What is the significance of a two-thousand-year-old, small grove of Olive trees on the outskirts of Jerusalem? What does the “Mount of Olives” represent?

Three years ago, I had the incredible opportunity to tour Israel and walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Part of this tour was visiting the Mount of Olives. It was here that an angel comforted Jesus and it was here that He would go often for rest after ministering to the multitudes. Jesus came down the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem on a donkey as foretold by Zechariah. And, as the setting of de Vigny’s poem, it is where Jesus prayed on the day before His crucifixion—in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Acts 1:11-12 we also learn that Jesus ascended to Heaven from the Mount of Olives.

For believers in Jesus Christ this represents the very place where King David hung his head in defeat, where Jesus wept and was betrayed. This small grove represents an everlasting hope that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Do you have a “Mount of Olives”? A place to rest your weary soul, to reflect? A place to present supplications to the One who hears and answers?

As I am preparing my heart for the remembrance of the Cross of Christ and the celebration of His resurrection, I have translated a poem by the Nineteenth century French poet Alfred de Vigny. There are three parts to Le Mont des Oliviers (The Mount of Olives), below is Part I.

Le Mont des Oliviers by Alfred de Vigny

Part I

Alors il était nuit, et Jésus marchait seul,
Vêtu du blanc ainsi qu’un mort de son linceul;
Les disciples dormaient au pied de la colline,
Parmi les oliviers, qu’un vent sinistre incline;
Jésus marche à grands pas en frissonnant comme eux;
Triste jusqu’à la mort, l’œil sombre et ténebreux,
Le front baissé, croissant les deux bras sur sa robe
Comme un voleur de nuit cachant ce qu’il dérobe,
Connaissant les rochers mieux qu’un sentier uni,
Il s’arrête en un lieu nommé Gethsémani.

[Then it was night, and Jesus walked alone,
Dressed in white as a dead man in his shroud;
The disciples were sleeping at the foot of the hill,
Among the olive trees, where a sinister wind blows;
Jesus walks with great strides shivering like them;
Sad unto death, eyes dark and tenebrous,
His forehead lowered, both arms across his robe
As a thief in the night, hiding what he steals,
Knowing the rocky path better than the level,
He stops at a place called Gethsemane.]

Il se courbe, à genoux, le front contre la terre;
Puis regarde le ciel en appelant: “Mon père!”
–Mais le ciel reste noir, et Dieu ne répond pas.
Il se lève étonne, marche encore à grands pas,
Froissant les oliviers qui tremblent. Froide et lente
Découle de sa tête une sueur sanglante.

[He bends down, on his knees, his forehead against the ground;
Then looks to heaven calling: “My Father!”
But the sky is dark, and God does not respond.
He rises, surprised, continues to walk with great strides,
Crushing the trembling olive trees. Cold and slow
A bloody sweat drips from his head.]

Il recule, il descend, il crie avec effroi:
“Ne pourriez-vous prier et veiller avec moi?”
Mais un sommeil de mort accable les apôtres.
Pierre à la voix du maître est sourd comme les autres.
Le Fils de l’Homme alors remonte lentement;
Comme un Pasteur d’Égypte, il cherche au firmament
Si l’Ange ne luit pas au fond de quelque étoile.

[He recoils, he descends, he cries with terror:
“Could you not pray and watch with me?”
But a sleep of death overwhelms the apostles.
Peter, with the voice of the master, is deaf like the others.
The Son of Man rises slowly;
Like a Shepherd of Egypt, he seeks in the firmament
If the Angel does not shine in the depths of some star.]

Mais un nuage en deuil s’étend comme le voile
D’une veuve, et ses plis entourent le désert.
Jésus, se rappelant ce qu’il avait souffert
Depuis trente-trois ans, devint homme, et la crainte
Serra son cœur mortel d’une invincible étreinte.
Il eut froid. Vainement il appeal trois fois:
“Mon père!” Le vent seul répondit à sa voix.
Il tomba sur le sable assis, et, dans sa peine,
Eut sur le monde et l’homme une pensée humaine.
–Et la terre trembla, sentant la pesanteur
Du Sauveur qui tombait aux pieds du Créateur.

[But a cloud of mourning stretches like the veil
Of a widow, and her folds surround the desert.
Jesus, recalling what he had suffered
For thirty-three years, became a man, and fear
Clutched his mortal heart with an invincible strangle.
He was cold. In vain he appeals three times:
“My Father!” The wind alone responds to his voice.
He fell on the sand, sat down, and in his pain,
Had, for the world, a human thought.
–And the Earth shook, feeling the weight
Of the Savoir that fell at the feet of the Creator.]

Work Cited

Canfield, Arthur G., and Patterson, W.F. French Poems. New York: Holt & Co. 1941.