Monday, March 17, 2008

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Of all the words of the Passion, for me the most poignant are the words "Deus meus, Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me?", St Matthew gives us the actual words, "Eli, Eli lama sabacthani?", presumable to emphasise their importance in the passion narrative.

I have heard some pretty eminent scholars suggest that they are a great cry of despair by Jesus. others suggest they are a final act of hope and point to their origin in the Ps 21/22, which is a movement from misery to consolation and eventual triumph.

For me they give a profound insight into the relationship of the Jesus with his Father.

First, Jesus is praying to the Father, and yet he feels forsaken or abandoned. The whole point of crucifixion was to degrade, to dehumanise, to cut the victim off, Jesus experiences this even in his relationship with his Father. Throughout the Gospel, his relationship with God seems to be one of knowledge rather than faith, he feels, he experiences absolute intimacy with his Father. On the Cross, here, as he dies, the experience, the feelings are numb, only faith exists. It is the faith that most of us know, where we are not "strangely moved", or feel we can call on good with absolute certainty, the type faith depends on past experiences , on intuition, "when taste and touch deceiving" and we rely on "trusty hearing". In a way this pure faith, pure trust, stripped of everything, this is the type of faith most of us experience most of the time. These words identify Jesus preeminently as the man of faith.

If this is so, then perhaps here is an insight into so much else about Jesus, his understanding of himself as God, for example, or his own resurrection, these spring from his faith. In this, because "he is a man like us in all things but sin", "truly God and truly, without co-mixture", he shares with us the way all human beings relate to God, through faith. I do not think it is blasphemous to say that Jesus knew he was the "Son by nature" in the same way that I know I am a "son by adoption". Similarly he knows about his resurrection in the same way we know we will rise again, it is by faith. For human beings, Jesus included, faith is the only cord that unites us to God.


James M said...

Thanks Father--I've never heard it explained better.

As Abraham's great faith made so much possible, then how much more does Jesus' perfect faith make possible!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father, for your words which are inspiring and an encouragement. I have often thoguht of those words from the Cross when circumstances have been particularly painful. A priest once said to me " Never ask WHY. Our Lord Himself cried out WHY and at the time received no answer." This has helped me to endure in a dumb, passive way but you have turned them into living faith. explained

gemoftheocean said...

It had bothered me as a youngster particularly that God Himself was in such despair. But I felt a lot better when I was older and learned that that line was from the beginning of Psalm 22 which ends in a message of deliverance and assurance of God's help. Psalm 22 is here.

Anonymous said...

I always thought of it in terms of Paul's take, namely, faith and hope will pass away but love always remains. Christ's love of the Father still cries out when all else has gone.

I'm not too theologically sound but if God is all good would death be cast away from Him? If so, did the second person of the Trinity endure death without communion with God the Father (abandoned) or is that heresy?


Anonymous said...

Psalm 22 is not an expression of despair but a prophecy of the crucifixion: 'they have pierced my hands and my feet...'

Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

You write that Jesus's "understanding of himself as God, or his own resurrection, these spring from his faith ... he shares with us the way all human beings relate to God, through faith". These assertions have got to be false if OUR faith is to be at all reasonable. We BELIEVE Jesus's claims about himself because he KNEW their truth. If he merely believed but did not know these claims to be true what basis is there for our belief? Our belief rests on his knowledge.

It has become horribly fashionable to talk about Jesus's faith in the truths of revelation, but such talk fundamentally undermines Christian belief. It is on the authority of Jesus's knowledge that we believe. If he didn't know X then we've no reason to believe X.

Luke Gormally

Fr Ray Blake said...

Faith, does exclude knowledge, nor knowledge exclude faith.
We need to believe or trust in what we know otherwise it makes no difference to us.
Faith involves us in dynamic relationship with what we know.
Read St Paul on faith.

JARay said...

As Gem of the Ocean and Anonymous have said, Jesus was quoting Psalm 21 (following the Vulgate numeration) and indeed it is a prophecy of his crucifixion and rising into glory. Verse 29 reads Quoniam Domini est regnum et ipse dominatur in gentibus.
To the Lord, Royalty belongs, the whole world's homage is his due (using the Knox translationIn the Vulgate numeration, Psalm 22 is "The Lord is my Shepherd"


Fr Ray Blake said...

Karen, John,
Thank you for the correction, a mental short circuit on my part. I had the Miserere on my mind for some reason. I've made a correction.

gemoftheocean said...

No worries, Father. Some days I'd be hard pressed to tell you my own middle names are.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...