THE GARDEN OF OLIVES 
written by Father Richard Ober
The fire of a new energy inflaming our hearts, we light a candle at the shrine, and pass down the aisle, our attention attracted to the wood-carved way of the cross that marks our progress toward the Grotto of Agony. These stations were carved in Bavaria and were procured in 1907 at a price in excess of $3,000.00. At the end of the aisle in the far northwestern corner, we note a large crucifixion group standing on a mound of rough stone. At this point we are about to enter the Grotto of Agony and we picture ourselves outside the walls of Jerusalem in the presence of Christ’s consummated sacrifice. It was in August, 1920, that the Grotto became an accomplished fact. It has been declared by artists the most beautiful thing of its kind in the United States and occupies some 20 feet square in the vase of the left tower. The frieze above the walls of the entrance displays the harrowing instruments of the passion. Here are the cross and the crown of thorns; the scourge and the bent crude nails. As we step into the Grotto our advance is arrested by a sense of calm and content. There are the beautiful soft light, the exquisite coloring of artistic values knowingly placed, of a great quiet and a brooding peace. Even before one reads the invitation traced in the floor, “Watch ye and pray”, he almost hears an angel’s voice bidding him enter so to pray. Recalling the eve of a sin-stained world’s Redemption, our eyes involuntarily stray to the central figure of Jesus kneeling in prayer on that fateful night. He gazes sadly, patiently upward toward a hidden light that throws across the face a pale, aesthetic perfection and lingers on the single tear glistening on the cheek. An angel with reverential awe stands mutely by, the Chalice of sacrifice in his uplifted hands. Reclining on a roll of grass and rock-studded moss are Peter, James, and John, weary with the wait within the garden of Olives, garment wrapped and all asleep. There is yet another group; three figures, life-sized and skillfully carved standing before the tall pillars of a temple. Two are of priestly dress and one extends in thin blue-veined hands, thirty pieces of silver. The third with sullen brow, and brooding, lowering face is already reaching out a grasping hand – Judas receiving his pay for the tragedy of the world. The figures are of composition and life-sized. In harmony with the setting, is a panoramic oil painting showing Jerusalem in the evening twilight. The ceiling is studded with lights, star-shaped, controlled by an automatic cut-off that causes them to twinkle and helps to create the illusion of a soft summer’s night. The bases of the grotto walls are of a lake rock similar to that found in sea caves on coral islands. With this one distraction in our prayer, we rise from our prie-dieu and depositing our little offering, we light a candle, a sense of nearness of God pervading the atmosphere we are leaving.