Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mary Magdalene Running

I stayed up to read the Bible verses for yesterday, and Easter Vigil, and for Easter Sunday (once midnight had come), out of a desire to be awake for it; for Easter to start now, for me, here in Central Standard Time, before the morning of hurrying to get ready for church. I think of Mary Magdalene walking quickly through the pre-dawn darkness to the tomb, having waited (and I suppose grieved) like the others through the Sabbath observance until the body of Christ could be tended. Who she arrives there with varies according to the Gospels, and the revelations of the angels (their phrasing and their positions) varies; but she was by all accounts on the scene from the very first word of the Resurrection.

There is plenty of literature on the shelves to choose from when it comes to Mary Magdalene, and her relationship to Jesus. It probably ought to be enough that her presence at the time of the teaching, the crucifixion and the Resurrection is recorded in the Gospels. I suppose without knowing much about it that in attempting to right some of the cultural wrongs of past interpretations of the Bible, authors will approach her from the point of view of her gender, and argue the significance of her presence through all as a woman. As the one who anointed Jesus and was to be remembered, one who stood by his cross, who came to his tomb to tend his body. I suppose it's important to raise her up, from a certain point of view, as a woman who was respected by Christ (even as she was discounted in some narratives by the other disciples.) I have one of these books, "The Gospel of Mary Magdalene," and I've skimmed it casually; but I don't really want to get sucked in to a lot of popular debate over what might be "missing" from the Bible. I'm willing to believe there was plenty of valuable material edited out in the early centuries of Christianity. I'm just not sure it matters a great deal, in the end.

Since it's a debate better carried on by people much more educated than I, I'd like to just think of her running -- delivering her message of joy and mission to the other disciples, imparting the instructions she received. Running barefoot down a road that might have led from the "garden" or burial place through or past the killing ground at Golgotha under a lightening sky; perhaps blind to the theater of her horror and grief now, deaf to the sound of her breath as she runs, thinking only of her message and the wonder of it. Does she carry a shred of disbelief in her heart? After all the miracles, it's hard to imagine doubting this greatest one. Does she grasp the reality of Christ's presence as she spoke with him? Is her innermost heart peaceful, certain in the confirmation of a literal understanding she carried with her even to the cross, the comprehension of Jesus' promise that he would be raised again? All of this as she bears the good news on her two feet, silent as she runs. Does she see anyone else on the road? Some stranger. Anyone? Do they look at her and wonder why she runs, or witness what must be the glory and determination on her face? It's something to think about.

How did she tell the story afterward, a year later and in her own words? Did she only discuss the message itself, or did she tell the sort of stories we reserve for those times that stand above all the other minutes and seconds of our lives -- smells and sights and sounds imbedded forever in detail exceeding the experiences that would come after. Did she carry away any of the linens from the tomb?

OK, no digressions into the Shroud of Turin and all that.

Was her hair really red? It doesn't seem terribly likely, though that's how she is depicted in Western art, for the most part. What was she wearing? I suppose an educated guess is possible. How did she smell? Do conversations with angels have any effect on a person physically? Does the sight of the Resurrected Christ purify ones' soul forever? I wonder. How did her feet sound as she ran down the road, into the next chapter of the Bible narrative?

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

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