Holy Week with the Existentialists: Good Friday – Suffering


Good Friday – Suffering
Mt. 27:1-66; Mk. 15:1-47; Lk.22:66-23:56; Jn. 18:28-19:37


“…we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky


Meditation – Make some space to think

Seven words; his last words… words of love, words of pain, dereliction and abandonment. Was this how it should end? Looking down from this tree of pain and seeing those he loved, and those who loved him. Alongside them, faces of casual indifference, and structural violence. He sees his mother, her tears unstoppable.. he looks for his father…

Father?.. father? The heat and the pain wreaking havoc with his thoughts, the noise the cloud, the sounds  bright flashes of sorrow dazzling his vision, yet he recalls again… ‘Father!’ – the carpenter, that’s who he remembered, yes the carpenter, gone too soon, the pain of loss etched into memory… yes “father how I miss you..” but no.

Another father; yes another father he loved. He remembers in moments, sparks of inspiration. The father of all, the father and the son.. and the spirit of life.. where is the son?.. no, wait, he is the son.. maybe (the barracking crowds confuse his thoughts). Where is father? the father he asked to forgive them, the father whose seems to love all.. but ..  not.. him. The father who hears his cries and responds. With nothing.

“My God, My God!”

He remembers food, and laughter, the embrace of strangers, the people released to live again. He remembers the fullness of life, the stars in the sky, the moments of passion and joy. Gone so soon. He is weary, fading, emptying. How did it get to this? The exuberance of life swallowed encroaching death. Was this all wrong? Should he have lived differently? Was there some other way? Would his vision be forgotten?

His father remains silent. The ‘Abba’, uncaring, he is like a child crying for absent comfort, yet senses it too, in the last whispers of love as his vision dims. Somehow, even now, he is not alone; somehow he feels the inevitability of people’s suffering.. he sees himself in that suffering too; his tears, other’s tears; his mourning, other’s mourning. He is lifted … one last time, in the fractured beauty of humanity. Love, pity and solidarity mingle in the clamoring noise, the ringing in his ears, the yells, the sobs. They are all together in the loss of God, the loss of all gods

His mother, the other side of this scene… her loss beyond words, a pain beyond language. Memory; touch, sound, smell, blood, perfume, condense into this one point, as if all his life inexorably raced to this event. But so much still to say.

“Finished”, he tries to say – sounds, barely audible, gurgling in his throat, “it is finished”.

(a snowflake falls gently on his brow).



Jesus dying with us. God tasting death. God dying. God abandoned by God. A rift inside of God, a split that was not there before, the ache of sorrow inside of God.

Is the good news of Good Friday found in its absence? The good news of divine passion woven into our stories of pain.
Pray for places, people and situations where “my God my God, why have you forsaken me?” is the only prayer to say.

Pray about the times to struggle, and the times to let go.

Pray for a deeper awareness of the moments which make up a life.



Boy Child by Scott Walker     (Gary’s path)
Willow Weep for Me by Clark Terry     (Vincent’s path)

All Holy week posts can be found here

Welcome to this series of Lent Reflections.

These reflections can be used in conjunction with the second Lent Album,
One Day Like This’, which is intended to evoke both space and mood.

Existentialist thinkers were concerned with how it feels to be alive. An awareness that we are alive—in any situation—reinforces a sense of identity. What do moments in time give to our awareness of who we are, where we fit in the world, in our communities, in the universe?

Holy Week is the most vivid and emotional week of the Church calendar. In it we see Jesus and his followers going through extreme human emotions; celebration, hope, doubt, fear, friendship, betrayal, isolation and surprise—emotions that we all encounter through our lives. The sharp contours of our lives, struggles and joys all contain the touch of divinity.

These daily meditations invite you to reflect upon your moments in time and place. They remind us that extremities of human experience can make us feel fully alive or totally isolated. Yet in sharing our experience, we realise that we are not alone; there is solidarity in humanity, and solidarity with the very human Christ.

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