Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tenth Station of the Cross

Wednesday, Last Week of Lent
Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments (ta himatia) and divided them into four parts, to every soldier a part, and the coat (kai ton chitona). Now the coat was without seam, woven whole from the top down. Therefore, they said among themselves, let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it will become. Thus the saying in Scripture was fulfilled: they divided My raiment (ta imatia) among them, and upon My vesture (epi ton himatismon) did they cast lots (John 19:23-24)

The soldiers performing the crucifixion divided Jesus' few belongings among themselves except the robe; because it was seamless, it couldn't really be divided -- and its seamless construction, being a time-consuming and skilled process, made it valuable.  It's for this reason that they gambled for the garment, fulfilling Psalm 22:18: "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture."

We don't really know, but it is speculated that the Blessed Mother wove this robe for Our Lord.  It seems that it was a custom of the day for mothers to present such a gift to their sons when they left the home to go out into the world on their own.  It's certainly possible that the robe was a gift from another relative or devoted follower, as well, but we don't err in assuming, I think, that in Jesus' chosen poverty,  He must have kept this valuable garment because of the love of the person who gave it to Him, whoever it was.

According to widely held tradition, Jesus' seamless robe was discovered by St. Helen in the Holy Land at the same time she found the Holy Cross and the other relics of the crucifixion (around the year 328).  She sent it to the city of Trier, Germany, where her son, the Emperor Constantine was said to have lived for some time.  The robe (also called a "coat" or "cloak")  is still in Trier today, carefully preserved in Trier Cathedral, Dom St. Peter, where it is displayed periodically.  The first exposition of the Holy Robe for took place in 1512 for a period of 23 days;  100, 000 pilgrims came to venerate it.  The most recent viewing was in 1933 for a period of three weeks; two million people came.

Talking to the children about the tenth station...
When we think about Jesus' suffering, it's hard to imagine not only the pain, but the humiliation He suffered.  His robe must have kept our beloved Saviour warm on many a cold night spent with his Apostles talking around the campfire.  He may have spread it out on the ground to sit on when He paused to eat while on the road.  Since it most likely was the gift of His dear Mother, or someone else beloved of Him, it must have been a kind of comfort to Him to have it with Him.  Yet, at the end of His life, it held no comfort.  After His scourging, covered in blood, the soldiers put this robe back over His bleeding shoulders and, then, when they approached the place of crucifixion, they ripped it off of Him, pulling off the dried and caked blood with it, thus re-opening many of the wounds.  The children may know how it feels to pull a bandage off a wound when it has stuck; they can possibly  imagine that pain many times worse as it would have covered all of Jesus' shoulders, back, and arms.  Then, through the pain and suffering, He lay on the ground as the soldiers prepared to nail Him to the cross and watched them throwing dice to see who got to keep His robe.   That one garment which His Mother may have made for Him.  Did He care about its monetary value?  Of course not, but it must have been a sore trial to remember the hands that wove it, as He watched it being lost to the hands of His executioners. 

Jesus knew the value of the fibers of that robe were nothing compared to the immortal value of the love that went into making it, so losing it was not a real sorrow -- especially since it ended up in a beautiful cathedral in Germany where it is venerated today, two thousand years later.  But, the thought of the loss of this one recorded possession of Our Lord's begs the question: How attached are we to earthly things?  Though He may have felt a bittersweet regret at its loss for the sake of the weaver, Christ certainly had no attachment to His robe as a material possession.  Its only real value in the end was being a small part of the price of our redemption -- which should hold the greatest of all value to us.   This world does not last forever and our eternity can't be bought with the treasures of the earth.

 How important are things to us?  Can the children name their most prized possession?  Why is it important to them?  Would they be willing to give it up for a greater good?  Could they still be happy if they suddenly found that they had nothing?  At the time of the Great Depression in America, many sad people took their own lives when they found that they had lost their material possessions.  How would we feel if the same thing happened to us?  Could we find peace in the thought of the world to come, in the love of God, in the enjoyment of the non-material gifts of heaven, like the love of friends and family, the beauty of the world God gave us?  Are we so attached to our "stuff" that we would be miserable without it?  Part of the mission of our Lenten sacrifices is to train ourselves to "do without."  How successful have we been this year in learning to offer up the comforts of the body for the good of the soul?
The Tenth Station (St. Alphonsus de Liguori)
Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments
V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)
R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how Jesus was violently stripped of His clothes by His executioners. The inner garments adhered to his lacerated flesh and the soldiers tore them off so roughly that the skin came with them. Have pity for your Savior so cruelly treated and tell Him: (Kneel)

R: My innocent Jesus, / by the torment You suffered in being stripped of Your garments, / help me to strip myself of all attachment for the things of earth / that I may place all my love in You who are so worthy of my love. / I love You, O Jesus, with all my heart; / I am sorry for ever having offended You. / Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)
Holy Mother, pierce me through
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Tenth Station (St. Francis of Asissi)
Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Arriving on Calvary, Jesus was cruelly deprived of His garments. How painful the stripping must have been, because the garments adhered to His mangled body, so that in removing them parts of the flesh were torn away. Jesus is deprived of His garments that He may die possessed of nothing. How happy shall not I die after laying aside my evil habits and tendencies!

Help me, O Jesus, to amend my life. * Let it be renewed according to Thy will and desire. * However painful the correction may be to me, * I will not spare myself. * With the assistance of Thy grace, * I will refrain from all sinful pleasure and vain amusement, * that I may die happy and live forever.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

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