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Holy Thursday

In order to accomplish salvation in a manner that permitted human nature to cooperate in its own fulfillment, a man–Jesus–needed to undergo an ontological privation. Jesus would have to give his being in order to restore our being, analogous to dirt being taken from a hill to fill a hole. And, because our existence had lapsed dangerously close to nothingness, Jesus' existence would have to be depleted to the point that it, too, scraped against the pit of nothingness. In the words of Romano Guardini:

"God followed man into the no man's land which sin had ripped open. God not only glanced down at him and summoned him lovingly to return, he personally entered into that vacuous dark to fetch him. . . The plunge from God towards the void which man in his revolt had begun Christ undertook in love. . . [T]he endlessly Beloved One of the eternal father brushed the bottom of the pit. He penetrated to the absolute nothingness . . ."

Jesus' descent into the abyss of nothingness began in the Garden of Gethsemane when God's spirit began to withdraw from him. He who walked in being as God's son now felt being draining from his body. The resulting terror was intense. All three spheres of human existence–the spiritual, emotional, and physical–began to tear apart: As God's spirit drained from his soul, Jesus agonized emotionally and physically sweated blood.

This combination of agony and perspiration of blood is significant. In A Doctor at Cavalry, Dr. Pierre Barbet described the perspiration of blood as a physiological phenomenon that “is provoked by some great mental disturbance, following on deep emotion or great fear.” In this phenomenon, the capillaries “become extremely distended, and burst when they come into contact with the millions of sweat glands which are distributed over the whole skin. The blood mingles with the sweat, and . . . once they reach the outside, the blood coagulates and the clots which are thus formed on the skin fall down on to the ground, being borne down by the profuse sweat.”

This emotional and spiritual agony that burst into a bloody scene is a vivid augur of what would come shortly as Jesus descended into the pit of nothingness.