Monday, March 25, 2013

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Salvador Dali's oil painting Crucifixion or Corpus Hypercubicus

"My God, my God why have you forsaken me".
Why does the Lord make this cry from the Cross?
It is a quotation from Psalm 22, it begins with emptiness but actually ends in triumph. Nevertheless the words that Jesus chooses to quote are barren and bleak.

The whole process of crucifixion, and one may suspect Jesus' crucifixion especially, was to turn him into a "man despised and rejected" in the eyes of the population, and in his own eyes to become a "worm and no man". It was not just the physical destruction of Jesus that was desired but his annihilation in every way. The one who claimed equality with God has to be reduced to less than nothingness. It is part of Divine humility that the Son of God should place himself under mankind, not merely taking on death but in a sense placing himself under death itself, hence the dreadfulness of his death.

Some have suggested that this cry is really a loss of faith on Jesus' part, that sees his mission turned to nothingness, that his Father really has deserted him. I am inclined to agree to a point. The humiliation of Jesus is one suspects only partially described in the Gospels. We are left to imagine quite what his torturers actually did in darkness of the Praetorium it can only be seen by the darkness of the human soul, Roman torturers were as professional as their modern brothers and knew how to make a man confess, to break him, or to reduce him to whatever the chose. It presumably wasn't just physical pain but psychological and emotional pain they could inflict. Crucifixion is a terrible death but there are worst deaths, Jesus' death is not merely about the visible suffering and the destruction of his body but the disintegration of his very being.

Jesus in his humanity is a the Man of Faith.
How does he know he is the Son of God? Surely in the same way that we know are by adoption sons (or daughters) of God, it is by Faith, that is how human beings relate to God. To suggest anything else would be to suggest that Jesus was hybrid God-Man, and therefore a denial of the most essential Christological doctrines.

 During his life, like us, he experienced moments of deep contemplative intimacy, perfect union with God, at times like the Transfiguration or Baptism, times when faith gives way to absolute certainty, in human terms, when the veil of human limitation dissolves and there is perfect and intimate knowledge. As Catholics we have to believe that Jesus has before him the Beatific Vision always. It is legitimate to ask, how he had it. The struggle in Gethsemane would suggest that it was by subjecting his human will to the Divine will, this was obviously no painless experience. We humans want to flee death and pain, it is our nature but Jesus' will is to conform his humanity (and ours) to that of the Father, in that sense "he learns obedience through suffering".

I don't think this is heresy but it seems that at the end in Jesus all that existed was faith, all that might have sustained his relationship with the Father is gone, miracles are gone, prophecy is gone, the sense of delight in God has gone, there is no sense of the Presence of God, or even his comfort. Hence Jesus by pure and perfect faith in absolute desolation, cries out, "My God, my God".  This is perfect obedience, what our first parents lost by seeking knowledge, Jesus restores by the absolute pain of the loss of knowledge, the absence of any comprehension of God, in total human misery and alienation.

His faith exists when everything else that leads him to feel or experience God is absent. This is the Divine Dark Night of the Soul when everything dissolves except God, even Jesus' human image and understanding or intuition of God. The immensity of Jesus capacity and yearning for God is drained, empty, dried up, he thirsts, for mankind but infinitely more so for God. There is no vision, only darkness and emptiness and numbness.

Jesus in his perfect humanity stands face to face with God in uncomprehending comprehension abandons himself to God. There is nothing left but Faith, the Union of God and Man and nothing in the desolation of the Cross to support Faith but Faith, itself and in the emptiness of the Faith absolute Divine Love and resignation to the Will of God. There is nothing left but  for Jesus to place himself into the hands of the Father in the darkness of his pain a alienation.

This is the supreme act of divine kinosis, Jesus breathing forth his Spirit into the Eternal emptiness and darkness of God and in so doing he fills and enlightens humanity's with His Spirit.


Long-Skirts said...


His head pushed north
His feet reached south
His arms spread east
To west

Allowing men
To mock Him so
And put Him
To the test

So all the world
With eyes to see
Would know His life
Was done

But when He rose
They realized

JARay said...

I'm not so sure that Jesus lost everything but his faith. He knew who he was, even from an early age. Remember his reply to his mother when she and St. Joseph found him after they had gone looking for him when he was twelve.
I see your point about the effects of torture but I am also aware of the interpretation given to his choice of exclamation "My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?"
They are the first words of one of the Psalms which is prophetic of the suffering which he he is undergoing at that time. I'm sorry that I cannot remember exactly which Psalm it is.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Err - I think you are suggesting a co-mixture of natures!

JARay said...

Thanks Father. I did not wish to imply a co-mixture of natures. My belief is indeed that Jesus is fully God and fully man.
If I may point to another blog which has the words of Jesus on the way to his crucifixion. The author of the blog is Mgr Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington.
His blog can be found at :-
His latest post has the heading:-
"In times like these: Some very erie and prophetic words spoken by Jesus on the way to the Cross"
The words he refers to are those spoken by Jesus to the women of Jerusalem which began "Weep not for me but for yourselves and for your children"
Mgr Pope continues "Blessed are the barren and the wombs which never bore....At that time people will say to the mountains 'Fall on us' and to the hills 'Cover us'".
He refers these words to our present time when there is a movement towards women and their place in business, devoid of children and the death wish which is so prevalent in society today.
These words are hardly those of a man who has lost everything but his faith in God. He still is fully aware of his divine nature. He knows what is ahead, because he is God as well as being man. Surely he has not, here, forgotten his divine nature!
And, one cannot forget his very last words as he dies "It is accomplished". The whole purpose of his incarnation is fulfilled.

Deacon Augustine said...

Fr. is JARay necessarily suggesting a co-mixture of natures?

Christ is fully human, but the problem with us is that we understand what it is to be human from within a paradigm of fallen human nature where we do not experience the constant beatific vision.

In contrast Christ is the new Adam - like us in all things but sin - His humanity does not suffer the impediments of original sin. How can we possibly understand in this life the degree of communication between His human intellect and His divine intellect?

While it is not permissible to confuse His two natures, neither should we impose limitations created by sin on His human nature.

GOR said...

When it comes to the great mysteries of our Faith – the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Hypostatic Union, the Immaculate Conception, etc. – the weakness of our post-Fall intellect becomes apparent. We struggle to explain the Divine Mysteries in human terms and – inevitably - we fail.

“Who hath known the mind of God?” St. Paul once asked, and despite all of human history and the advances in knowledge and technology since Apostolic times, the answer still remains: “no one in this life”.

Years ago reading St. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle I recall becoming excited when she noted that after one mystical revelation she was able to understand completely the Trinity and the Incarnation. I thought: “Aha! Maybe she can now enlighten the rest of us!” Then the letdown - as she says she could not find the human words to explain them…

As the great theologians of the Church found out, the human intellect will always come up short against the omniscience of God. The danger lies in being resentful of this human impotence.

Faith is always going to be about unquestioning acceptance in us “who have not seen, but have believed.”

JARay said...

Thank you Deacon Augustine

Sitsio said...

Dare I suggest that there's another dimension to this discussion? The question is: are these the ipssisima verba? They only occur in Matthew and Matthew is concerned with demonstrating to the Jews the way in which Jesus fulfils the Scriptures, thus it makes sense that he would quote Psalm 22 apropos of DV 12?

Greg Collins said...

Christ must surely not have suffered the impediments of sin. That is true. But neither could He, during His earthly life, and despite the fullness of His Divinity, have the ability to see into the future. That inability is not a consequence of sin. It is what we might call a 'fact of life'. Humans are not gifted in that way. Christ, as a mortal man, could not know He would rise from the dead, though He hoped in Faith he would, any more than He could know who the next Pope will be or that Fr Ray would have a blog. That sort of ability to know the future is not given to humans. For Him to have it that would require Him to be more than human, super-human, and a super-human Saviour means no Hope for me for He is then no longer like me in all thing but sin. Adam, a man, fell and died, it was necessary that the second Adam, a man, should die and rise. Many Christians, over the ages, have wanted Christ to be more than human in His humanity and less than Divine in His Godhead. It makes Him so much easier to deal with as a role model.

As to the Psalm He prayed. If I say to you "Our Father who art in Heaven" do I need to recite the whole prayer for you to know how it ends? So it was with Christ's Jewish disciples, they knew how that Psalm ends and He was pointing the way to the glory of His triumph over death through the Resurrection. Which He believed in through Faith.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I agree with you but then we are faced with the difficulty of the prophesy of the destruction of the Temple; is it that with a mind unecumbered by sin he can see with clarity how the future will pan out? Any thing else as you say makes him no longer man but super man.

I think we have to accept the Gospels exactly as they are written, literally, as Dei Verbum says, we can ask what Matthew means when he says, "Jesus said" but the plain literal meaning cannot be obscured.

JARay said...

Greg Collins says "Christ, as a man, could not know he would rise from the dead".
When he said "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up", he did not know that he would rise again on the third day!!!!!
Scripture itself tells us that Jesus was referring to his own body which he would raise again on the third day.
So much for him not knowing the future!

JARay said...

Jesus certainly knew that he was God:-
"Before ever Abraham was, I am"
"I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven"
These are not the words of someone who did not know who he was.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think it depends what we mean by "knew". I "know" Australia exists but as I have no conclusive evidence, just heresay, never having visit it, it might be better to say I "believe" it exists, or rather I believe the evidence presented to me.

I suggest Jesus "believed" he would rise from the dead, in the same way we may, because "believing" is natural to human beings.

Pablo the Mexican said...

"I believe, really and truly, that Our Lord suffered on the Cross for the physically sick, and in the garden of Gethsemane for the mentally sick"- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

For your contemplation:

Man walks away from God so many times that eventually man becomes unaware that God has walked away from him.

There is no pain and suffering of anyone that Christ did not Himself suffer.

Blessed be God in all His Angels, and all His Saints.


Deacon Augustine said...

If we walked permanently in the presence of the Father, who we could also see, and the week before we were due to die we met with Moses and Elijah in a cloud of divine glory and power to discuss the exodus we were about to make from this realm of sin and death, wouldn't we "believe" in a different way than we do in our fallen nature?

Even with a fallen nature, if I met two dead blokes who were as chatty as those two, I think the chance of me doubting that there was life beyond the grave would be pretty slim.

JARay said...

I promise that this is my last posting on this issue (HurraH!).
I am quite unconvinced by your arguments Father.
When Jesus said "Before Abraham was, I am" he did not say 'before Abraham was, I believe I was around'. He said I AM
And when he said "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven", he did not say 'I believe I saw Satan...etc". He said I SAW .
Now I know that you believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man. When he used the personal pronoun I he was not just referring to his human nature, but to both his human and his divine nature.
When he told the repentent thief "This day you will be with me in paradise" he used his divine authority " you will ". Jesus is the one who will judge us. Jesus judged the repentent thief. He did not say "I believe" you will be with me in paradise. He said "you will"....
The end, from me.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Deacon Augustine,
No, I don't think we can say a "different way", that would imply he was different, we can say "perfect way". It can't be different unless we believe that the fall makes us "utterly depraved totally and corrupt" to the point of losing any likeness or image of God.

It is worth reading a bible commentary on the use of the phrase "I AM", most would suggest it is the Divine Name.
I really do think you are proposing that He did not "empty himself of his divinity" and became a hybrid of God-Man, neither fully one or the other.
We do indeed have to literal in our reading of the Gospels but that literalism must be in line with the Creeds: Homo factus est.

Greg Collins said...

What did Jesus 'know' and how? The Catechism expresses this rather well from para 456 onwards.

using non-theological language how might Jesus 'know' the future? Certitude. The absolute certainty or conviction that something is the case. Foresight. This is now well understood. Much of normal human thought is directed to potential future events. Understanding. Of God's eternal plan made human in Him.All of which rest on Faith.

Even we, in our fallen state, have glimpses of certitude and foresight and understanding. How much more so would certitude and foresight and understanding (see Matthew 16:21) be perfected in the perfect God/Man Christ? Hence He could take a piece of bread in His Sacred hands and say "This is my body" knowing that it would be so.

As an aside, as to a rigid literal interpretation, that can be a fickle friend. e.g. John 15:5 "I am the vine." Jesus used puns, analogies, metaphor. simile and, dare I say it, the odd spot of sarcasm in His teaching. All of those are extremely difficult to express properly in translation.

The Bones said...

At the age of 12 Jesus knew He was God.

God was overwhelmed by human sin on the Cross, but God was still God and God never doubted He was God.

Emptying Himself of His Divinity did not mean He did not know He was and is and always will be God.

My own take on it: Jesus forgot Himself so much and was so much in obedience to His Father that He neither thought of Himself as God because He never thought of Himself at all - only His relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

This is what is meant by 'self-emptying'.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

Fr said: "it can only be seen by the darkness of the human soul...the absolute pain of the loss of knowledge, the absence of any comprehension of God, in total human misery and alienation...nothing in the desolation of the Cross to support Faith but Faith...kenosis, Jesus breathing forth his Spirit into the Eternal emptiness and darkness of God and in so doing he fills and enlightens humanity's with His Spirit." Amen

the loss, perhaps, being the betrayal of what was known, understood, even prophesied. Satan is the great traitor - the twister and mocker of every corner of known and understood truth. Our hope, the man who sweated blood bearing the desolation of that betrayal...then suffering its seeming victory, in the end had only faith, but it was a faith fed on the true divine, the true eternal, the true revealed...that's what the Church is supposed to feed us with, so that however feeble our own suffering of betrayals are we might also 'die on good Friday' as the song says.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, Faith becomes that fragile thread that links humanity to divinity. In Jesus, in the end, only that relationship between Father and Son exists, in the end only our relationship between us and the Father, in Jesus exists. That relationship is really what Faith is. Faith is the human response to God. and God's response us is infinite Love.

JARay said...

Dear Father.
If you chose not to post this I fully understand. I did say that I would post no more on this subject, but your reply to me must be answered, at least to you.
You say:-
"I really do think you are proposing that He did not "empty himself of his divinity" and became a hybrid of God-Man, neither fully one or the other."
That is partly true.
When you say "empty himself of his divinity" do you really mean that Jesus utterly and completely laid aside his divinity?
If that were true then your priesthood simply derives from a man. Your ability to forgive sin simply derives from a man. Our redemption simply derives from a man.
Clearly this is utter nonsense! Heresy even!
Jesus was FULLY man and FULLY God.
When he took the bread and the wine and transubstantiated them, he was not just a man emptied of his former divinity. When he told his apostles "DO THIS" he ordained them priests because he was not only a man but also God. When he told people "Your Sins are forgiven" he did so, not as a man only but God also. The Pharises said "Who can forgive sin but God?"
You go too far in saying that he emptied himself of his divinity. Yes, he no longer 'sat at the right hand of the Father'. He laid aside the fact that as God he could not suffer and die. As a man he could suffer and die. He required food and water. He required sleep. He required a mother to be born and he required an earthly father to provide food and shelter for him.
I've said enough, but I think that you have gone too far in the matter of how Jesus laid down his divinity.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think your arguement is with St Paul and the first seven Ecumenical Councils, not with me.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

may we not become too lost on account of the great betrayer. may the day of our own death be our own God given Good Friday with the assurance of our own God given, Christ bought, Pasch, our own Easter Sunday. God continue to bless Holy Mother Church for such unprotestant Truth alive for the lost world because of God given keptsafe liturgy.

Deacon Augustine said...

I think JAray's points are supported by the 7 Ecumenical Councils. When we speak of Christ's kenosis, we do not mean that He totally emptied Himself of His divine nature. How could He when Chalcedon asserts that "Remaining always what He was, He assumed what He was not"?

In this speculation of what events and acts took place according to His human nature only, or His divine nature only, we run the risk of running foul of the Third Anathematism of the Council of Ephesus:

"If anyone shall divide between two persons or subsistences those expressions (φωνάς) which are contained in the Evangelical and Apostolical writings, or which have been said concerning Christ by the Saints, or by himself, and shall apply some to him as to a man separate from the Word of God, and shall apply others to the only Word of God the Father, on the ground that they are fit to be applied to God: let him be anathema."

In his commentary on this anathema St Cyril also deals with the issue of the relation of Christ's divine knowledge and human knowledge:

(Apol. contra Theod., ad Anath. iv.)

"And if he is one and the same in virtue of the true unity of natures, and is not one and another (two persons) disjunctively and partitively, to him will belong both to know and to seem not to know. Therefore he knows on the divine side as the Wisdom of the Father. But since he subjected himself to the measure of humanity, he economically appropriates this also with the rest, although, as I said a little ago, being ignorant of nothing, but knowing all things with the Father."

The point is that the subject of faith, the subject of knowledge, is not a nature - it is a person. And in the case of Christ, the person who knows is a divine person who has assumed a human nature. A single person with two wills and two intellects, one divine, and one human, but in the end it is the person who "does the knowing", not the nature.

Fr. Ray:
"No, I don't think we can say a "different way", that would imply he was different, we can say "perfect way". It can't be different unless we believe that the fall makes us "utterly depraved totally and corrupt" to the point of losing any likeness or image of God."

Yes, "perfect way" is the right way to put it. What I meant by "different" was that He exercised faith as one who has seen the Father and knows the Father intimately, whereas we have not. To use your Australia analogy, He has actually been there whereas we have not.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Deacon Augustine, I think you sound as if you are falling into the pre=Chalcedon trap, which the Orthodox accuse the Copts etc of being in.
Certainly He is unchanging, Co-Eternal, of One Substance etc.
in the Incarnation he takes on human weakness and human limitation, with no co-mixture - his two natures and two wills are always distinct, which you seem to be denying. We must explain his fore-knowledge in human terms, otherwise we move dangerously close to Monophytism.

He is the perfect image/icon of the Father, but the icon is written in human terms.

Deacon Augustine said...

With respect, Fr. I do not believe I am at risk of Monophysitism or even Monothelitism, but rather hold the faith of the orthodox Fathers of Constantinople III, which like Chalcedon confirmed that there is no co-mixture or confusion of the two natures of Christ, but at the same time neither are they separable or divisible:

"Christ our Lord the only-begotten Son of two natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, inseparably indivisibly to be recognized, the peculiarities of neither nature being lost by the union but rather the proprieties of each nature being preserved, concurring in one Person and in one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons but one and the same only-begotten Son of God, the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, according as the Prophets of old have taught us and as our Lord Jesus Christ himself hath instructed us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers hath delivered to us; defining all this we likewise declare that in him are two natural wills and two natural operations indivisibly, inconvertibly, inseparably, inconfusedly, according to the teaching of the holy Fathers. And these two natural wills are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will. For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and is the proper will of God the Word, as he himself says: “I came down from heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature (ὄρῳ τε καὶ λόγῳ), so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: “His will is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”" Definition of Faith - Session XVIII Constantinople III

Unconfused, unchangeable, inseparable and indivisible - the East handles paradox much more comfortably than does the West.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Deacon Augustine,
thank you for the clarification

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