My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken me.
CAN GOD FORSAKE HIMSELF or can he be forsaken by himself? It always seems that this verse gets called out to prove that Jesus didn’t see himself as God – or that the earliest Christians didn’t see him as God. Then, sometimes, this verse gets thrown around to say the Father somehow abandoned Jesus as if the eternal Trinal Unity of God could sever himself and leave part of himself behind.
Was Jesus abandoned?
The Liturgy of Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox Christians replies loudly NO. At Pascha (Easter) they sing:
In the tomb with the body, in hades with Thy soul as God, in paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, wast Thou, O boundless Christ, filling all things.
At one moment in the Grave, in Hades, in Paradise, on the Heavenly throne. Even the incarnation itself did not part God from himself. The arc of salvation is the Messiah “filling all things”.
So what happened on the Cross?
The Incarnation is a mystery of the faith. The kenosis or self-emptying of the Son is one of the actions of his love for us. In this, he follows what he sees the Father doing: self-emptying to the Son. The Son self-emptying to us.
However, there’s another element here, for the manhood of Jesus was equally real and fully present. Our Lord and Saviour was not only the Divine Logos but also fully human. The feelings of that man are real, are fully human just like yours or mine. To use a sort of psychobabble, his feelings are valid. Jesus said, “I will do this for you” and the resultant feelings are real. Our feelings matter, too: not just our flesh, not just our spirit. Even though he was never abandoned, even though he was always “on the throne with the Father and the Spirit” Jesus’ emotions told him, “this sucks…”
And so, also, with us.
There are times when I can know in my head (even in my heart) that each thing that participates in beingness is doing so through God’s actions. Were I ever abandoned by God I would no longer be. The very act of being alone – which I cannot initiate or sustain – is proof of my being with God. I can know that. But my emotions can run another way, can turn against me can demand I cry out.
My God, why have you abandoned me?
Jesus knew this feeling and, here on the Cross, this feeling is elevated to a Divine state, to one of salvation in process. Your feeling of abandonment can be offered to God, and can even be celebrated as a participation in the passion of Christ.
You can – like Jesus – even blame them on God. This is the point, actually. Our feelings are not sins and yet they are very real. It’s what we do with them that is crucial. As Jesus said in the garden, “If it is possible, please take this away from me… but not my will. Rather, Father, may your will be done.” So he says here, “I feel abandoned. But I’m still trusting you, Father.” That should be us: and yet it takes a lot of faith to do it. If we find ourselves trying to pull away – letting our feelings get the better of us – we need to turn it all over to God again. But our feelings then become our Cross. We’re called to bear our cross including our feelings, but even if we fall under them we need to keep going.
Today there is a great drive to give into our feelings which largely means to run away from pain and things we’re afraid of.
Instead, Jesus calls us to be crucified on them.