Vox Nova is happy to present these thoughts from reader Greg Mayers, C.Ss.R. It seems clear that the post was meant for Good Friday, but by the time we got organized it was Sunday and we thought this wasn’t exactly an Easter Day post. We apologize for the awkward timing. In any case, Vox Nova is happy to receive Guest Post submissions as a way for our readership to engage us and one another. We thank Greg for his contribution and encourage others to consider contributing.
“My God why have you abandoned me…?” Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? Mt 27.46b, cf Ps 22.2. Why is that phrase so important to us, so disturbing that we can’t help but turn away from it by altering it into something it is not? Because if the God of Abraham and Moses, the God whom Jesus calls “daddy” in his native aramaic tongue, can abandon Jesus whose life is fulfilling his daddy’s will, his daddy’s deepest desires and wishes, what can we expect who can seemingly do only our own will?
God is a hole that can’t be filled and can’t be left empty… A hole, because God is hidden from all of our human powers of inquiry, knowing and intuiting. Buddha couldn’t find God. Plotinus mistakenly labelled God “the One who isn’t even one,” and who is so perfect in itself that it needs nothing and is thus indifferent to humanity and creation. For Aristotle God is the supreme Being, which only falsely pairs it up with non-being. God is incomprehensible and is “known”only to the extent that He chooses to be apprehended, which means He can be “truly known” only beyond the limitations of the human intellect. And that turns out to be for us a hole.
Jesus refused to fill in the hole with anything – hatred, despair, hope, imaginings, meaning – see the temptations in the desert; He will let nothing replace daddy. He is naked (literally so on the cross) and defenseless at the edge of this dark precipice.
Thus he was plunged directly into the depths of divinity and screamed at the moment of the experience… He wasn’t deceitful. He lets it be what it is and does not turn away. It wasn’t enlightenment on a grand scale. It wasn’t evolving to union with Plotinus’ One, or awakening to Buddha’s no-self. None of those intellectually and emotionally comforting patterns apply. It was horror. Remember the stories and sayings of and about Jesus are colored unavoidable by a post-resurrection perspective. What was it like before the resurrection? Just before the moment of death arrived? Nailed to a cross, a common criminal’s execution?
Love is not sweet… It is awful… for it eats up everything we think we have or we think is owed to us… like death; …and like death, without a promise of anything to follow. Think of Gandhi. Think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Think of Martin Luther King. Small lights by comparison maybe, but lights that got violently extinguished.
The empty hole at the center of Jesus on the cross becomes the empty tomb of Easter… So filled with the unimaginable and so humanly unsatisfying.
In the end it is not important that we grasp God, Jesus, the Resurrection, the Trinity. We can’t, and we can’t not try. What is important is that God apprehends us, and in that we are starkly helpless.