The First Word; The Garments

And Jesus said: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Then the soldiers, after they had crucified Him, took His garments (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part, casting lots upon them what every man should take), and also His coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said then to one another: "Let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it whose it shall be"; that the word might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: 'They have parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture they have cast lots.' And the soldiers indeed did these things. And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. - Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24,25; Luke 23:34; John 19:23,24

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1. Our Lord appears to have spoken the first of His seven words, recorded only by Saint Luke, while He was yet being nailed to the cross. We know how excessive torture has wrung prayer from the lips of martyrs and other sufferers, who have found in the effort some counteracting power to endure. So it had been with Him in the Garden. And now, at this last act in the drama, His prayer is the spontaneous expression of that which is deepest in his heart Whatever else Our Lord is, the deepest thing in Him is forgiveness. He had offered it to Judas, and it had been rejected; to Peter, and it had been accepted; to Annas, to Caiaphas, and most of all to Pilate, and it had been ignored; now He includes all in His offer, for if His executioners are prayed for at such a moment, then what soul may not hope? "Not for the world do I pray, but for those whom Thou hast given Me out of the world," He had said but the evening before. And now He lets us see how far His prayer extends. It is as though He said: "Not for the world do I pray, which is a dominating spirit; but for every individual soul that is in the world, and that I would gladly rescue from it."

2. The dividing of the garments is mentioned by each of the Evangelists, but is elaborated by Saint John. Through the last scenes of the tragedy, Saint John has his eye fixed upon prophecy and its fulfillment. He seems to be asking himself, Why all this? And he finds his answer in the unity of all revelation. To Saint John, Saint Augustine is a perfect antithesis; for as the first unites the past with the event, Saint Augustine unites in it all the future. Saint John sees in the saving of the seamless garment the fulfillment of the past; the other sees the prophecy of that which is to come. To the end of time the enemies of Our Lord will crucify Him. They will rob Him of His garments and divide His worldly possessions among them. But His seamless garment, the Church herself, they will never divide; she shall remain intact, though they appropriate her for their own.

3. "And the soldiers indeed did these things," concludes Saint John. "And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him," concludes Saint Mark. It was in the middle of the day, in the sight of all the world, with the greatest publicity that was possible, that Our Lord was put to death; not in a secluded prison yard, with just the official witnesses present and no more, and with all the care that modern humanity demands. We look on the sight; we are fascinated by it to this day, this bleeding body of Our Lord, the stream from which overflows and drowns all the world; we hear Him say, "I, being lifted up, will draw all things to Myself," and we watch "all things" yielding, gradually, gradually, to the fascination.


1. He prayed for His enemies.

2. His garments were divided, but His seamless robe was not parted.

3. He was crucified in the sight of all the world.

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier