As I have mentioned before, meditating on the Christ's Passion has been hard for me in the past. Not that I did not love my Lord, or was not thankful for His sacrifice. I simply could not imagine how to relate to Him in such pain. Like the disciples at Gethsamane, I did not know how to remain with Jesus in His suffering, much less how to offer any comfort. Yet is is clear that Christ wanted His disciples near Him at Gethsamene. He longed for their prayers.
A few days ago I was visiting my friends among the Marienschwestern at their cloister in Darmstadt, Germany. I mentioned to the sisters how odd it has always seemed to me that Paul prays first that He will know Christ in the power of His resurrection and then in fellowship of his suffering. That is, of course, not the order in which Jesus experienced them. But Sr. Damiana explained to me that we disciples must learn in this order. Without the assurance of the resurrection, we would have no strength for the suffering. Peter, James and John could not participate in their Lord's suffering on the night of His betrayal. But later, knowing Him in His resurrected power and glory, they would follow Him through persecution, exile and martyrdom.
I told the sisters of my desire to spend this Lent meditating on the Passion, so they gave me a book written by their foundress, Basilea Schlink. Let me Stand at Your Side is a series of meditations and prayers, many based on revelations given to a Catholic mystic, Anna Katharina Emmerich. The first meditation touched me deeply. It is too long to quote fully, but below are some passages which I am contemplating in prayer.
In those last days it must have been immeasurably hard for our Lord Jesus to be in such close company with His disciples who had always been at His side. Jesus' heart was filled with suffering. He lived wholly in that which awaited Him and which constantly confronted His soul - His path of bitter suffering that would lead to death. He yearned to speak with His disciples about the coming suffering in His tender care for them, but also in His love, for love longs to share everything - especially sorrow - with the beloved. However, Jesus found no loving response, no understanding. He found no one to suffer with Him.
The disciples, though no doubt full of fear, were sure of themselves. This is what made Peter vow shortly before they went to Gethsamane, "I will go with You even if I have to die.".... Ultimately they repressed the thought that Jesus' work could soon lie in ruins...
In contrast to this self-assurance of the disciples, Jesus was filled with trepidation, as He expressed to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death." Jesus, the Creator of all worlds, did not live in self-assurance; He was filled with fear at the thought of suffering. Earlier when He had spoken of the baptism of suffering that awaited Him, He said, "How great is my distress till it is over!" Thus Jesus prepared to meet suffering by surrendering His will to the Father, by praying for strength, whereas we, who are mere created beings and sinners, suppress the possibility that suffering could enter our lives...
The distance that separated the disciples from Jesus was immeasurable, although outwardly they were at His side. Jesus wanted to do the will of the Father and He gave His consent. He prayed for help and received the ministry of angels.. The disciples refused the cross: their answer was NO.