Last summer I visited a church filled with frescos depicting different biblical scenes. The frescos were in a bad condition and it was difficult to recognise the scenes- even with the help of information cards. One such card read ‘Agony in the Garden’ but all I could see were some marks in different faded colours. The church was a marvelous building dating back to the 13th century situated in a peaceful garden but it had been a very long time since the frescos had inspired believers in their worship.
Today the church is simply a stop on a tour bus route. Groups of careless tourists pass through to take photos and pause for a moment at the brightest frescos. The ‘Agony in the Garden’ receives little or no attention. Once it must have portrayed Christ in Gethsemane. Perhaps it showed him talking to his disciples, asking for their support in prayer during his most difficult hours. Perhaps it depicted Christ praying and shedding tears while in the background the disciples are sleeping. It would have reminded worshippers of the suffering of Christ in the garden, provoking an attitude of humility and gratitude among those who understood its meaning.
Christ suffered once and for all on the cross for the sins of the world, but seeing this fresco, the absence of worshippers and the carelessness of the tourists, I couldn’t help feeling that, in a sense, the suffering of Christ continues… it also continues when I fail to recognise him as Lord and God and to worship Him with humility and gratitude.