Love rises

Maryam

The path was narrow, and it was dark as I made my way down to the cave where we had buried Yeshua. I carried the embalming spices in a small bag on my back. Yeshua’s mother had told me about a night long ago, when he was just a baby and wealthy foreigners had brought him gifts, including myrrh. Someone had known even then what he was going to be, and where his nature would lead him.

The eastern sky was beginning to turn pale as something large loomed out of the darkness. I squinted at it, not realizing at first what it was. The thing was round and pale grey-brown. It was the stone we had used to seal the tomb. It had taken Shimon, Andreas, Yochanan and the man Yoseph who had given us the tomb just to move it two nights ago. Why had the tomb been disturbed?

I soon came to the mouth of the cave. I peered inside and gasped.

The body was gone.

Insult to injury! It wasn’t enough that they had killed our Master, teacher and friend: someone had stolen his body, in order to subject it to who knew what defilement. I wanted to cry, to scream and shout, but all my emotion had been spent. I felt empty, useless.

It was only then that I saw the linen grave-clothes, neatly folded in the corner. Even assuming that a thief would have removed them, why would they have left them so tidily. I couldn’t make any sense of it.

Light came from behind me. I thought at first it was the sun rising, but it carried on getting brighter, brighter than the sun could possibly be. I turned, and fell to my knees.

A human-shaped figure stood, as tall as the trees and blazing with light. Behind it in the sky were countless thousands of other figures, no less bright, and all of them were singing, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts.

MARYAM, said the angel. DO NOT BE AFRAID, FOR GOD IS WITH YOU.

Easy for you to say, I found myself thinking.

GET UP, DAUGHTER OF LEVI, he said. KNEEL NOT BEFORE ME, BUT ONLY BEFORE THE ONE WHO SENT ME.

I shakily got to my feet and stood before the angel.

THE ONE YOU SEEK IS NOT HERE, said the angel.

“I—I know. I—I came to check the tomb and he was gone.”

HE IS NO LONGER AMONG THE DEAD, said the figure. HE IS RISEN. YOU MUST TELL THE OTHERS.

I tried to take this in. Yeshua, risen from the dead. I had seen what had happened to Eleazar, but I would still have struggled to believe it without the angel standing there. Without Yeshua, the world seemed to be more mundane, to sparkle less.

“How will I convince them? It will seem far-fetched. Can you not appear to them too?”

THIS TASK IS FOR YOU TO DO. YOU ARE BETTER AND STRONGER THAN YOU KNOW, MARYAM OF MAGDALA. THE ANOINTED IS RISEN. GOD HAS CALLED YOU: GO FORTH AND SPREAD THE WORD.

With that, the Host was gone. I stood, wondering whether I could believe my eyes, or whether I was going mad. But I had seen countless people healed, Eleazar raised from the dead, food multiplied. What was one more miracle.

I started back to where the other disciples were waiting, wondering what I would tell them. But they had seen the things I had. They would understand. I would make them listen. My heart sang praises to God.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Advertisement

Seven Stanzas At Easter

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.
John Updike

hemmed in

She watched as he stepped from the boat. ‘Is that all?’ she thought, eyeing him.  ‘Is this the one who can command demons, and ruffle the rabbis, and stir the hearts of the crowds?’

He looked tired.  And as soon as he was ashore, the crowds pressed in around him:  calling to him, reaching for him, demanding his attention.  She sunk further into the shadows and watched.

The voice startled her, when it came.   ‘You could do it, you know.  If you chose.’ All day she had felt she was being watched, that there was someone.  But it was folly.  She was always alone.

‘Do what?’ she snarled.  ‘Just leave me alone.’

She felt, more than saw him draw closer.  Curious, and encouraging.   She felt the feather touch of his breath as he said,  ‘You could do it.  You could go to him.’   Then she watched him move into the crowd, clearing a path for her.

She was wary.  How could he know what she wanted?  And why would he care?  It has been a long time since anyone had seen her, spoken to her.  Twelve years.  Twelve bloody years.

But this felt different –whomever he was.  She followed him, and her heart echoed his words ‘you could do it. you could choose.’

The crowd was thick, and she’d lost sight of the stranger, but she could still sense his presence.  Yes.  She would do it.  What more could she possibly loose?  She ran, now, forcing her way through the crowd.  ‘Please, God, let me reach him.  Please God, let this stop.’

And there he was, in the clearing before her.  She saw Jesus talking with someone, and her heart sank.

‘Jarius.’  she hissed.  That great man.  The great leader. ‘The swine,’ she thought.  Too many times she’d seen him walk past as if she were invisible.  Too many times he pulled his cloak tight around him to be sure not to touch her, not to take the risk.  And there he was, talking with Jesus.  Pleading for his little girl.  Jesus hanging on his every word.

She tried to summon compassion for the man whose daughter was ill.  She mostly failed.  Oh, she wished them no harm, but she was jealous of him, too:  He whose needs are always met.

Then, she felt the feather touch of the stranger’s breath in her ear. ‘You could go to him.  I will help you.  Just reach for his cloak.’

His cloak… She watched as its hem swirled, filling the space the crowds cleared for him.  Yes.  She could do that.  Jarius could command his attention, but she could catch his hem.

She pushed on through the crowd and tried to believe she had as much right to be there as anyone.  She saw the anger and revulsion as people recognized her, feared her touch; and she decided not to care.

She got to the front of the crowd and saw Jesus, foot-swift and sure.  His cloak spread out behind him, and she let herself fall to the ground so she could touch it.

Her fingers brushed its edge, and the world seemed to cease its turning.  His power surged.  Her bleeding stoped.  Life was given again. She remembered Isaiah, and covered her face with her hands.

Zadkiel had covered his face, too.  And in the distance, Jophiel had set off a Sanctus.

Jesus turned and faced the crowd.  ‘Who touched me?’ he said in alarm.

‘Master, don’t be silly.  Look at the crowds.  It was nothing.’

‘You are wrong.  I felt it.  Who touched me?’

The woman uncovered her face and got her bearings.  She hesitated only a second, and thought, ‘I can do this’.

‘Good girl!’  Zadkiel nodded.  ‘I told you you could.’

His wings spread in triumph, as she stepped forward and lifted her eyes.  ‘I touched you.  It was I.’