We meditate much on Christ's physical suffering. The beatings, the crown of thorns, the stumbling walk to the cross, the nails, the hours hung, and finally the spear.
We meditate much on His humiliation. Forsaken by his friends. Mocked by his enemies. Hung naked for the world to see, the punishment for the worst kind of criminal in Rome.
However, thinking on these very real sufferings, we often miss the ultimate suffering, the actual one from which He rescued us.
We shall never be able to get used to the fact that at the very center of the Christian faith we hear this cry of the godforsaken Christ for God. We shall always attempt to weaken its effect and to replace it by "more pious" parting words. What Christ was afraid of, what he wrestled with in Gethsemane, what he implored the Father to save him from, was not spared him. It happened on the cross. The Father forsook the Son and "God is silent." The Son was forsaken by the Father, rejected and cursed. He bore the judgement in which everyone is alone and in which no one can stand. (Jurgen Moltmann in his essay "Prisoner of Hope")As if the physical pain and the humiliation weren't enough. The night of His arrest, Jesus retired to a garden He had used often to be alone in prayer. This night, however, he brought along three of his dearest earthly friends, perhaps craving more company.
Christ anticipated in Gethsemane that He must endure the experience of His dearest turning from Him. The Being with whom He most identified, the Father with whom He communed every day of his human life, of whom we are told, "I and the Father are one." Through a wretched, necessary, incomprehensible miracle, God turned against God.
We know, of course, that communion is restored. Yet, let's not pass over the horror only because we know the end. This Lent, sit with this meditation: Christ--the Person closest to God the Father--endured the turning of that Beloved Father so that we would never have to.
The passionately loving Christ, the persecuted Christ, the lonely Christ, the Christ despairing over God's silence, the Christ who in dying was so totally forsaken, for us and for our sakes, is like the brother or the friend to whom one can confide everything, because he knows everything and has suffered everything that can happen to us--AND MORE. (Moltmann, "Prisoner of Hope")
*This post is a meditation on the essay "Prisoner of Hope," found in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.