Thursday, April 10, 2014

he cannot ravish, only woo


The butterfly emerges from the cocoon, its wings, wet with rebirth, slowly opening, and then this creature of fragile loveliness flies across the blue vault of the sky.
--Madeleine L'Engle

I thought of L'Engle's butterfly as I stared--I wasn't gazing, gazing sounds too distant, removed, and piously polite. There was nothing polite about my look. I was definitely staring--at the Magdalene, clinging to the feet of the Crucified.

The beam of the choir loft, cutting across my view at a particular angle erased the figures of the Virgin and the Evangelist, and left just the Magdalene, just the Incarnate Word and the Prostitute. And I had one of those moments that occur every three to four months, once every changing of the seasons or so, where it really sinks in how absurd Christianity is.

God, the creator of the universe, who deserved to have kings and emperors kissing his feet, spent his last moments on earth with a woman that even humble, faithful peasants would look down upon.
We're all used to seeing the rich and wealthy get special access to events, sneak peeks, first glimpses, VIP passes. We know that the VIP package costs more than the nosebleed seats. If you want to get into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, the easiest way to do so is have your daddy buy all the candy bars until you find your golden ticket.
We all understand how the Veruca Salt's of the world operate.
I don't think we're surprised enough by the fact--well, I know I rarely am--that the Lord almighty, who gave the world all its riches to begin with, was surrounded by smelly cows and rather simple shepherds when He entered the world, and by criminals and a prostitute when He left it.
VIP tickets to see the birth of God were not available to the rich, to the powerful.
The creatures that got the First Sneak Peek of Salvation were lambs and their country-bumpkin caretakers.
Now that's pretty absurd.


It remains only for us to find how even the cross can be borne as a gift.

--Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross

So I stared at the Magdalene.
And I wondered at her boldness as she clung to the dirty, bloody feet of the Divine.
Sr. Dennis-the-Menace's words floated through my mind: She had many boys. Many, many boys. Just like you. But she loved Jesus more.
I thought of all the times I have felt so dirty and unclean, when those moments of selfishness and darkness have weighed down on me, and I, like the Apostles, run away.
Like Peter and James, who got the first sneak peek of the Resurrection on Mount Tabor, who had already seen a revelation of Christ in His glory, they'd already gotten a glimpse of the end of the story, a taste of the hope that was hidden in the darkness.
Like them, I turn my back and run.
We are so in love with ourselves.
When we fail ourselves, when we--dismayed--confront the fact that we are not worthy, we are so prone to run away, to give up, to retreat and self-pityingly nurse our wounds.
But I looked at Mary Magdalene, and thought perhaps her behavior was a better model.
Perhaps, when confronted with our own unworthiness, we ought to simply cling more to those sweet feet, which we have dirtied and bloodied.

Search out the prophets who love us with the truth that makes demands on us.
--Douglas Bushman

I wonder how the Magdalene could find the strength to cling so completely to Him who she had pierced.
And I thought perhaps the sweetness of God is a greater incentive to love Him than His goodness to us. Although His goodness to us in necessary, ineffable, and immeasurable, that is not why we love Him. We do not love Him for His kindness.
Love is something more stern and splendid than just kindness.
Even when hidden in bitterness, the sweetness sharply pierces through.
The Magdalene clung to his feet not because she owed it to him, but because her heart had been pierced by that sweetness.
Here, bloodied, dying, breathing His last, was the only word that would bring her comfort and life.
There was no where else she could turn.
It was very clear, from that intimate moment at the foot of the cross, that the Magdalene was holding onto those feet as one caresses a loved one, or holds the hand of a friend, but as one clings to the anchor that keeps the boat steady in a storm, or the rock that provides the only shelter from the tempest.
One clings to that anchor because without it, one will sink. Without it, there is no hope of freedom. Freedom is not found, I thought, in following Peter and James, by running away from the cross, but rather, it is found in the desperate embrace of the Magdalene.
I stared at her, and wondered if in that moment she was whispering the words of the bride from Solomon's song: for I am sick with love...so I held Him and I would not let Him go.

The heart of the servant of God is like an anvil, made to be struck, and to live on blows and outrages.
--Basile Moreau

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