Mary Magdalene


Georges_de_La_Tour_009 The Penitent Magdalene

 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-meditation

 Mary Magdalene in Mediation by Antoine Le Nain ca. 17th

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts During a Mass on Father’s Day

clouds-widescreen-wallpaper-13 Sometimes during Mass, my eyes move upwards and from the small windows above is see the passing clouds.  The sky is blue, you know, that rich blue sky of summer that thirstily drinks the sunlight, becoming a radiant cerulean dome above us.  And I see them pass, the clouds, from one widow to the next.  I see them pass, becoming something other than what they were, these tufts, cotton-ball-white, stretched and pulled, edges becoming wispy.  Before long, all I can see framed from those windows is that pristine cerulean sky wiped clean of the clouds’ ephemeral presence.  Where do they go, the clouds, when we see them no longer?

My gaze descends from the windows to the faces of those around me.  I am struck by the thought of how we are as transient as the clouds.  I think of what absurd little creatures we are: three quarters water, a hand full of elements and minerals all animated and set alight by electrical impulses. We little creatures all a buzz with our little plans, all a buzz with our little intrigues and blithe inconsistencies.  I see the faces of those around me.  I think about the man before me kneeling in prayer, his son, his daughter draped over him, looking about.  I think about that man, that absurd little creature, much like I, think about what I see of him, seeing only a minuscule portion of a self that lies hidden beneath the surface.  To break that surface would be to find an inscrutable depth swirling in currents and cross currents of desire, denial, and longing.  And of myself, from those same depths, a memory emerges.  Sometimes, at night, I become afraid.  I do not know why.  I lie in bed in the dark and feel myself and all committed to me being flung into a void.  Sometimes, I become afraid, feeling my life being unbound from the sun and I feel we are all rotating, careening haplessly toward some indefinite destination.  Sometimes I reach for her, to feel the reassuring weight and warmth of her.  Would the good Spirit of God, I pray, hover over this depth and call forth some definite thing from this formlessness?

We absurd little creatures take our cue, stand and the priest begins the Eucharistic Rite.  My son wraps his arms around my waist and looks up and whispers something.  I cannot hear what he says so I bend my ear to him.  “I love you”, he says and looks away toward the altar.  I look upward toward those windows, his words, dropping like flare into an abyss. Light moves upon the darkness.

Christ the Redemmer

Sanctuary of Christ the Redeemer Church