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Seattle Catholic is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Seattle
Seattle Catholic
A Journal of Catholic News and Views
23 Mar 2002
"By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them." (Matt 7:16)

An Agony Unbeknown

All of us over the years, and especially during the time of Lent, have given thought to the horrible suffering that Jesus Christ endured for us during His passion and crucifixion. When the contemplation is on His physical suffering, it more than likely, as in my case, began with the mental picture of His merciless scourging (whipping), His forced carrying of the Cross, and His Crucifixion at Calvary.

Yours truly obtained a book written by a Medical Doctor who made a scientific study (A Doctor At Calvary by Pierre Barbet, M.D.) of what Jesus was subjected to during the time span we mention (scourging to crucifixion), and what is described in Christ's physical suffering and trauma surely substantiates His divinity, for a mere man would not have endured it to its end, as did Jesus.

The passion, of course, began with the "agony in the garden," the evening before the trials, the scourging and the crucifixion. Many have thought the suffering endured by Christ at this period was essentially that which was brought on by immense mental tribulations - a truth, of course, that cannot be denied.

The one prominent physical disturbance related to Christ in His agony in the garden is that of His "sweating blood," a truly unusual phenomenon. As a matter of fact, I had never even heard of such an occurrence in the human condition until I first saw it described as an affliction Christ experienced in His passion. Every event revealed by the sacred witnesses of Christ's passion, however, is of no little consequence and is deserving of our reflection. In my feeble intellect, I was not very successful in absorbing the real significance of Christ's sweating blood in the garden. I came to accept it in my own mind as possibly symbolic, a prefiguring of His shedding His blood at the "scourging" and "crucifixion."

At a later time, while at a library, I had the inclination to see if I could find if there was indeed a condition known in humans whereby they "sweated blood." Sure enough, in a large medical reference book, my search was rewarded.

I do not have the book before me, so I am relating from memory; a memory that shall be forever etched in my mind, I must emphasize! The condition of "sweating blood" is known in medical terms as: "HEMATIDROSIS." It is, as you would expect, very rare. It is said to be brought on by intense mental distress. The capillaries in the sweat glands rupture and blood mixed with sweat comes forth on the surface of the skin. AND THEN COMES THE REVELATION; THE UNVEILING - TRAT LEAVES YOU STUNNED.

The instant after-effect of this condition (hematidrosis) is the extreme sensitizing of the nerve endings in the skin of the affected area. Otherwise, any touching, gripping, scratching, cuffmg, abrasions, striking, etc., of the flesh, of Jesus; which numbered in the hundreds, would have had its pain multiplied to the ultimate in intensity. Immediately, and with horror, it comes to mind the maddened horde that fell upon Jesus to drag Him from the garden trussed in rope and chains to he brought before the high priests Annas and Caiphas.

Truly then, the terrible physical agony of Christ did begin in the Garden. Of my God Jesus, forgive us.

Erven Park
Toledo, WA

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