The Penitent Magdalene by Georges de La Tour ca. 1640
I was once a foolish girl with curled hair, a dusting of freckles across my nose and cheeks. It was curiosity- isn’t it always- that first led me away. The world awaited me to savor its beauty, to uncover its mystery through enchantment. It did not take long. How quickly it changed. The world soured and curdled in my mouth. My flesh, devoured to the bone by the look of insatiable eyes, my body a den for unseen savages. Then, one day, he passed by. He saw me. He came and spoke a word to me. At that moment, he gave me back to myself. And coming back, my only desire was to give myself wholly to him. With him, I could be noble and grow strong as the cedars of Lebanon that Papa once spoke of. That day, I followed him. How many evenings I sat at his feet, listening to him speak of many things. In his presence I would lose all sense of time and often forgot my chores. My sister complained about that once. I miss my sister. I miss my brother, too.
I am now old woman, so many years piled as stones upon my bent shoulders. From this cave, on this Gallic mount, I spend my day, as I have spent them for thirty years, in prayer to him. Sometimes, the villagers visit me. They ask what it was like seeing him, that morning in the garden. For years I tried to describe it. I have long since given up. I usually say he was a radiant as the sun or his eyes shone as the morning star or something like that. What Life and Beauty really look like! To try to speak of it is to mire them in the pitch of our words. What he is and what we shall be, through him, is beyond all telling. In the end there is no speaking. Only the seeing, at last.
My life in this place, so far from the land I once knew, is a penance. Some days I watch the clouds float in their courses from the sea. It reminds me of the cloud that shrouded him as he returned to the Father. I sometimes see an expansive and large one rolling toward me and find myself hoping the day, at last, has come. It will come, though not in a way that I or anyone expects.
Until then, I will wait for him, my prayers deepening as violet at dusk.
Mary Magdalene in Mediation by Antoine Le Nain ca. 17th