The Gethsemane Experience


READ:  Matthew 26:36-46

“Then Jesus walked with the Eleven to garden outside the city walls, a place on the Mount of Olives known as Gethsemane.  Jesus instructed eight of the disciples to pray at the entrance of the Garden.  He then asked Peter, James, and John to accompany Him further into the Garden so they might pray more privately.  It was then that a great sorrow came upon His soul.  He said to Peter, James and John, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death.  Wait here and keep watch while I go further in to pray.’  And having gone on a little further, Jesus fell on his face and cried out to God, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by.  Nevertheless, let it be as You, not I, would have it.’  When He returned to the disciples, Jesus found them sleeping.  Waking them, He said to Peter, ‘Could you not muster the strength to stay awake with Me for one hour?  Stay awake, and pray not to be put to the test.  Remember … that your spirit is willing, but your human nature is weak.’ “ – Matthew 26:36-41

When our Guests dine with us in the refectory of Greyfriars’ Abbey, most of them never notice the tiny chalkboard that hangs there on the wall.  That one foot by two foot simple, plain chalkboard framed in oak has always hung there … and, unbeknownst to our Guests, it carries a most holy yet quiet ministry .  It is known as the Gethsemane Board.  And I have found that little chalkboard to be a most beautiful instrument of Grace.

gethesemaneWhen one of the Brothers or Novices is seriously struggling with a decision, he can write his name on that chalkboard.  That is all he does … no announcement, no explanation, simply his name written in chalk.  Sometime, during that day, three more names will appear on that chalkboard.  Then at midnight, the Brother or Novice who first placed his name on that chalkboard will leave his room and go quietly to the Chapel.   There he will find those three other Brothers waiting for him, the Brothers whose names mysteriously had appeared under his on the chalkboard.  In the back of the chapel sits a long row of short, white pillar candles, each sitting atop a black leather copy of the Divine Office.   (You see, each Brother and Novice has his own specific Prayer Candle and his own copy of the daily prayers.  The first Brother or Novice along with the other three volunteers then take their candles, light them, and place them on the altar.  The Brother struggling with his decision then sits in prayer on the floor of the Chancel while the other three Brothers take seats around the chapel to there quietly pray.  Tradition has that this time of Candlelight Prayer lasts for an hour, more or less.  Not a word is spoken, merely the Grace of the Silence.  After a time, the first Brother rises and snuffs his candle, the other three then follow.  Then continuing in the Great Silence, they return their candles to their places, and they return themselves to their rooms.  Each time, I find my soul flooded with tears of love.

I have found this Gethsemane Experience to one of the most beautiful, powerful, loving, and tender times I have ever known… to experience three souls … keeping watch over me … as I sought the will of God.  Now, my Loved Ones, I would suspect that few of you will be spending many nights in a monastery, yet, I still believe that you can share in your own version of this Gethsemane Experience.  Are there three spiritual friends who would spend an hour of quiet time, remembering you in prayer.  Oh, we all probably say that we will remember someone in prayer, at least, for a few passing moments… rather I am speaking of something more intentionally loving and holy than that.  In the Gethsemane Experience, you would covenant with each other to spend a specified time in prayer, let’s say, “Ten o’clock this evening“… praying for one another wherever each of you might be.  I would suggest that each member of your Gethsemane Sisterhood or Gethsemane Brotherhood or Gethsemane Fellowship light a Prayer Candle of your own choosing, in a place in your home that allows for privacy.  And then and there, you merely keep watch and you sincerely pray, with an attitude of heart that lovingly cherishes the others as you seek a glimpse of God’s guidance, not only for the one who asks, but also for those who agree to keep watch.  I do believe that agreeing to the specified hour and the setting aside of a private holy place are two very necessary aspects of the Experience.

The other day, I wrote my name on the chalkboard that hangs on the wall.  That night at midnight, four Brothers prayed  … and it proved to be a beautiful time of holy grace experienced.


Brother Anthony of the Cross
(jim mcwhinnie)
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click …  … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).

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One Response to The Gethsemane Experience

  1. Lata Hall says:

    We will never look at Gethsemane the same way. Every one was so impressed by this meditation that two churches are going to start a group to help people through their difficult times by silent prayers. Thank you!

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