Mary Magdalene

Artists, left to right: Owen Couch, unknown, Robert Lentz, Richard Stodart, unknown
(If you know the makers of either of the unknowns, I would be grateful to learn.)

She has always been one of my favorite characters from the stories of Jesus, along with Photina, the Woman at the Well. Women who lived raw and wild, undomesticated and on their own terms. There always seems to be something more, something deeper, something I can’t quite hear or understand, like a powerful dream that’s just fading before I can remember the details, or a word that sits on the tip of the tongue without finding its way into the open air. Mary Magdalene holds a Mystery that is always one step deeper into the veil of mists, one more curtain to encounter, one more step into the wilderness.

All the attempts to nail down her mystery, to put words to it, always leave me a little cold, compelling as they are: Maybe she was Jesus’ wife or lover. Maybe she was the real writer of one of the canonic gospels. Maybe she is the Holy Grail. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Mary Magdalene sits, like the High Priestess, before the curtain of mysteries, and only as I gain wisdom will I be granted the clue or the code or the shaft of golden sunlight that will admit me to the next stage of understanding. Like all the deepest mysteries, like the Deep Self, she lives in the realm of image and symbol, offering egg and thunder, grail and alabaster jar, skull and hair and tears. Best understood on the level of a dream. Best spoken in poetry, perhaps.

That moment of Mary’s epiphany is the mirror of every moment of yearning and longing and ache. Deep grief gives way to confusion and an intensification of grief: Where have they taken the body? And then the moment when the Beloved calls her by her name. I can never write that without getting chills and tearing up. Thomas, Peter, The Emmaus Travelers–those surprises are all coming, all delightful. But this one moment of sunlight in a garden and the sound of her/my name in the voice of the Beloved–it needs no pinning down, no explanation.


Gratitude List:
1. Wind. Yes, it’s scary, and I don’t really need more anxiety right now, but it’s so beautiful and powerful. After the big winds, I always think, “Wind-shriven,” the world scoured clean.
2. This long weekend. I have not yet gotten my lagging work completed, but I have had three marvelous days of baking and sewing and trail-work and playing with the family.
3. The story of Mary Magdalene. I need her Mystery and Epiphany now, perhaps more than ever.
4. Making plans even in the midst of this uncertainty. Putting programs and ideas and lesson plans into online formats is so much less than ideal, but I feel myself growing and thinking in new ways. In the after, I will be informed by the ways my brain has been forced to adapt in these months, and hopefully that will contribute to a glorious new normal instead of a return to an old normal.
5. Martin Prechtel’s ideas about Grief and Praise. I am going to have to buy some of his books.

May we walk in Beauty!


“I pray to the birds. I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward. I pray to them because I believe in their existence, the way their songs begin and end each day—the invocations and benedictions of Earth. I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.” ―Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place


“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” ―Emma Lazarus


“Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the Romance of the unusual.” ―Ernest Hemingway


“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” ―Robert Frost


“What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as One,
Received not in essence but by participation.
It is just as if you lit a flame from a live flame:
It is the entire flame you receive.”
―St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022)


“We love the things we love for what they are.” ―Robert Frost


“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.” ―Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” ―Sarah Williams


“Resist much, obey little.” ―Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.” ―e. e. cummings


“If we do not mean that God is male when we use masculine pronouns and imagery, then why should there be any objections to using female imagery and pronouns as well?” ―Carol P. Christ


“Subversive language, however, must be constantly reinvented, because it is continually being co-opted by the powerful.” ―Carol P. Christ

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