The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments
March 14, 2016 Comments Off on The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments
On the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, in the late afternoon, I slipped into the deserted church to contemplate this station in a private, silent atmosphere. Since then, I’ve looked at the station from every angle, from various distances , and even at a printout that I’ve kept on my computer desk for all of Lent. I’ve even gone into other churches to look at other interpretations of the station. Some versions give equal or even more prominence to the soldier who did the stripping. What has struck me from the beginning about our version is that sometimes I can’t even see the soldier, and am not even sure he is there, depending on my vantage point. Other times I clearly see his outline. But always, it is the artist’s skeletal Jesus that captures my attention, and that is as it should be. It is as if Jesus has been stripped not only of his garments, but has begun to be stripped of the flesh of his humanity, that humanity that will shortly be crucified, the necessary prerequisite to the Resurrection, the full manifestation of Jesus’s divinity. Fully God and fully human, Jesus is being readied for what is to be played out according to prophecy and plan. It seems to me so right that it is a Jesus not as he is typically depicted (in most versions, Jesus stands looking rather forlorn while the soldier stands holding the garments, or in some versions, pulling on the garments) that captivates the viewer’s attention in this station. We can’t look away.
What we can do is meditate on what it means to be stripped down to the bare essentials of our being. Do we share in Jesus’s humanity when this happens? When is it that we are stripped of the garments, real and symbolic, that contribute to our sense of self? Think of examples in your own life and in our common lives together. Think of the stripping of the altar on Maundy Thursday. Think, for the less than two weeks that remain of Lent, about what it means to get to the bare essentials. Or, if you prefer, think about the fate of these garments that were divided among the soldiers at the foot of the cross. Lloyd C. Douglas did that when he based an entire novel on the way the life of the man who won the tunic in the casting of lots changed afterwards (The Robe, 1942; film of the same name, 1953). There are so many possibilities opened up by contemplating this Station of the Cross that an entire Lenten practice could be based upon it if one wanted to pare Lenten practice down to just one 40-day meditation. I’m almost reluctant to retire the reproduction from my computer table, so accustomed have I become to looking at it daily before morning prayer. I owe the artist a debt of gratitude.
– Julia Alberino