Agony in the Garden

The agony in the garden is featured in the window to the right of the high altar. For several decades this window and its accompanying one on the other side of the altar (The resurrection of Jesus) were covered over in an attempt to simplify the sanctuary’s visual program. In the summer of 2003 Rev. Mgsr. Swetland, under the guidance of a committee assigned to oversee the Chapel’s refurbishment, decided to uncover the windows. Longtime members of St. John’s community agree that this set of windows greatly enhances the interior of the church as well as adds to the spiritual life of the Chapel community.
The Gospels tell us that after the last supper Jesus retired to a garden with his disciples to pray. Each offers a slightly different account. For instance, Mark and Matthew describe him as “falling flat” on the ground to pray, while Luke has him kneeling in prayer and ministered to by an angel. As he prays Jesus speaks the quotes in the banderole above and cartouche below, "My soul is sorrowful even unto death." (Matt. 26: 38) and "Father if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me." (Matt. 26: 36-46) As Jesus prays, his disciples sleep. Finding them reposing, Jesus rebukes them for their failure to “not watch one hour with me.” While Jesus and his men are in the garden, his betrayer Judas and a band of Roman soldiers find and arrest him, which is the more common subject in art.
The window’s artist did not follow a particular Gospel, but instead offered a unique twist, one in keeping with the spirit of the Biblical texts however. In it, alone in a woods Jesus humbly kneels in prayer to his Father in heaven as he rests his clasped hands on a rocky ledge. As he speaks, he turns his face upward to his Father in heaven. In response to his Son’s supplication, the Father sends down upon him golden rays, which come to rest on his head and shoulders. These rays signify both the presence of the Father as well as his answer to the Son’s plea. God the Father is depicted variously in Christian art: as a hand or rays emerging from clouds; as an old man; or as the Son, Jesus. The artist’s special contribution to the scene is the portrayal of God as golden rays.
The window’s focus on Jesus’ prayer (rather than his arrest), omission of the sleeping apostles, and high visibility in the sanctuary cannot be an accident. Surely the artist has designed the image to communicate the importance of prayer in Christian life as well as offer the faithful the ultimate role model for prayer, the Son of God. All who visit the Chapel find inspiration to greater prayer in this window and feel the balm of God’s loving rays.