Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shame consumed by love

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Exposed, humiliated, vulnerable beyond what seem bearable.  It is in such moments that God may seem most distant from us.  Yet, here we see Him exposed in His nakedness before not only the mob who hated and scorned Him but before those who cherished Him the most.  The latter can be even harder to bear. Shame was stripping away every earthly support that Jesus had: his friends gave way in shaming abandonment; his reputation gave way in shaming mockery; his decency gave way in shaming nakedness; his comfort gave way in shaming torture. This he endures for you Daughters and for all those who vulnerability has been abused or whose shame has come to light before the eyes of those who take a morbid delight in the trials of others.  He comes to comfort you and asks you to comfort others in kind. There, upon Calvary, Christ’s love for the you is shown in its nakedness, His love for you in its intensity.

Before He is nailed to the cross, Jesus gives as yet another overwhelming showing of His love, yet another proof of His identification with human beings in their bitterest humiliation: Jesus is stripped of His garments.

It is hard to bring oneself to reflect on this, yet it is necessary because of what every detail of this dreadful incident can mean to us today. With all the wounds on His body, the wounds of the scourging, of the falls on the way to Calvary, of the heaviness and the roughness of the cross on His shoulder, Christ’s garments must have been stiff with blood and adhering to His body. The soldiers would not have treated Him tenderly, although there is no reason to suppose they were fundamentally cruel. They would undoubtedly have torn His clothes from Him as quickly as they could and as roughly as they must. It would have been almost as if His skin was being torn off Him.

There, exposed in His nakedness, He stood in front of the whole mob—and, which must have been far harder to bear, in front of those whom He loved, His Mother, John His chosen friend, and Mary Magdalene who had washed His feet with her tears. He stood naked.

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He was stripped there on the summit of Calvary not to reveal His sacred body in its perfection. He was the fairest of the sons of men; no other man had ever had, or ever would have, a body approaching His in perfection; but it was exposed to the world only when it was disfigured by wounds and bruises, only when it was exhausted and almost falling to the ground with weariness.

Again, Christ identified Himself with those whom He would indwell through all time.
He stood there naked in front of the world and in front of His heavenly Father, identified with all those sinners who are found out, whose shame is made public, or, perhaps more terrible for them, shown to those whom they love and from whom, above all others, they would wish to keep it secret.

He stood there identified with the neurotic who wants to bide his secrets under the thin disguise of his neurosis, and whose secrets are torn from him by modern “scientific” treatment.

He stood there identified with the convert, either from sin or unbelief, who must tear off the long-established habits of sin and weakness as if he were tearing off his skin.
He stood there identified with everyone who loves, because all those who love must be known sooner or later as they are, without pretense, their souls stripped bare.
Not long ago, Christ had revealed His glory upon a mountain. He had gone up with his disciples to Mount Tabor, and there shown them His splendor, clothed in garments of burning snow. Now He has gone up into a mountain again to reveal yet another glory that is His, the glory that He gives to sinners in the hour that seems to them to be their hour of shame but which, when it is identified with Him stripped naked upon Calvary, is an hour of splendor and redemption.

There in Christ is the sinner who is found out, the lover who is stripped of all pretense, the weakling who is known for what he is, the repentant murderer who pays the price of his sin willingly before the world, the child whose disgrace is known to the mother whom he wanted to make proud of him, the friend who is stripped of all pretense before the friend from whom he longed for respect.

There, upon Calvary, Christ’s love for the world is shown in its nakedness, His love for the sinner in its intensity.

Excerpt From: Caryll Houselander. “Way of the Cross.”