Easter through the eyes of Mary Magdalene
We are approaching Easter… and I will not lie, that throughout my journey, I have long wrestled with this aspect of the liturgical calendar.
And not for the reasons you might think. (I have no qualms with the unbelievable, nor the unmeasurable.)
But when something or someone has been erased from a story, it is sort of like the tampering of a memory in Harry Potter’s world. A cover up. It doesn’t sit quite right.
We experience echoes, and a haunting, and disturbances, when we read or enact a memory that has been so intentionally meddled with.
But, alas and alas-o!, we have other memories to help us.
We have the keening songs that remember the Three Mary’s (Caoineadh na dTrí Mhuire). These keening songs know that to stay with the dying is to weep uncomfortably, but also to be gifted with a fidelity to the vision of what James Finley calls “deathless beauty”.
We have the canonical gospels themselves. Big time.
We have the gospel of Philip - There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion.
We have the gospel of Thomas.
And the gospel of Mary.
I was never a big Easter person, (to be honest, much of the cynicism I have wrestled with comes from trying to sing in the stark brightness of an Easter morning that felt more like a hangover of avoidance, the hymn, “up from the grave he arose!”). Something about the perfect, polished, lustre of Easter Sunday without the depth of the Jordan, the desert, the anointing for the tomb, the Roman machine’s tactics, left me impaled by an overreaching joy that had not gone the distance.
Perhaps at least some of the reason for this, (without using either/or, discarding, or separating energy), is because we have been looking at Easter through the eyes of those who were not there.
Looking at Easter through the eyes of Mary Magdalene gives one no choice but to go the distance. There’s no wiggle room. It means: to take part in a sensual preemptive anointing, to stay with, to go beyond death, into the heart of the world. And in that heart of the world is where the mystery of reconciliation bursts forth - like never ending circles from a pebble dropped into a pond - composting and integrating, never exiling, the painful falsity of separation.
It would seem that once this unitive story had been told, what the world knew to do with it, is to apprehend this kind of depth of freedom, and use reconciliation as a uniform force to galvanize armies and empires. So here we are.
But what would it be to follow Mary, who followed Jesus in the imaginal realm, into the very harrowing of the Hell realms (where impasses abound, and culture wars reign - only to make Caesar more painfully engorged)… and sit timelessly, with all that is not yet healed, until it is not just soldered or fused back together, but utterly re-membered as the body that we are. What would it be to trust in this kind of reconciling force?
There are some pages missing from the Gospel of Mary. And one of my dear teachers, Cynthia Bourgeault (author of The Meaning of Mary Magdalene), is inclined to sense that the missing pages recount Mary Magdalene’s passage into the hell realms, actually never, ever, leaving her beloved through it all.
Is this where all myth became incarnate? Where symbolism was embodied?
John Dominic Crossan says it so beautifully: not literal, not false, but actual.
What I can tell you, is that to hold this story in this light, is to pull Easter away from the over-brightness of the “solution”, and into the much more compelling but difficult realm of staying with… and following.
Some might say this is not a feminist take, because our heroine is following her Lord where he asks her to go. But if they were equals, and if they were a team, and she “got” him, (and he “got” her), she would fail and fall into the infinite arms along with him, and ego would be the tiniest stitch in her tapestry. And maybe he had the courage to go there, precisely because she really saw him. And maybe she had the courage to go there, precisely because he really saw her.
Alchemy does not comprehend the dualistic.
As we approach Easter, 2022, I invite us to spend time with Mary Magdalene and her beloved יֵשׁוּעַ - and we will see that the way of love has always been through and with, not around and apart from.
There is a much less overreaching glory in this…
and now I can hang my hat on Easter.
No gold-plated erect caesar-god here.
Human One can be found on my album Liturgy. You can download it in the gift economy here. (Offer a gift or receive it as a gift - it is up to your discretion.) You can also listen to it on all streaming platforms.
This week, my folk opera “Hiraeth” is continuing to take a very powerful, lovely shape. The big quest this summer will be to fund and create the music videos along with it.
Like all of my work, the Muses and the Mediatrix is offered in the gift economy… there is no paywall… but any gift back to this work keeps me going!
(You can also join me on Patreon, where many of my listeners choose to imbibe this work with life and love.)
Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to a conversation that took place between my all time favourite mythologist and storyteller, Dr. Martin Shaw, and my all time favourite sonnet maker friend, Malcolm Guite. Martin Shaw is a carrier of hundreds upon hundreds of living stories, and, in thanks to the influence of a forest in Dartmoor, has recently been engaging with the richness of Celtic Christian myth. I can assure you, it is wonderfully potent!
I highly recommend a subscription to Martin’s page The House of Beasts and Vines,
and in the meantime, this conversation with Malcolm Guite is just one taste of the richness, and was from Dr. Shaw’s offering today: