The First Sorrowful Mystery: Christ’s Agony in the Garden

Albrecht Altdorfer: The Agony in the Garden, from the monastery of St. Florian in Enns (Linz), Austria

The Agony of anticipation, knowing what was just ahead, knowing that being God would not protect him from the physical sufferings – Might He have been tempted to doubt His own identity, His ultimate victory over death in those hours of praying, alone, in the Garden, while His closest friends, who, loving Him, still did not understand, slept?

Suffering so intense that he sweated blood – yet His thoughts in those final moments before His arrest and tortures began were for us! He prayed for us in the Garden – not only “If it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me!” but also, “Be with them – make them one as we are One… Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth…that they may all be one, even as thouh, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe…”

The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

I love this painting. When I meditate on the First Joyful Mystery, this is the image that comes to mind.

… and (the angel) came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High;
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of hsi father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever;
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” …
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  – Luke 1:26-38

Tanner’s Annunciation –

It’s back. When I changed templates for the blog, the background painting, Henry Tanner’s Annunciation didn’t transfer, and it’s taken SEVERAL tries to figure out how to bring it back!

I love this painting. Don’t remember where I first learned of it – I heard about it through Fr Benedict Groeschel and my friend Matt at about the same time. Learned this week that it’s in the museum of Art in Philadelphia, and got a very intimate glimpse into what it means to actually get to stand in front of the painting and look at it, from one who has done it numerous times, so often, in fact, that he came to refer to it as “his painting” to his sons. “Let’s go look at Dad’s painting….”

I love this painting. The setting is so simple, so homey. There’s no opulence or grandeur here. The wall hangings and the rug are clearly homespun, the floor local earthenware tiles – it’s a simple home. It’s a believable home – the rug has been kicked up and doesn’t lie flat on the floor – Mary (like me) has not made her bed yet that day –

I love this painting. Look at that angel! No anthropomorphised European males with chin-length, curled-under hair and incongruous wings sprouting too-thinly out of their backs. No! This angel is decidedly Other-Worldly, he conveys all the Mystery of those beings of fire and light whom God uses as His Messengers –

I love this painting! Look at Mary! – no beatific Arian, pale, anemic-looking, frail; this Mary is dark, young, strong; she fits Steve Ray’s description of her as “a tough little Jewish girl with dirty feet!” She looks like a young teenager who might be undergoing all the trauma of changing hormones and the onset of puberty. Look at her hands, her face – incredulous – as Matt said, she looks as if she might be asking, “Are you sure you’re at the right house?” But you can see in her face the coming of that great Fiat: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word.”

You know how this painting feels to me? It feels as if I might have been there, as if I might have just rounded a corner through one of those archways and witnessed it all for myself. I feel the reverence and awe of being an accidental witness to one of the holiest moments in all of human history.