Fourth Word

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Mark 15:34

The Fourth Word need not lead to Trinitarian conundrums like, “How can one part of the Trinity abandon another part? “

Instead, the Fourth Word is Jesus quoting Psalm 22. Maybe Jesus said this or it was put in his mouth later for dramatic effect. Either way, the words would have been recognizable to literate listeners at the time or literate readers later. It is a lament, but it is also an affirmation of the human sense of abandonment in suffering, and God’s eventual mercy and grace, and the persistent record of that in words through the ages.

The Psalm is worth considering, and has a familiar pattern shared with Jonah’s cry from inside the whale, a lament followed by praise. Jonah says,

You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;

The Talmud connects Psalm 22 with Queen Esther, a hero who, like Jesus, boldly challenges convention and the laws of her religion and her government by walking into the Kings chamber intent on making a deal with him to save her people from destruction. From Megillah 15b,

“And she stood in the inner court of the king’s house” (Esther 5:1). Rabbi Levi said: Once she reached the chamber of the idols, which was in the inner court, the Divine Presence left her. She immediately said: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

The Fourth Word reassures because he laments as we do, but his lament fits a broader human context, in words not just a scream. The Fourth Word is a literary anchor, the opening lyric to a familiar and sad song, the comforting lilt of a nursery rhyme.

Choral Response: Fac, ut ardeat cor meum, Stabat Mater, Pergolesi

Fifth Word