The absence of Golgotha


As we prepare to celebrate Holy Week and Easter within the Christian tradition and persons clamour to post and then log onto opportunities to experience a “virtual” Easter, I would like to offer an alternative and that is to do nothing.

Or, rather, experience “absence” in a very real way.

The absence that Mary and the first disciples experienced that first Good Friday after the death of Jesus.

They left Golgotha having just witnessed the death of a Son and a dear friend.

As with every death what was left was a vacuum.

They knew nothing of the Easter experience that was to come.

We, on the other hand read the Gospels somewhat like someone reading a novel having checked that the hero, or heroine is still alive at the end.

Now that makes for safe reading.

Mary and the first disciples knew only absence and emptiness.

And what did they do? Self-isolated!

This Holy Week and Easter provides us with a wonderful moment to really experience these events as absence and so journey with Mary and those first disciples’ John of the Cross names this absence a “dark night”.

As our Scripture says “a darkness came over the whole land (Mk. 15:33).

Or as the poet remarks, “to go into darkness with a light is to know the light; to know the darkness, go dark.” (Wendell Berry).

It will not be easy, however, neither is standing under a cross and watching your Son be crucified!

At the conclusion of the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola with its focus on the Passion and Death of Jesus, there is frequently a suggestion that the retreatant take Mary to their home after the events on Golgotha.

I would like to suggest this as a prayer experience for this Easter.

Take Mary home, sit her down at the kitchen table, put the kettle on, and, when the tea is brewed and poured out, talk together about each of your experience of Jesus.

Having both participated in and directed a number of these retreats, such an encounter with Mary the Mother, far surpasses any sung Exultet!

  • Gerard Whiteford is Marist priest; retreat facilitator and spiritual companion for 35 years. He writes regularly at
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