Holy saturday meditation: Friedrich Nietzsche – the parable of the madman

It’s Holy saturday today. Jesus is dead, lying in the tomb. All hope is gone for the disciples. To think about the desparation of the disciples is not easy. I already did one controversial try with a Peter Rollins parable before, but this year will be even more extreme I guess, with our good friend Friedrich Nietzsche:


Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. 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? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us—for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]

questions to meditate on:

1.I don’t know about you, but I live in a post-christian culture, in which Christianity is dead. What do you think? Would the madman, being too early in the time of Nietzsche, be on time in 2011?Would the masses agree with him?
2. Think about Peter, who loved Jesus a lot, but who had betrayed his rabbi Christ in the hectic situations of the trial, which is still unresolved while christ is dead and all is lost. How would you feel?
3. Looking forward to resurrection sunday: What would it mean for God to come alive again in our life story? what would be the impact on our life, this society, this planet?

6 responses to “Holy saturday meditation: Friedrich Nietzsche – the parable of the madman

  1. Ik like the questions, from Nietschze and from you. Let’s meditate on them this day and in our life from now on.
    I disagree on the answer in Nietschze’s outcome: ‘God is dead’. God was dead, yes, for a couple of days … but there is a powerful Tomorrow: ‘He is not here, He is risen’.

  2. This phrase is grabbing me: “This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.”
    I don’t know if the masses would now agree with Nietzsche or not- seems to me that the topic wouldn’t even come up. The deed is becoming more and more distant, not less and less. It’s like we’re a galaxy spinning out of the universe, further away from the rest of the stars. The madman is more timely than ever, but I think we’re getting used to the breath of empty space.

  3. Pingback: Jon Rogers » Resurrection and Nietzsche go to Church

  4. How funny- Next they will ask the UNO to declare Holy Saturday to be the Earth Atheists’ Day.
    The only dumb thing about it is that this conviction reflects the rich countries idée fixe that the Future Belongs To Me.

  5. Pingback: Holy saturday meditation: momamic (psalters) | Brambonius' blog in english

  6. Pingback: Holy Saturday meditation 2018: the harrowing of hell | Brambonius' blog in english

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