moment in history's dramatic struggle between good and evil.

Throughout the Passion, the combat takes the form of obedience versus suffering. The powers of darkness launch an assault first on Christ's inner life -- here in the Garden -- and then on His physical and relational life: bodily torture, mockery, misunderstanding, and rejection at the hands of those He came to save. These sufferings were designed to break Christ's trust, to make Him turn His back on His Father, as Adam had done in Eden. His tormenters' cruelty escalates in its intensity: the powers of evil did everything possible to make Christ say, "Not Thy will be done, God, it's too hard; let Mine be done instead!" The Bible records that all of Adam's descendants had spoken out in just such a rebellion, following in the first parents' footsteps. If Jesus could endure far worse temptation and suffering than mankind had, and still be faithful to His Father's will, still trust in God, then He would prove Himself stronger than the Prince of Darkness. He would usher in a New Creation, a New Era of reconciliation with God.

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