And if our Lord was referring to His coming Passion as the chalice He asked His Father to take away, what are we to make of the words addressed to Peter only a few minutes later: “Put up again thy sword into its place… Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled… (Matthew 26:54 -55)? Since our Lord told Peter His Father would send more than twelve legions of angels to deliver Him if he asked, the chalice spoken of in the Garden must have referred to something else.
In The Mystical City of God, Venerable Mary of Agreda explained the nature of the suffering our Lord endured in the Garden, as well as the hidden meaning of His prayer to the Eternal Father. She explained that the chalice was not the natural fear of suffering and dying for the sins of man. This was, after all, the very purpose of the Incarnation; and Our Lord would have willingly suffered and died over again for each soul if that was the price that Divine Justice demanded. What caused our Lord the bitter agony in the Garden was suffering for the sins of the damned – those who would be lost in spite of what He was about to undergo on their behalf. Venerable Mary of Agreda wrote: “Though to die for His friends and for the predestined was pleasing to Him and longingly desired by our Savior; yet to die for the reprobate was indeed bitter and painful” since “the impelling motive for accepting the pains of death was wanting”. Adding to this agony was the further realization that His suffering for the sins of the damned would actually end in their greater chastisement. “This chalice then was so bitter for Christ our Lord” wrote Mary of Agreda, “because He knew that His drinking it would not only be without fruit for the reprobate, but would … rebound to their greater chastisement and pain on account of their despising it.”
It should be clarified, that the prayer of Christ in the Garden, “let this chalice pass from Me”, was not a petition to His Father that His Passion and Death would not objectively satisfy Divine Justice for the sins of all men. It concerned the hidden predestination of mankind. His prayer was that all men would correspond with grace and thereby be saved; that His Sacrifice and death would not only satisfy Divine Justice for the sins of all men, but would be subjectively applied to all men and bring about their salvation. “He pleaded” continued Mary of Agreda, “that as His Redemption would be superabundant for all, that therefore it should be applied to all in such a way as to make all, if possible, profit by it in an efficacious manner; and if this was not possible, He would resign Himself to the will of His Eternal Father”.
She went on to explain the conflict that arose within our Lord at this time – the conflict between His Divine foreknowledge of the damnation of so many, and His infinite love for men and the desire for the salvation of all. She wrote:
“According to our way of understanding, there was a contention or altercation between the most sacred humanity and the Divinity of Christ. For this humanity, in its intense love for men who were of His own nature, desired that all should attain eternal salvation through His Passion; while His Divinity, in its secret and high judgments… and in its Divine equity could not concede its blessings to those who so much despised them, and who, of their own free will, made themselves unworthy of eternal life by repelling the kind intentions of Him who procured and offered it for them. From this conflict arose the agony of Christ, in which He prayed so long and in which He appealed so earnestly to the power and majesty of His omnipotent and Eternal Father.”
“This agony of Christ our Savior grew in proportion to the greatness of His charity and the certainty of His knowledge that men would persist in neglecting to profit by His Passion and Death. His agony increased to such an extent, that great drops of bloody sweat were pressed from Him, which flowed to the very earth.” (1) Page 480-482).
Venerable Mary of Agreda further explained that this internal conflict is what caused our Lord to utter those mysterious words of Psalm 21 from the cross – “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me”. These words sprung from our Lord’s knowledge that, in spite of what He was enduring for the sins of all men (2 Cor. 5:15), His thirst for souls (John 19:38) would not be satisfied by the salvation of all those for whom He was giving His life. Hence, by these words of our Lord on the cross, He “lovingly complained of His being deprived of the salvation of a part of the human race” (Pg 682).
Let us correspond to grace now, while there is still time, and strive to be numbered amongst those for whom our Lord willingly and gladly suffered; and not amongst the reprobate who caused our Lord such intense agony during His Passion, since, in dying for their sins, “the impelling motive for accepting the pains of death was wanting”.
- Mystical City of God, Ven. Mary of Agreda, Vol. III, pg 480-482