THE GARDEN OF GRIEF
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.
"And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. But after that I am risen I will go before you into Galilee.
"But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. "And Jesus saith unto him, Verily, I say unto thee that this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.
"But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.
"And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and He saith to His disciples, Sit ye here while I shall pray. And He taketh with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; and saith unto them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here and watch. And He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass from him. And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: Nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldst not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." --MARK, 14:26-38.
In the foregoing Gospel narrative we have one of the saddest and most difficult of the experiences of the Christian Mystic outlined in spiritual form. During all his previous experience he has wandered blindly along, that is to say, blind to the fact that he is on the Path which if consistently followed leads to a definite goal, but being also keenly alert to the slightest sigh of every suffering soul. He has concentrated all his efforts upon alleviating their pain physically, morally, or mentally; he has served them in any and every capacity; he has taught them the gospel of love, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"; and he has been A LIVING EXAMPLE to all in its practice. Therefore he has drawn to himself a little band of friends whom he loves with the tenderest of affection. Them has he also taught and served unstintingly, even to the foot washing. But during this period of service he has become so saturated with the sorrows of the world that he is indeed a MAN of SORROWS and acquainted with grief as no one else can be.
This is a very definite experience of the Christian Mystic, and it is the most important factor in furthering his spiritual progress. So long as we are bored when people come to us and tell us their troubles, so long as we run away from them and seek to escape hearing their tales of woe, we are far from the Path. Even when we listen to them and have schooled ourselves not to show that we are bored, when we say with our lips only a few sympathetic words that fall flat on the sufferer's ear, we gain nothing in spiritual growth. It is absolutely essential to the Christian Mystic that he become so attuned to the world's woe that he feels every pang as his own hurt and stores it up within his heart.
When PARSIFAL stood in the temple of the Holy Grail and saw the suffering of Amfortas the stricken Grail King, he was mute with sympathy and compassion for a long time after the procession had passed out of the hall, and consequently could not answer the questions of Gurnemanz, and it was that deep fellow feeling which prompted him to seek for the spear that should heal Amfortas. IT WAS THE PAIN OF AMFORTAS FELT IN THE HEART OF PARSIFAL BY SYMPATHY WHICH HELD HIM FIRMLY BALANCED UPON THE PATH OF VIRTUE WHEN TEMPTATION WAS STRONGEST. It was that deep pain of compassion which urged him through many years to seek the suffering Grail King, and finally when he had found Amfortas, this deep, heartfelt fellow feeling enabled him to pour forth the healing balm.
As it is shown in the soul myth of Parsifal, so it is in the actual life and experience of the Christian Mystic: he must drink deeply of the cup of sorrow, he must drain it to the very dregs so that by the cumulative pain which threatens to burst his heart he may pour himself out unreservedly and unstintedly for the healing and helping of the world. Then Gethsemane, the garden of grief, is a familiar place to him, watered with tears for the sorrows and sufferings of humanity.
Through all his years of self-sacrifice his little band of friends had been the consolation of Jesus. He had already learned to renounce the ties of blood. "Who is my mother and my brother? They that do the will of my Father." Though no true Christian neglects his social obligations or withholds love from his family, the spiritual ties are nevertheless the strongest, and through them comes the crowning grief; through the desertion of his spiritual friends he learns to drink to the dregs the cup of sorrow. He does not blame them for their desertion but excuses them with the words, "The Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak," for he knows by his own experience how true this is. But he finds that in the supreme sorrow they cannot comfort him, and therefore he turns to THE ONLY SOURCE OF COMFORT, THE FATHER IN HEAVEN. He has arrived at the point where human endurance seems to have reached its limit, and he prays to be spared a greater ordeal, but with a blind trust in the Father he bows his will and offers all unreservedly.
That is the moment of realization. Having drunk the cup of sorrow to the dregs, being deserted by all, he experiences that temporary awful fear of being utterly alone which is one of the most terrible if not the most terrible experience that can come into the life of a human being. All the world seems dark about. He knows that in spite of all the good he has done or tried to do the powers of darkness are seeking to slay him. He knows that the mob that a few days before had cried "Hosanna" will on the morrow be ready to shout "Crucify! Crucify!" His relatives and now his last few friends have fled, and they were also even ready to deny.
But when we are on the pinnacle of grief we are nearest to the throne of grace. The agony and grief, the sorrow and the suffering borne within the Christian Mystic's breast are more priceless and precious than the wealth of the Indies, for when he has lost all human companionship and when he has given himself over unreservedly to the Father a transmutation takes place: the grief is turned to compassion, the only power in the world that can fortify a man about to mount the hill of Golgotha and give his life for humanity, not a sacrifice of death but a LIVING SACRIFICE, lifting himself by lifting others.
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