I've had this framed photograph in my home for several years. It is a still shot of a scene from the now infamous movie The Passion, directed by Mel Gibson, of whom I haven't been a fan since Braveheart. Except for the exceptional musical score and photography (Monica Belluci in this scene as Mary Magdalene) I believe the movie underscores all the wrong reasons in exploitative graphic detail. I could not have watched the film, based on the last twelve hours of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, for the violence factor alone. I know people who had to leave the theater because it was so extreme.
But there was something about this shot that struck a chord with me on so many levels. The position of the woman. The look on her face. The symbolism of male and female relationships. Master and student. Questions and agony. Mercy. The strength and gentleness of his stance. Simplicity. Dust. Dirt. Sandals. Earth...all wrapped up in divinity.
Worship. Adoration. Respect. Love.
Flowing not only from the look in the eyes of Mary as she turns her face toward her Savior,
but flowing between the two in reciprocal power.
When I look at this exchange I know one thing: he was not standing there to lord over her or judge her, not even to forgive her. He was there to empower her with His power. To lift her into a place of power. Hers. Her very own. He was her via dolorosa. It was what she needed. It was what he gave. And He knew, I suspect, every thought that crossed her mind even before she fell.
Public displays of any kind meant death to a woman of that era, but she had wisdom not seen by man. And he knew better than anyone how surrender felt. After all, he was about to surrender his very life at the hands of a cruel and brutal force. He knew a thing or two about trusting in a higher power. It was where he found his flow, his stability, his peace.
Mary. She was the woman with the alabaster jar who had washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Mary was a woman he trusted.
And one who despite conveniently biased male belief was "keeper of the doves" in the castle of Magdala, how interesting, or was that just historical fiction? God has never been a theory on a throne in the sky with a big stick ready to smack me when I'm walking through my Jerusalem. He lives and moves and feels. He is. And he was that to her. It is well documented in earlier writings that she was an apostle, a disciple, and consistently devoted to her Master Teacher. She absconded with his secrets and taught even the male disciples. I submit that Mary's jar was full of more than spiritual knowledge. The Teacher's greatest statements were entrusted and delivered with a woman's capacity to heal and soothe - through her. Like Mary, who loved her Teacher, we all sometimes rise to levels of great respect, even worship, for those who impart life to us.
I am not here to debate the theological and historical facts regarding Mary of Magdalene largely omitted by New Testament scholars (of eternal fascination to me) or the missing Gospel of Mary discovered in 1896 and glossed over in modern pulpits to this day as a suspicious contribution of Gnostic writings, which depicts Mary as his "constant and trusted companion" and one who evoked jealousy among the other male disciples who reportedly lamented that He loved her more than He loved them. I am here because of this photograph. Long before it became the set of a movie scene, it was the image I held of her in my heart. The humanity of Mary, the humanity of Jesus....was much more than a convergence of victim and witness at the crucifixion and tomb. It was more about his relationship with her. It is even more about his relationship with me.
It reminds me to be humble. To believe in something bigger than myself. To understand that it is part of the human experience to fall down, to ask for help, to be utterly undone, dusty and dirty even, in the midst of great transformation. It keeps me mindful of the times I've been the one who couldn't stand, who found herself face down with nowhere in the world to be but on my knees in the agony of dust, hoping to see a crack in heaven's door. And how each time I was met with acceptance and unconditional love. It reminds me that instead of parading my independent jar full of high-priced alabaster that from time to time I need to look up and draw strength from what I do not fully understand.
It reminds me that I do not need to understand.
Can I not believe that it is possible to love deeply and need another person at the same time? To admit that I am weak. That I might need to minister to someone else for no other reason at all than to soothe, than to give, than to love? Can I not believe that Mary and Jesus knew well of deep love? It flowed between them. To be healed by someone, as she was reported to have been delivered of illness by His touch, was a direct result of her asking for his help. To draw strength from someone else requires the kind of trust that Mary and Jesus shared; it is reciprocal and can only be fully powerful when it remains so. Humility always precedes great love.
Join us for BlogBlast For Peace Nov 4, 2012