Monday, December 18, 2006

December 18, 2006 (S1) Cysteine

Cysteine - the Agony in the Garden (S1)

December 18, 2006 - (Adonai) - Six days to the Vigil!

With today, Monday in the Third Week of Advent, we begin our consideration of the last set of mysteries - the Sorrowful, which tell of the events of late Holy Thursday and Good Friday. At first it may appear unusual to be considering such events as we come to the last few days before Christmas - but actually it is very fitting. The Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, became a man and lived among us for this very purpose: to die! Christmas and the cross are most intimately related, for the Mass which gives the name to our feast is just the unbloody re-presenting of the Cross. But before getting into the details, we must first count off another of the Greater Feria, as in our countdown to Christmas we recall the great titles of our Lord:

O Adonai, Lord of Israel! Come, and give us Your Light by which You guided Abraham and his descendants. Hurry, and do not delay!

As you will recall from the introduction to the Luminous Mysteries, I made selections from among the hydrophilic amino acids to indicate those events which are in the Public Life of our Lord. So, too, the Sorrowful Mysteries will draw from the same selection, with the single exception of today, as you will see in a moment.

Today let us consider S1, the Agony in Gethsemane - the garden of the Olive-Press. There, eleven apostles followed Jesus; eight promptly fell asleep. Peter, James, and John followed Him in a little further, then they too succumbed. Jesus meanwhile began to pray...

What did He pray? He said: "Father not My will but Thine be done."

Haven't we heard that before? It sounded like this: "May it be done unto me according to Thy word."

Ah. You remember. That's J1, the Annunciation, where Mary said Yes to God.

Now it is her Son's turn to say Yes.

To properly emphasize this remarkable parallel, we turn to another of the truly unusual amino acids, the only other one to contain sulfur: Cysteine.

Cysteine (abbreviated Cys or C)
RNA Codes:

Cysteine has only two codes, both of which start with UG, followed by a pyrimidine (C or U).

Recall that the side chain of Methionine is an ethyl group
-CH2CH2- followed by a sulfur, to which is attached a methyl -CH3 group. Cysteine is similar, but much simpler. The side chain of Cysteine is a methyl, -CH2- followed by sulfur with a hydrogen attached.

Unlike the amino acids for the remaining Sorrowful mysteries, this side chain is not truly polar - it is at the border between hydrophilic and hydrophobic. This might suggest the solitude of Jesus in this agony. But far larger is the significance of the sulfur - for the S of S1's Cysteine parallels the S of J1's Methionine - again it is the "Yes" response to the will of God.

But, also like Methionine, there is something more.

Cysteine is very unusual, and it might in some sense stand for the whole of the Sorrowful Mysteries which it introduces. For when Cysteine appears at a certain place in a protein, it has the remarkable ability to be bound to another Cysteine elsewhere, in the same or even in a different protein, forming a disulfide bond between them. This ability of Cysteine to accomplish structure-building by binding separated proteins suggests the entire purpose of Christ's suffering and death: the re-binding of Man to God.

By pondering our lonely Lord in the Garden, may we be strengthened in our resolve to say Yes to the Will of God - now, and always.


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