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

The Fifth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Clothes

March 15, 2012 Comments Off on The Fifth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Clothes

Fifth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His ClothesAt the climax of Julie Delpy’s Two Days in Paris Jack (Adam Goldberg) strips naked before his girlfriend, Marion (Julie Delpy) as they confront one another about the status of their relationship. He drops his pants, and everything else, in an aggressive manner denoting that he wanted Marion to really know who he was. While nakedness was familiar to Marion and Jack’s relationship, Jack used nakedness, in this instance, to remove any barriers that prevented Marion from perceiving Jack as he really was.

Like Adam and Eve, feeling shame toward our naked bodies is a learned posture. Watch any screaming naked newborn baby as it enters our world, and it is clear that being naked is the least of the baby’s concerns. Yet somehow we, as babies, children, teenagers, and adults, learn to invest great time, thought, and money into how we cover our nakedness. This is especially true for those living in New York City.  Even so, it is worth considering how our routine concern for covering impacts our relationship with God and with others. Perhaps it is no mistake that Jesus was naked on his painful journey to his ultimate confrontation with God and the people who persecuted him. Perhaps it was the only way for him to be fully present on the journey of ultimate sacrifice and for his humanity to be truly perceived both by those who loved and hated him.

 Humiliation and pain make hiding highly desirable. In those moments we want to run to the nearest dark space, cover our heads with a blanket, and just disappear from everyone and from God. A challenge in the fifth station of the cross is to become truly present, truly vulnerable, and truly naked in our confrontations with God and with others when we’re experiencing humiliation, pain, and the inclination to run far far away. Such metaphorical nudity might mean exchanging our masks of superficial pleasantries with bare honest conversations. It might also mean being naked, literally, before God and/or before others we trust. Because it is especially in that moment that we can no longer hide our condition of being utterly human.

 – Michelle R. Jackson

Michelle is Assistant Program Director, Stewardship Services at the Episcopal Church Foundation.

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