Love is that liquor sweet

Scholars make a link between the garden of Gethsemane and the first garden, Eden, but where Eden means something like “delight,” Gethsemane means “olive press”: the place where olives are picked and crushed to make oil.  The image of the press is apt, not only for the scenes that follow this one, but for the psychological trauma that happens here. Sometimes overlooked, the garden scene is one of the most intense and intimate of the whole saga. Before and after it, Jesus is calm and quiet, and seems to face his own death with sangfroid. Here, we see his mortal fear, sorrow, anguished prayer, and sweat like blood. This glimpse in the dark garden, half hidden from its only witnesses by trees and sleep, is something rare and wonderful. A dimension of the incarnation we would do well to remember, and a scene which our theologies of suffering must not forget. My favourite poem on the subject is, of course, Herbert's. Here are the second two stanzas of “The Agonie,” which mingles the imagery of the olive press with the wine press, and the scene in the garden with the supper in which blood becomes wine.

Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.