Forsaken

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
(Matthew 27: 45-46)

Forsaken. Abandoned. Deserted. 

Jesus hangs, laid bare for all to see, broken for all to mock, dying for all to live. Jesus hangs, forsaken. First abandoned by his friends, and now his God deserts him. Our God deserts him.

Jesus cries in pain, the pain we cause in our separation from God. The pain we feel because of our own separation from God. The pain we embrace each time we sin. 

We look at the cross today. We see Jesus feel forsaken. And I wonder if, in this current time, we feel forsaken too. Jesus was never separated from the Father, he merely allowed himself to enter into the experience of sin itself. We see in these words on the cross, an entering into the human experience of separation from God. 

Just 15 weeks have passed since Christmas, when we celebrated Immanuel: God WITH us. We are a resurrection people. A people who know that ultimately God IS with us. And yet we are a Good Friday people too. Just as we have many hours of lockdown left, we have many hours of forsakenness before our resurrection celebration on Sunday morning. We have hours in which we can, as Walter Brueggeman challenges us, reflect on the fake promises of the world around us, and on the truth of our lives before the holiness of God. 

NT Wright writes, “the mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments.” We are not alone in our feelings of forsakenness and grief. God IS with us. As we dwell in abandonment until the resurrection of Easter morning, as we fix our eyes on Jesus’ forsakenness, may we see clearly our own abandonment and that of others. 

The loud cry will turn to loud praise. But before that, it is a loud cry. It is a loud cry for all the abandoned. It is a loud cry for all the sick. It is a loud cry for all those in our world who are yet to know the truth of Immanuel. 

This loud cry of forsakenness can be our cry this Easter. It tears the temple curtain in two, it is so powerful. And behind the curtain, revealed to us, is the God who turns the world the right way up. And he chooses to do this through weakness. As we sit at the cross, may we hear Jesus cry, may we be reminded of our own weakness, as we ask God’s spirit to cry within us today. 

Weeping: Good Friday Reflections on Mary at the Cross Pt 4

Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifíxo condolére,
donec ego víxero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociáre
in planctu desídero.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live:

By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.

Weeping. See Mary at the foot of the cross. When Mary stayed at the cross, did she know she would be given a new son? Someone to look after her and someone for her to mother? While she wept, did she say anything to Jesus? Did she cry out to God? Where was his mercy for her? How could he leave her? What was her prayer?

Do we look at the cross and see the pain? Or do we look away, only inviting the joy of the resurrection that we know is coming? Mary did not know. She did not have hindsight.

Look at the cross. See Jesus the son, wrought with pain. See Mary the mother, stood below, watching, waiting, weeping.

Let us hurry not to the Easter tomb, with gleeful joy.

Let us watch.

Let us wait.

Let us weep.

Waiting: Good Friday Reflections on Mary at the Cross Pt 3

Pro peccátis suæ gentis

vidit Iésum in torméntis,

et flagéllis súbditum.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum

moriéndo desolátum,

dum emísit spíritum.

For the sins of His own nation,

She saw Jesus wracked with torment,

All with scourges rent:

She beheld her tender Child,

Saw Him hang in desolation,

Till His spirit forth He sent.

 

Waiting. See Mary at the foot of the cross. Her face is turned up towards Jesus. She sees his frail body, hanging bleakly. While Mary waited, did she think of her life with Jesus? What was she remembering in her grief as he went from her? Perhaps the moment she was told of his birth? Or the miracle of turning water into the finest wine? So far from the wine vinegar he tasted on the cross. As we look with Mary, what do we remember of Jesus’ life?

Do we look at the cross and see the pain? Or do we look away, only inviting the joy of the resurrection that we know is coming? 

Look at the cross. See Jesus the son, wrought with pain. See Mary the mother, stood below, watching, waiting, weeping.

Watching: Good Friday Reflections on Mary at the Cross Pt 2

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si vidéret
in tanto supplício?

Quis non posset contristári
Christi Matrem contemplári
doléntem cum Fílio?

Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?

Watching. See Mary at the foot of the cross. While she watched, we know she must have wept. Her son lay bare for all to see, broken for all to mock, dying for all to live. Is her face blotched and stricken with angst? Perhaps you can hear her cries from all around? Or is she weeping more silently, more controlled? 

Do we look at the cross and see the pain? Or do we look away, only inviting the joy of the resurrection that we know is coming?

Look at the cross. See Jesus the son, wrought with pain. See Mary the mother, stood below, watching, waiting, weeping.

 

Watching, Waiting, Weeping: Good Friday Reflections on Mary at the Cross Pt 1

Mary, at the cross with Jesus, is an image immortalised in Stabat Mater art – Stabat Mater meaning mourning mother. Sometimes this art portrays solely Mary with Jesus, sometimes the other women are there too, as in John’s Gospel, but mostly it is Mary on Jesus’ right hand side and John on the left. These images portray the artists’ impressions of how they see what John wrote about. The Stabat Mater is also a 13th century hymn, and I want to use some of the words to help us reflect on Mary and her thoughts and feelings as she stood at the cross with her son.

Stabat mater dolorósa
juxta Crucem lacrimósa,
dum pendébat Fílius.

Cuius ánimam geméntem,
contristátam et doléntem
pertransívit gládius.

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

Watching, waiting, weeping.

Mary was promised by Simeon that her soul would be pierced too. She was not promised a lifetime of joy with her beloved child, but an eventual sharing in his pain and anguish. She did not run away and hide, as the disciples did, but stood there until the end.

Do we look at the cross and see the pain? Or do we look away, only inviting the joy of the resurrection that we know is coming?

Look at the cross. See Jesus the son, wrought with pain. See Mary the mother, stood below, watching, waiting, weeping.