The Fifth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Clothes

March 19, 2015 § 1 Comment

Artist, Simon Carr Photography by Cristina Balloffet Carr

Artist, Simon Carr Photography by Cristina Balloffet Carr

I wanted to spend some time tonight with this moment in Christ’s Passion. There’s an apprehensiveness and vulnerability that I wanted to understand better.

The stripping of garments has across cultures and time periods been used as a way to further humiliate a person who had been publicly shamed. At this moment in particular, as Simon has painted it, this terrible looming shadow of shame, ridicule, and humiliation is actually in movement toward Christ, where it aims to lodge and take up residence in the very center of his being. This is the moment right as it is entering him, it seems to me. In a way, Simon’s imagining here reminds me of a .gif file. A moving image, enacting a loop of narrative movement in increments of a few seconds. The face of Christ here includes the moment before, the moment of and the moment after the toxic intrusion of shame.

But enter him it must, because the fully human Christ is the Christ who has experienced every human emotion, every human pain, every human shame. But I think that, once it penetrates, but not before, he will also transform it–and here also Simon has given us a glint or glimmer of that possible future.

The entry under “shame” in the Oxford English Dictionary includes this: “The painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonouring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one’s own conduct or circumstances . . .” The Italian philosopher Agamben offers the following: “What appears in shame is therefore precisely the fact of being chained to oneself, the radical impossibility of fleeing oneself to hide oneself from oneself, the intolerable presence of the self to itself. . . What shame discovers is the Being that discovers itself.”

I want to expand that a little, or add some dimension to it.  In discovering the Being that discovers itself, it seems that shame as well discovers the Being that needs. We are ashamed of our weakness, our imperfections, all the ways that we are smaller than we want to be. But this somehow originary experience of shame turns out might also be an occasion for our apprehension of God. It is through our need that we recognize and make ourselves available to God’s coming into our hearts.

Imagine that God is present there with the being who is present to itself—imagine that God sees and holds that being, in its nakedness and smallness, plenitude and excess, in its supreme solitude.  Imagine that God is that being who holds its plenitude and its lack, who witnesses its solitude. God as the One whose very presence transforms shame into relationship.

Even in the abject moment of being shamed, if we can conceive of the experience in this way, perhaps a strange and perfect intimacy arises.  Let us remember, that if Christ underwent such horrific shaming, Christ is also our witness.  Seeing Christ like this shows me that, as crippling as it can feel, it is exactly to such moments of bareness and weakness and need—in the desert of our being—that the presence of God rushes.

– Atticus Zavaletta

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