To see beauty in all things…
even in the midst of brokenness, in the darkest place,
this is the most profound meaning of love, my God.
To love is to have eyes, contemplating,
and because contemplating, receiving, truly,
the other as they are,
and therefore also giving, in response,
the gift that is most needed, most right,
to the one who is loved in this way.
This, dear Jesus, is what you do
all throughout your life, in every moment,
and in Gethsemane too, with blazing eyes of love
penetrating through the obscurity of our darkness,
gazing even when the mists close tightly in.
This is the vigilance to which you call us
when you say, Stay awake and keep watch.
It is an invitation to the alertness
which never turns its eyes from beauty,
beauty which sometimes radiates out clearly,
but at other times is hidden and buried deep within,
clung to in trusting faith and hopeful love,
yet born even more deeply from the birth-pangs of suffering.
From the garden of your anguish, lovingly clinging to the Father,
you are led along the way of suffering unto the Cross,
yet in all things you are bound, Jesus, not by chains,
nor affixed by nails and bitter wood,
but rather held firmly in the Father’s hand,
pressed close unto his Heart.
Yet here you take up into yourself, unreservedly,
our very experience of estrangement from his face,
our bitterest pain and anguished loneliness,
thereby breaking these chains by a deeper bond,
the bond of love, unbreakable, between he and you…
that ineffable gazing of eternal love and endless delight,
in which the beauty of Father and Son, together,
is the ecstasy of perfect joy, bound together, unceasingly,
in the ravishing beauty of the Spirit whom you share.
From the very midst of loneliness
you re-establish the blessed communion of love,
in complete acceptance and reciprocal surrender
before the Father of heaven and earth,
spreading out to embrace every person,
and drawing us, in you, to him.
But first you press us to your loving Heart,
tender, defenseless, and full of compassion,
so that, by the encounter of Love and sin,
the encounter of Goodness and evil,
the encounter of Beauty and ugliness,
the latter may be canceled out, destroyed,
by the immeasurable Power of the first.
This is what you, do, my Jesus,
naked and defenseless upon the Cross,
mocked, rejected, condemned by men,
yet accepting all of this wretchedness
into the burning furnace of your Heart,
there to consume it in these ardent flames,
offering it, purged, cleansed, and transformed,
to the Father who yearns for us
and for whom you so deeply yearn.
So too, the wounds that our sin cause you
reveal the depth of the immense compassion
that burns forever in the Father’s breast.
When we pierce your side with a lance,
the Blood and water that flow out
are the infinite Ocean of the Trinity’s Love,
flooding into our dry and arid world,
and giving all of us your life anew.
You take our feelings of abandonment,
of being rejected by God in sin and shame,
and you break through this too,
turning it into a prayer of trust and hope.
The Heart of God aches, indeed,
condemning the sin that consumes the sinner,
wounded by our infidelity that wounds both him and us.
But you take this wound of broken relationship
and, through the unbreakable cord of intimacy
that is ever alive between you and your Father,
in the Spirit of Love whom you share,
you bind up together again what was broken,
turning our prayer of anguish and abandonment
into a prayer of filial love,
through which the poor, at last, are fed,
and those who once were so far away
are drawn close, falling down in worship,
raised up, thus, into the joy of God’s embrace.
The mystery of Gethsemane, Jesus, and of the Cross,
continues to this day in every life,
in the depths of every human heart.
The encounter between our fallen nature,
fragmented and broken away from paternal love,
and the Father’s descending compassion
giving to the very end, unreservedly,
until he has penetrated out darkness with his light,
the Light, my Lord, that you are for us.
The human heart, will, mind, and body,
deceived by the ancient tempter
to turn away from the realm of gift,
are fractured from the unity of love
and, frayed like a piece of torn rope,
stretch out in every direction
in aimless desire and broken fear.
Yet they conceal a deeper hope,
the image, Father, of your love in us,
calling out for the fullness of your likeness.
But there are so many obstacles, Father,
that keep us from returning to you,
from surmounting the weight of the flesh,
dragging us apart, and isolating us
in the whirlpool of the fallen world.
Dear Jesus, you enter into this isolation,
this anguished loneliness that is ours,
experiencing the distress that was born
in the garden of Eden, through our parents’ sin.
But in a garden you break the chain
that binds us so tightly in this shame.
You allow yourself to be stripped naked here,
experienced this shame, yet transfiguring it by your gift.
So too, there is a woman here, open before you,
the new Eve before the new Adam,
both completely given to one another,
both receiving unreservedly the other’s gift.
The garden of innocence, lost,
and after many years of covenant-love
blossoming in the wilderness,
at last gives way to the garden of consummation,
marriage bond bound together in the gift of heart and flesh.
And the fruit of this union is already evident
in the young man who stands here at her side,
(and like him, each one of us, called to share,
in pure grace, in this same mystery enfolding all)
bound together to her by the compassion
that he shares, lovingly, for you.
Woman, behold, your son.
Behold, your Mother.
Christ, your spousal gift is so beautiful,
bursting forth in the darkest place,
and the virginal reception of your Mother,
who is now also your Spouse,
an open and receptive womb like in her youth
when the angel appeared to her.
United, you tie together the knot
that was rent asunder by the sin of Adam and Eve.
At the foot of a Tree, like you promised,
you have reawakened your beloved one,
reversing the disorder of the first garden sin…
and you carry your spouse, leaning upon you,
from the wilderness
back into the land of promise.
Dearest Father, the mystery that has accompanied us
all along this journey is the mystery of the desert
transformed into the garden, blossoming in love
and giving forth streams of healing water, pure.
Yet both exist side by side, or rather one within the other,
within this life of ours, pilgrimage yet foretaste
of the heavenly banquet of perfect joy yet to come.
The desert journey purifies the heart for the banquet,
as the Israelites journeyed in the desert, where you,
Father, prepared a table for them,
and poured out water from the barren rock.
Yet this too, this exodus of love and fidelity,
was the time of testing, your drawing them out
in order to espouse them to yourself in the desert,
carrying them into the promised land of joy.
Yet when they sinned against you, embracing other gods,
you allowed them again to be taken into exile,
but promised another exodus, greater than the first,
by which they would be gathered from the nations
and drawn back, through the desert, into you embrace.
But the greater desert, my God, in the new exodus,
fulfilling all the images and types of the first,
is the desert of the Cross and Passion of your Son.
But here the desert is one with the garden,
for in a garden his Passion is accepted,
and in a garden his Cross is planted, Tree of Life,
and in a garden, again, he rises from the tomb,
revealing himself as the true Bridegroom,
drawing his people through the waters
and into the desert of transformation,
into the garden of espousal, of perfect intimacy and joy.
He passes, Father, finally, bearing us, his Bride,
within his loving arms, in the final exodus of all,
into the perfect joy of your embrace.
As in a garden we sinned, exiled, then, into the desert,
Adam and Eve experiencing fragmentation,
the shame of nakedness and vulnerability,
the burden of toil among thorns and thistles,
the anguish of childbearing in difficulty and pain,
so too we all sin against the garden of pure Love,
the gratuitous Gift that you, Father, freely give to us.
Yet the very desert of our alienation,
the painful loneliness and isolation of our hearts,
becomes a path of healing and transformation,
as we walk, more and more, with the One who walks with us:
the Crucified and Risen Bridegroom and Friend, at our side.
The desert is therefore not only an exile,
but itself an invitation…not a place of emptiness,
but a space where the dry land blooms and gives forth fruit,
and the dry and arid steppe flows with water abundantly.
The Garden lives, in this life, in the midst of the desert,
just as the desert has always been enfolded in the Garden,
and when we taste the desert, let us look deeper,
for the wellspring of childhood, the blossoming of love.