Did the Holy Spirit abandon Jesus on the cross?

Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:46

No one who contemplates this cry from Jesus can help but get a chill up their spine. The quote is also in Mark and this adds to the reliability that it is authentic. In addition, it is somewhat troublesome, and so it’s unlikely that it was added later by some well-meaning monk (as is the case with some other quotes in the Gospels).

So, what does it mean? Consider this possibility: Upon his baptism by John, Jesus has a mystical experience, connecting directly to God. He manages to maintain that mystical union with God for three years until the suffering from the crucifixion is just too much for him. He can’t hold the connection, and cries out as he loses it.

If you re-read all of the New Testament passages about the Holy Spirit, you will note that in each one of these references something is happening  (descending, swirling, etc.). If you remove your “First Council of Constantinople” blinders, you will see that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God in people and not a thing-in-itself. Early Christians, mostly not as used to abstract thought as, say, Greek philosophers, would have had a hard time “getting” this concept. Thus, like so many other examples of reification in the history of religion, what was an abstract idea became (literally) personified. God-in-humanity became the third person of the Trinity.

Maintaining your connection to God is hard, even if you’re Jesus.

The ladder for ascending to God

In accord with our created state, the universe itself is a ladder for ascending to God.

(Saint) Bonaventure, The Mind’s Journey to God, Essential Writing of Christian Mysticism, Bernard McGinn (ed)

The symbol of a ladder appears throughout Christian mystical writing. It’s as close to a perfect symbol as human language can come up with when speaking of “the thing that thought cannot think.” Approaching God requires us to strip away our human limitations one by one.

In order to come to thoughtful consideration of the First Principle, which is totally spiritual and eternal and above us, we must pass through the vestiges that are corporeal and eternal and outside us; this is “to be led along God’s path”;

Bonaventure (ibid)

We have to reach into our minds and begin stripping away everything that is “not God”.

then we must enter into our own mind, which is God’s image, everlasting, spiritual, and within us: this is “to go to God’s truth”; finally we must pass beyond to what is eternal, totally spiritual, and above us, by gazing toward the First Principle; this is “to rejoice in the knowledge of God”

Bonaventure (ibid)

This is what Wittgenstein means, at This is what Wittgenstein means, at the end of his treatise on the nature of logic:

My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, 6.54

Those who really delve deeply into the nature of logic and language will begin to see that, in the end, these are woefully under-powered tools for understanding the nature of reality.

Image source:
The ladder of divine ascent traditional panel Russian Orthodox icon