God’s most deep decree

My God, my God, why hast thou foresaken me? We are given nothing else after these words from Christ on the cross, though it is not hard to imagine others that must have gone through his head: Is it because I have not lived up to you, am not worthy of you? Is it because you are ashamed of me and this degrading spectacle I have become? But you are me. I am you . . .

We disparage ourselves endlessly, sometimes with reason (or what seems like a reason), but more often, and more damningly, with a kind of black clarity of judgment that reaches right past all that we have or have not done, reaches past any insight or diagnosis that psychology can offer, and fingers us at the heart of what we are. Wrongness, call it. A stark and utter saturation of self:

God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me.


Traditionalist Christians call it original sin, I guess, but this seems to me only to take some of the sting off of it — it becomes collective rather than the cold and total loneliness that it is; it also situates the feeling in a social/religious (for some, even historical) context, when a large part of its terror is its inexplicability, its sourcelessness. If only the judgment were a “deep decree”: that would give it form and potential meaning. But it emerges out of and is defined by blankness, meaninglessness.

How startling, then, to think of Christ experiencing some version of this. And not simply Christ: God. As if all creation had this same corruption in it, this kink in the very grain of things, this mutant cell of self-loathing. As if there were some profound and more-than-human fellowship expressed in the lonely, human need for forgiveness:

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind.


— Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

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