The Disrobing of Christ


Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

Commentary: the Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger
 for Good Friday
Based on the  Office of Tenebræ

Presentation: Fr. James Groenings, SJ
TAN BOOKS, with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 908


Then the executioners, having violently stripped Him of His garments, which had fastened to His wounds, lead Him to the Cross. The place where He was thus stripped of His garments, and where the cup of bitter drink was presented to Him, is venerated as the tenth Station of the Way of the Cross. The first nine, from Pilate's hall to the foot of Calvary, are still to be seen in the streets of Jerusalem, but the tenth and the remaining four are in the interior of the church of Holy Sepulchre, whose spacious walls enclose the spot where the last mysteries of the Passion were accomplished.

But we must here interrupt our history: we have already anticipated the hours of this great Friday, and we shall have to return, later on, to the hill of Calvary. It is time to assist at the service of our holy mother the Church, in which she celebrates the Death of her Sivine Spouse. We must not wait for the usual summons of the bells; they are silent; we must listen to the call of our faith and devotion. Let us, then, repair to the house of God ...

Based on: St. Matthew, xxvii, 33, 34; St. Mark, xv., 22-28; St. Luke, xxiii., 33; St. John, xix., 18.


The last preparations for the crucifixion consisted in offering the Saviour wine with myrrh and in stripping Him of His garments. The first incident is narrated by St. Mark in the following terms: "They gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh; but He took it not." The evangelist St. Matthew describes it thus: "They gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall. And when He had tasted, He would not drink." Apparently these two narratives are contradictory in two particulars. St. Mark says that the wine was mixed with myrrh, whilst St. Matthew says that it was mixed with gall. Again, the former states that the Saviour did not drink, while the latter asserts that He tasted and then refused the potion. But, as stated, the contradiction is only an apparent one. The Greek word, which we translate as meaning "gall", has a broader signification. It means not only gall proper, but in general every bitter, aromatic herb, such as aloes, cassia, saffron and myrrh, and even every liquid in which such herbs have been steeped. Furthermore, the second difficulty arising from the fact that St. Mark does not mention that Christ tasted the myrrh and wine is removed by the consideration that St. Matthew, in narrating this incident, had in mind the prophetic passage, "And they gave me gall for my food," [Psalms, lxviii., 22] which denotes that Christ would actually take some of this bitter aliment. St. Matthew therefore describes the same incident which St. Mark records, only more fully and more definitely.

In order to lessen the pains of the execution, it was customary with the Jews to offer to those who were condemned to death a generous drink of wine to which had been added benumbing opiates and sleeping potions. The myrrh also had, to a high degree, the power of deadening the sensory nerves. Usually it was compassionate women, and sometimes noble matrons who deemed it an honor to tender this service of charity to the condemned. In other cases the myrrh and wine was furnished at public expense. This custom was continued under the Roman prætors.

The drink of criminals was therefore presented to the Redeemer. He tasted it, but did not empty the cup. He would not die in a condition of stupor as did the pagan philosopher, Socrates, but in the full possession of His senses. For, notwithstanding all His sufferings, the Redeemer had not yet suffered any particular pain in His tongue and in His palate. This however had to happen to Him as well in reparation for all sins of the tongue, for all sins of blasphemy, of uncharitable words, of calumny and of obscene language, as in reparation for all sins of intemperance, and for all transgressions of the law of fast and abstinence. For this reason the Saviour sipped the wine which, owing to the myrrh with which it was mingled, had a very bitter and sickening taste.

Then Christ was despoiled of His garments. It was a custom of the Romans to strip to the loin-cloth those who were to die on the cross. As we have witnessed a similar scene at the scourging, we may pass briefly over this one. I wish to remark merely that this last disrobing was much more painful than the first, especially to the sacred shoulder on which Christ had carried the Cross. The wounds torn open anew, burned like fire. Moreover, it was much more humiliating because it took place not only in presence of the soldiers as before, but in presence of the whole people and of persons of both sexes. But the Redeemer desired to offer a complete and superabundant satisfaction for the shameless crimes of mankind, and as He had pledged Himself to poverty upon His advent into this world, He would remain true to this pledge until death and die in the embrace of direst poverty.