The Inspiration of Saint Mary Magdalene
Jul 22, 2019
What must have been the incredible condition of Mary’s love that first Easter morning? It had been three days since our Lord had been laid to rest: The brutality of the scourging, the spitting, the mocking, the nailing, and the slow agonizing death on the Cross. She had seen it all, had been there for it all.
And what of the pain of her own responsibility for our Lord’s brutal death? He had endured it all because of her…because of her many failings, her many sins…had endured it for her because of her depth of love…her depth of contrition. This is the same Mary who had been possessed of seven demons who perhaps represented the seven deadly sins. Mary had seen the price of her salvation. She had followed the trail of blood, sweat, and tears from the Garden of our Lord’s agony and it led her to the Foot of the Cross; and crushed beneath the burden of her sorrow and the burden of a past still slow in the process of healing…she collapses at the crucified feet of the Christ.
What a contrast to Peter who himself was plumbing the depths of contrition but from a great distance…discerning the faint outline of a Cross that Mary Magdalene embraces and kisses.
And she remained there…helping her dead Savior into the arms of the Immaculate Conception. The woman blessed amongst all women…and for her fullness of grace, she receives the full impact of hell’s wrath. Again what must have Mary Magdalene felt…would she not have recognized further not only the extent of her sin against God but the extent of her sins against the beauty of her own feminine dignity, which covered in blood and dirt the broken Virgin Mary as she held our ransom against her body? And yet for all that and so much more…Saint Mary Magdalene is not only at the tomb but desires to enter into that chamber of death and soak in her renewed flow of tears the breathless body of her Christ.
There is so much about darkness that makes us afraid…but what of the darkness of death…the terror that what lingers on the other side is the deepest darkness of all…utter nothingness. Yet here Mary is...what a commitment to love and God she demonstrates. Most of us have been taught not to commit to anything until we’re a hundred percent sure. Sure of what? That our hearts will never be broken? That we will never be disappointed? That we will never feel discouragement or, worse, despair? C.S. Lewis reminds us: “Love anything and your heart will surely be broken.” Love Christ as Mary did and surely our hearts will be broken…and perhaps it is this brokenness more than the darkness that terrifies us.
Perhaps if we were truly honest, we would admit that there is an aspect of the Resurrection that terrifies us…that amidst all the celebrating there is a sobering check from a voice that whispers: “do you celebrate because of the celebration or do you celebrate because of the reality of the situation…a reality that places demands upon you…a reality you must commit to with your whole heart, mind, soul, body and strength.”
Do we sometimes have the sense that in our mind’s eye approaching the tomb of Jesus that we want that stone firmly in place. Would one admit to feeling as Christ’s disciples must have felt…that though they never wanted Him crucified it was somewhat a relief when the stone was rolled across the entrance to the tomb, sealing everything shut so they could go back to being fishermen, which they knew how to do, rather than fishers of men, which they didn’t.
Hence they remained locked up in the upper room hiding in the darkness of fear whereas Saint Mary Magdalene having entered into the darkness of sin and suffering now makes her way into the deepest darkness of all…a tomb of death. From where must her courage have come? Did she secretly harbor a hope that the Christ story ending in such tragedy was a deception and lie and if so, could then return to a life of reckless indulgence and selfishness? No…emphatically no. Mary had the experience of perfect love.
As Scripture reminds us: “Love is stronger than death, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire.” Mary’s love was stronger than death, her Faith stronger than hell…stronger than her guilt, shame, and suffering. It was stronger than all the darkness in all the world for all time because it was a love and hope bound to eternal love.
Armed with that same Resurrection power that recreated and re-defined Mary Magdalene, we too shall descend into the depths of any suffering and any misery and reaching into that darkness pull from its pits so many persons desperate for our Lord’s life and love…souls being carried away into hell we will wrestle from demon’s hands and place in the arms of God our Father, the Holy Virgin our Mother. If this is the responsibility of radical commitment and devotion to our Christ Faith that makes us pause and for a moment want to roll that stone back…let us not be afraid and join Saint Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb of Christ and reclaim the Resurrection power of discipleship.