Holy Week with the Existentialists: Holy Saturday – The Silence


Holy Saturday – The Silence

“human being’s absence from the presence of God, a Deus absconditus, is but a reflection of God’s exile from God’s self” .
Ralph Harper

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”.
Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125

His grace is no longer called for
before meals: farmed fish multiply
without His intercession.
Bread production rises through
disease-resistant grains devised
scientifically to mitigate His faults.
Yet, though we rebelled against Him
like adolescents, uplifted to see
an oppressive father banished –
a bearded hermit – to the desert,
we confess to missing Him at times.
– from ‘Missing God’, by Dennis O’Driscoll

Meditation – Make some space to think

It was over. The disciples, both women and men, sat together; scared, anxious, heart-broken and confused.

The silence which had overcome them these last few days remained. Pain destroys language, and had robbed them from anything to say.. no way to contain what they had experienced. The contrast from the hope at the beginning of the week, through the contours of bewilderment at Jesus rage, wonder at his teaching and a growing sense of unease as fevered clouds loomed over Jerusalem.

And then everything went wrong; blood, nails, tears, despair. Their teacher mocked, their friend broken, there hope dead.
Violence had won, death had overcome love; fear, hatred, domination regained control. The dream of insurrection – the ‘kingdom’ he called it, of love and justice – dashed against cold walls of indifference.

The air around them felt heavy, dark and humid, like a great weight in their midst, a gravity holding them close to the earth.. to this moment, unable to free themselves.. to escape. They were held together in a voiceless waiting…contours of longing allowing the process of silence to interrogate them, and for them to interrogate the silence.

They believed he was the son of God, (whatever that actually meant), but they witnessed God abandon him, they saw it – heard his cries, his torment. they were all orphans now. If the son was dead, was God dead also?

Sometimes in our own lives there are moments of waiting – waiting in silence and waiting for silence to do its work upon us; opening and emptying us. The silence can be full of fear, anxiety, depression. It is all too easy to anticipate an outcome, to pre-suppose God’s blessing, an answer to prayer, or some means of release… we repeat mantras of God’s love even though we don’t believe their denial of reality.

But the moment demands our attention, calls us back to live the experience, whatever it may contain. The emptying place is the divine place… not a shelter from the storm, but the storm itself.

The disciples and friends waited, felt, wept and consoled each other… they longed too for the first light of the new day.. the women  poised to anoint Jesus’ corpse… Once done, then they would begin to imagine what  to do next.


Spend your own time with the silence. Allow your prayers and thoughts to explore two aspects of God; silence as presence, and silence as absence. What is the texture of both?

Imagine yourself as one of Jesus followers… waiting, but not knowing what comes next… there is no plan.. no ‘tomorrow’, the world has truly stopped. What do you do, how do you pray, (or do you even try?).

Finally, pray – or hold in your thoughts – those you know who are facing an unremitting silence.




Wholy Holy by Marvin Gaye     (Gary’s path)
If I Go, I’m Going by Gregory Alan Isakov    (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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