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Mary Magdalen tells her story by Theresia Saers

Mary Magdalen tells her story

Fiction that may well contain a core of truth

by Theresia Saers

1

“Actually, it began with John the Baptist, as we used to call him. One day he stood on the bank of the Jordan, a man straight from the desert, and he just started to preach. And lo and behold, we had our very own prophet.

From the readings in the synagogue I knew about the existence of prophets, way back in history. People who were supposed to speak on behalf of Jahweh. They used to fulminate against the injustice of  the people of Israel and they called on them to repent. There was one, Jesajah, who varied his tirades with the promise of a Saviour, a Messiah, as we would say. Thus the idea of a Messiah had become part of our tradition, something to dream about, but certainly not to be taken very seriously as a phenomenon for realisation in our own lifetime, however much I for one hoped that this would indeed be the case. Until suddenly there was this John the Baptist.

Religion was a dimension of my heart, like the capacity for love, and at the first rumours I went down to see this new prophet for myself. I must say I was impressed. All in all he sounded very much like Jesajah, with his insistence on the need for conversion. There, too, was the promise of a Saviour. However, there was one big difference: Jesajah had always been vague about the timing. This John the Baptist promised us that the coming of the Messiah was imminent. He was there to prepare the way by preaching the need for conversion.

The newcomer from the desert began to intrigue me, and I was at his feet as often as I could free myself from my tasks in our household in Bethany, where I lived with my sister Martha. I heard him admonish us to give a goodwill token, by performing a symbolic cleansing of ourselves. In other words to be publicly baptised in the waters of the Jordan, so that everybody would see that we were prepared to change our behaviour. People openly asked the Baptist’s advice about what aspects of their lives they would have to change for this great thing to happen: the coming of the Messiah. In the first days there was only a trickle of candidates for baptism, but as the days went on more and more of my countrymen approached him to be allowed to enter the waters of the Jordan for this healing ceremony of forgiveness of sins. I was one of them. It was not an easy thing for a woman to do, as in preparation one had to take off most of one’s clothes. That ritual was not performed because of the soaking wet clothes that would cling to your body as you made your way home. It symbolised the shedding of old habits that had previously stained and putrefied one’s soul. Actually, people were scandalised by my joining the crowd of male candidates for baptism and shedding my clothes. I got the reputation of being eccentric, a woman to be shunned. No good can come from somebody that is felt to be different from the common herd…. However, I did not mind. Seeing the Messiah with fresh and clear eyes would be worth it….”

2

“…  One day a listener from a group of Galileans got on his feet and approached the prophet. It appeared that he wanted baptism. There seemed to be some hesitation on John’s part, though. But the candidate loosened the clasp of his mantle and let it slide form his shoulders. He drew his tunic over his head and walked towards the water. Where he could no longer safely go, he halted, and John pressed the man’s shoulders and head deep down almost to near suffocation, as he had done with all those before. Then he allowed him to come up, helping him towards the river bank.

The stranger dressed without a word and moved off , in the direction of the desert. But the Baptist stood there, as if gasping for breath. He seemed on the brink of speech, but why did he hold back?

Then slowly he raised his right arm, pointing and shouting: “It is Him, it’s our Saviour. It’s the man I was having to announce. Only, I did not know who it would be. This is Him. He has arrived !

I can tell you that I did not need much encouragement to go and investigate what the truth of this remarkable announcement was. The man who had just been baptised was a Galilean. How could any person from that province, which all of us around orthodox Jerusalem looked down on, be the Saviour? However, now that John had spoken these exciting words, I would not let this once in a lifetime chance pass without investigation. I was already on my feet and ran after him.

Somebody else must have thought likewise, for another Galilean that had stayed behind in Jerusalem after the recent pilgrimages, was on his feet, too. He looked at me askance, as if wondering what a woman could be seeking at that moment. He did not voice his opinion, though. When we had overtaken the man, the latter reacted to our presence: “What is it you are after?”.

“Sir”, we said as if we were both following the same inner cue: “Sir, where are you staying?”

“Come and see for yourselves”, was his kindly answer. We followed him till we arrived at a narrow cave, the kind of place where a leper, ostracised, would find room between himself and a final burial place.

It turned out to be a wonderful day.

“Any more questions? the man suggested. Of course we had. What, for instance, was his name? Had he really come to save Israel? Did he have a plan? To all our questions we got clear answers. There was no evasion whatsoever. I got the impression of a very wise man, strong, too, knowledgeable and very devout. And most of all, very likeable.

Dusk was creeping in, when I realised that we might have overstayed our welcome. I ventured one last question.

“Sir, why not start straight away? Israel has waited for such a very long time…”

There was a certain hesitation now, as if I had strayed unto private territory.

“I need more time… The task I am going to perform is a hard one. You may be ready to accept John the Baptist’s lessons and mine, but what about the traditional Teachers of the Law, the High Priest, the Pharisees? Have you not heard their scathing remarks about the Baptist? Some have compared him to a devil incarnate. And yet, what he teaches is nothing new, except that the Messiah is coming. So, what fate will await me…?

Indeed, I need more time. I have to steel my soul, to pray for guidance and determination… To conquer my desires, fasting and praying….

But you two. Would you be prepared to follow me and be my disciples?”

Yes, we would. From that moment onwards he would be our Teacher and we his faithful followers. All the days of my life, I said to myself.

“Go home, then” he decided. “And when the moment is there I will find you.”

So we went our own ways, Andreas to meet his brother and his friends, and I to tell my sister Martha and my brother Lazarus in Bethany of the wonderful things that had befallen us….”

3

“…In the weeks that followed I approached my friends, those that had heard the Baptist make his special announcement. Would they be willing to become helpers of Jesus of Nazareth, the Rabbi I had encountered in the desert? I won the support of Johanna, the wife of Chusa, an official at the court of Herod, who reigned over Galilee. Also of Susanna, another close friend of mine, and of a few others. We held ourselves in readiness.

One day Jesus left the desert and started his ministry in the Temple. His Father’s House, he called it. But as he had told us, High Priest and Pharisees were not charmed, not even when they saw the extraordinary events that took place. Jesus seemed to be able to touch sinners’ hearts. Tax collectors promised to mend their ways and return illegally won moneys. Some sick people found healing after they had approached Jesus for help. Those disciples that Jesus had gained in Judea baptised even more people than John the Baptist. Where would it end, the authorities must have thought. So they decided to make life difficult for the new rabbi, who was very much aware of it. Soon the desire grew in him to remove his activities to Galilee and what he called the lost sheep of the House of Israel. That is when he knocked on our door in Bethany.

“I promised to come for you when I was ready. So, here I am.”

Martha and I ran to serve  him with fresh water and linen cloths. Jesus sat down and the disciples he brought with him sat at his feet, the way we do in our country, when we are with our teacher. And I joined them. Had he not accepted me, when I had gone after him in the desert?

My sister began to prepare food for all of us, and naturally she wanted me to help. I refused to give in to her, when she nudged me to get my attention. This made her irritable and she approached our honoured guest.

“Rabbi”, she said, “does it not bother you that my sister is sitting at your feet instead of helping me? Please, tell her to get up and help me prepare a meal.”

Jesus looked up at her and answered gently: “You are mightily bothered with these things, are you not? Mary has made a wiser choice today and that’s fine by me…

Maybe you can also come and sit a while. Then the food will be prepared a little later and she will help. All of us will. To serve is no problem with me.”

Later, when we were sharing our food, he let us in on his plans. He would travel to Galilee and, helped by his disciples, he would go to towns and villages and preach his message. My friends Johanna, Susanna and I would accompany him. Martha agreed that I could take the money I had inherited from my parents to provide for myself and support the Rabbi. I decided to take with me a costly alabaster jug with precious oil, in case one day Israel was going to anoint Jesus as the Messiah. I did not need much more. So I kissed my sister and my brother Lazarus goodbye and joined my Master….”

4

“…The first town we came to was Sichar in Samaria. Naturally we halted at Jacob’s well, a place of pilgrimage no Jew would possibly pass by without having the comfort of a drink for both body and soul. Jesus told us he needed some time alone, sending us into town to get provisions. When we returned we found him deep in conversation with a woman. Our male companions were surprised, but after my first meeting with Jesus in the desert I knew there was no reason for it. I knew already that Jesus wanted to make use of women’s talents, too.

We sat down a little apart, yet trying to follow what was being said. It appeared that Jesus was explaining something about water. Apparently the woman was excited about the things she had heard, for she ran off, leaving her jug at the well. Jesus decided to fill us in on their conversation. He told us that he had asked her for a drink of water. She had made no secret of the fact that she was not going to give it without pointing out the lack of sympathy she had for Jews.

The Rabbi had not taken the bite. ‘Woman, if you knew what special person asked you for this drink, you would have asked me and I would have given you something better than water from Jacob’s well. You would have received living water.’ I must confess it took me some time before I myself understood what Jesus could have meant with this mysterious pronouncement. I sat pondering on it for some time, while we were sharing our food.

Not long after, however, the woman returned, with many of her fellow citizens hesitantly following. However, Jesus at once invited them to sit down, and prepared to answer their questions. He started with his talk about water. His living water would provide any person that accepted it with a well of water in themselves, from which they could for ever draw to slake their own thirst and that of others. It was such an amazing thing that the people of Sichar asked Jesus to stay in their town and be their rabbi. However, we stayed only a couple of days.

‘I want to spread the good news to all of Galilee’, Jesus said. But you certainly have given me strength by your open attitude towards me, for which I thank you with all my heart.’

 It would always be like this, Jesus using the things he saw as a metaphor for spiritual things. This time it was water. Another time it would be salt, or the burning wick of an oil lamp, a vineyard, flowers, birds. It was a wonderful way of teaching the learned as well as those that had no schooling whatsoever. I felt my admiration for the Teacher growing, but even more I felt so much love for the Person that it filled my heart to the point almost of bursting.”

5

“…After crossing into Galilee, Jesus decided to stay for a while on the western side of the great lake, where he wanted to find a suitable place for us women. We would need one in order to assemble the women and children around us, for it was unthinkable that we could take part in teaching publicly. He suggested the lake port of Magdala. We would be fairly close to the court of Herod, who ruled this part of our country. Thus Johanna would be near her husband.

“You know, Rabbi, the town is held in poor repute by the elders? Undoubtedly there will be prostitutes, and that might harm our own reputation…”

But Jesus shrugged his shoulders and said that he had not come for those who thought themselves  healthy and good, he had come to heal the sick and those that realised their shortcomings. So I stayed behind for a while in Magdala and found ourselves a place to come back to, when we were not needed in the presence of the Master. When we had settled, we went and found him in Capharnaum for our first coaching.

Meanwhile Jesus had gathered a group of twelve men, who were prepared to be his disciples and his apostles, men he could send to all the towns and villages he would visit himself later. First of all Andrew, as he had promised when we went after him into the desert. Andrew was carrying out his trade as a fisherman, together with his brother, when Jesus tapped him on the shoulder and said: “Now is the time, so leave your nets, for I am going to make you fishers of men.” Andrew and his brother immediately left their companions and their fishing craft and followed Jesus. They pointed out their cousins, fishermen like themselves, who were at work in the company of their father and his helpers. They too needed no second thought and followed the Master.

Jesus had a good reason to opt for a first group of twelve men. He knew the special undertones of the word, and certainly now that he was on the point of giving it new meaning. Twelve would remind them of the twelve sons of Jacob, who together had been the founding fathers of the House of Israel. Now that he was going to create a new family of God, the number would give them confidence.

“Master, are you this day about to restore the Kingdom of Israel?”

For a moment he seemed at a loss for words. Then he spoke.

“I do not think for a moment of a kingdom for the House of Israel. Actually, I am striving to make a House of God more than a stronger House of Israel.” We were flabbergasted.

“Do you not realise that you are sons and daughters of God first and foremost? I want to strengthen that basic family feeling. Beyond that, I want us all to live with a strong sense of mutual obligations of care and love. Remember how Jesajah and our own prophet John the Baptist recalled the need for conversion to justice? That is my point too. And do not forget: Jahweh includes the care of the poor, of widows and orphans, as well as solicitude for the fate of  strangers in our midst, the care of foreigners.

If you wish to speak of a kingdom, let us henceforward call it the Kingdom of God, your Father and mine.”

In the days that followed we saw him put his words into practice. He went out to preach, and in the first weeks were allowed to be with him and learn. He spoke first in the synagogues. It was remarkable to see how these poor and honest fishermen hang on his words. He was a natural. No orator, to be sure, but one who spoke sincerely and persuaded people by the way he unfolded the real meaning of the Scriptures. There was another part to him: people that came to him always found themselves better guys than they were when they first came. He seemed to revive in them a natural desire for wholeness. I was not surprised, I had experienced the fact myself. Here was a natural healer.

“This man’s words carry the stamp of authority”, people commented….”

6

…“When will it start, this Kingdom of God?”, we asked.

“Haven’t you noticed? It has started already. It is amongst you, for a start…”

That set us thinking. It was as if he gently persuaded us to look better, to use our senses. Indeed, we could see the thing happening among ourselves, the concern for one another, the willingness to help those that came to listen to our master or to ask his help for their sick. For one thing, we women, had already decided to pool our resources, so that there would always be enough food to share and for another, we encouraged those we met and were in need to go and speak to the Master.

Some times he would take us apart for instruction. He was like a good shepherd, making sure that none of us strayed from the path he had indicated. Afterwards he would give us a new task. The thing my friends and I could do best was to gather women and children in our home in Magdala, but sometimes we, too, would go into other towns and villages and meet the women at women’s places, the river or the lake side, where they washed their clothes, or at some well, where they would have to go get the water for their households. Never would we speak publicly, for that was a thing not done in our Jewish world.

From Jesus’ own example we began to learn that we would have to find time and place for private prayer, a thing not very common in our world either. Silent prayer or contemplation was a thing for hermits in caves. Even people reading on their own would say the words out loud. This custom made our synagogues fairly noisy places.

On one of the days set out for our own instruction Jesus explained the kind of things that would come up in his own prayers. Actually they were the things that he was bent on promoting the rest of the day as well, the honour of his Father, as he would call Jahweh, the growing of the community of God.

All in all a new community of believers began to develop, and it was not so strange that this came to the ears of the elders in Jerusalem, to priests and scribes. Pharisees and Sadducees were disturbed by the things that they heard and together they were thinking of ways to root out the thing that was threatening their very influence and authority. They came to examine, to prod and disturb and when they did not succeed in catching Jesus in faulty arguments, they sent their spies to see what these could discover. Nothing much, unless it was the talk of a new kingdom. And although Jesus did not mean a kingdom in any worldly political way, the politicians of Jerusalem, not interested in listening with an open mind, smelled danger….”

7

“…The pattern of life that I indicated lasted for three years. We stayed in Galilea most of the time, with one yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Pascha, the greatest of all our festivals. Travelling there Jesus would always find a welcoming home in Bethany, where my brother and sister were among his best friends.

There is a tradition nowadays that tells us of Jesus’ decision to send seventy-two more disciples on their way to spread his message. One of our own scribes must have thought this a beautiful pendant to the original mission of the Twelve. Seventy-two: six times twelve. That would give the extra weight of the number seven, a number of fullness, of completion. Actually, I myself can vouch for the fact that Jesus had a way of sending on his or her way with a mission every single person who had experienced a healing or cleansing experience. First and foremost: to be a better human being, to reveal in your daily life what had happened to you.

Jesus did not like the loud shouts and cries of praise of somebody newly healed, that was much too cheap a kind of advertisement. He wanted the testimony to be more profound, he would have liked all those he had helped on their way to continue the conversion and spread the kingdom like salt through food to make it tasty or keep it from going off, or like yeast to prepare good bread.

When in Jerusalem, we found that nothing much had changed. There would be a small number of people that dared to come out and declare their faith in Jesus, but nothing could be expected from the authorities. I realised that we would probably never see the day when the latter would want to anoint Jesus as their High Priest. My early dream of seeing him as a king had been definitely discouraged by our Master himself. Still I was holding on to my little alabaster jug with its contents of very precious oil….”

8

“…The third time that we would go up to Jerusalem, Jesus gathered us to speak to his faithful disciples in private first.

“I have a feeling that this is going to be a very awkward experience for all of us. Up there in Jerusalem they are trying to get me out of their way, they might even kill me.” He waited for  our reactions.

“But Master, we need not go…. We could stay here where people trust you and love you.” This angered Jesus, the more so as it came from Simon Peter, who had somehow acquired a special position among the Twelve.

“Stop saying this, man, I shall go where I feel called.”

Then Thomas, who belonged to the first twelve apostles, too, made himself the spokesman of the others. “Master, in that case we are going to Jerusalem with you and die at your side.” All of us seemed to agree. I certainly did!

When we arrived after a few days, we found a town strangely divided in loyalties. Because of the Festival large numbers of pilgrims were converging on Jerusalem. On their way some had joined us, others had been told by Galileans of the great things that they had seen happening in the past three years. Those of the Diaspora and even people from further away were now very much aware of the presence of the Master in our midst. Enthusiasm had been growing. Some travellers had hurried on to be among the crowd that wanted to give him a public welcome.

So there were cheers and hurrays, when we entered town. Some were waving palm leaves, as if we had a great oriental king in our midst. Others spread carpets for a glorious procession. There were demonstrations and counter demonstrations. Behind the exultant faces Jesus saw the ugly expression on the faces of his old enemies. He searched his mind for a way to end all the fracas. His eye fell on the delicate shape of a foal, resting beside the mother donkey.

“Will you get this young animal for me, please,” he requested. Two of our men ran off and came back with this shy animal on its slim legs. Jesus mounted it and let himself be carried for just a few moments. It was a perfectly funny sight. It was as if he shouted: Don’t you see? Do I come to you as an Emperor or a King? Would I not have brought horses or camels or elephants even?

He dismounted and gestured that he would have nothing of the cheers and hosannas, that all he wanted was to be a pilgrim on his way to the Temple.

Those that had been cheering seemed to get the message. They went their own ways. Jesus sent somebody to return the foal to its mother and motioned us, however, to follow him out of town and into the hills near Bethany. He apparently wanted a few more days to gather strength in the healing silence of the desert.

I for one could not help thinking of Jephte’s daughter, who had asked for a little more time to grieve with her friends, to grieve for the loss of life and to learn accept her fate….”

9

“…A few days later we were back at Bethany. Jesus had been invited with a few of our men to a meal at the house of one of the Pharisees, a certain Simon. My sister Martha, perhaps because she knew that Jesus would be there, had offered to help with the cooking. I was persona non grata at that house, being an object of  much gossip and slander even.

I knew that this Simon could not have the most honourable intention in asking our Master to his table. He was one of his critics, and showed his negative attitude towards him by not even offering his guest the common courtesies that were the least one could do: a handshake, the offer of water and a clean towel. His motive must have been that this Jesus, who was the talk of the town might be caught in some indiscreet statement, and thus create a fit occasion to call in priests and scribes or even soldiers. Hadn’t the High Priest pronounced his view that it would be best for Israel if my Master would be executed?

I was in my sister’s house and sat considering what was left to be done. I was certain Jesus need not have accepted the invitation to the house of someone that abhorred him, but had he ever refused to accept the invitation of sinners? Sometimes I had thought they were his special friends…

My hand was on the little alabaster jug. I think that was what made me think of a possible line of action. Was it not high time that somebody in Jerusalem itself, the city of Temple and High Priest, made a firm statement about the identity of our Master? Cry out loud for all that wanted to hear that here was the Saviour of Israel, the Messiah or Anointed One that Jesajah had foretold and John the Baptist had announced? The Anointed One…

I got on my feet and was on my way without further thought. I went straight to the house of the Pharisee, without asking advice from anyone, my eyes scanning the faces to locate my Master, and broke my jug. No, I did not drop it, out of nervousness or some such state of mind. I was in full possession of my faculties, when, calling for everybody’s attention, I firmly struck my vessel against a stone wall, breaking off the top.

I poured the costly oil on the head, hands and feet of my Master and knelt at his feet, as subjects do when they approach an Eastern prince. I had made my point. Only then did

 my tears start to flow, and flow in abundance. Over my head I heard the irritation in the words of the Pharisee about my gesture, the protest of Judas because of my supposed misbehaviour. But there were the comforting and oh so reassuring words of Jesus himself.

“Did I receive the courtesy due to a guest? I did not. Why do you not see the generosity of this woman, Simon, and her great love? She realises that I am going to die. It feels as if she has already prepared my body for burial.” How uneasy the Pharisee must have felt under this gentle reprimand.

And to Judas: “If you, my disciples, continue on the road that I have shown you, you will always have poor people around you, and I hope you will be there to help them. Me, I will not be among you much longer. It was fitting to spend some money on me.

“And you, Mary, go in peace. Your faith has saved you.” He raised me from the floor and set me on my way, sad and happy both….”

10

“…There was one more thing Jesus wanted to do before the final collision with the Jewish authorities. He longed to be together for a few hours with his faithful company in a spirit of leave taking.

He asked us to prepare a meal in one of the larger rooms in Jerusalem, where we had met before on our yearly pilgrimages. When we had gathered around him, he did what we would not have thought possible in a thousand years. He got up, disrobed and tied a towel around his waist. He found himself a vessel in which to pour water, and taking a linen cloth, he started to untie our sandals and wash our feet. Just like any slave. I was shocked, so were the others. I remembered John the Baptist, dead by now, killed by Herod. How John had emphasised time and time again: I am only a forerunner; when the real Saviour comes, I will not be worthy to untie his sandals. But here our Master did just that to all of us, his disciples, his followers, who surely were much below him in any way whatsoever.

He explained patiently what his purpose was.

“I have sometimes heard you quarrelling about positions in our group, but see what I have tried to teach you? Those that are masters must be willing to serve like slaves, that is the way of the Kingdom. Nobody, and I mean nobody, must find themselves too high and mighty to serve others. That is the law in my world. I have given you plenty of examples, but you did not seem to understand. Have I made myself clear at last?”

The meal was resumed. He did not eat much, preferring to summarise all he had taught us up to then. There was an urgency; he seemed very much aware of the coming drama.

“ The time will come, when you yourselves will be dealt with as I will be in a little while. Be not afraid. I will send you a helper...”

“You know, how people will recognise you as my disciples? It will be by your love for one another. And remember, to love means to care. God loves me, I have loved you, and you my beloved, must be careful to remain in love towards each other, more than anything else.

“ Remember, you are not my servants, you are my friends. I have given you all I had. I cared for you…”

And how he had cared for us! That day he had even shown his love on his knees.

Need I say more?”

11

“… After the meal, he stood up, saying: “Let us go.” I shivered, realising that a clash with the authorities was probably imminent.

He walked a few paces ahead of us. He was making for the Garden of Olives, where he often went to pray. When we were among its trees, now dark, he made a small gesture: murmuring: “You stay here, please, and watch with me… “

Going a little further he fell on his knees, as if they could no longer bear him up and he crumbled. I had never seen anything like it. I had almost smelled his agony, a few days earlier away in the hills, after the strange atmosphere in Jerusalem on the day that our group entered it, but even then he had not fallen apart.

Some of us, their eyes heavy with food and drink, drowsed after a time. Jesus , however, seemed to regain command of himself, for when we heard a clatter of arms in the distance, he got up and walked towards the company of soldiers and asked more or less calmly: “Whom is it you are seeking?”

“Jesus of Nazareth” they answered. One figure stepped forward out of the darkness, and I was shocked, when it appeared to be one of the Twelve, who came to point out who Jesus was by kissing him, as a friend would.

“Judas”, Jesus said gently, “have you come to betray me with a kiss?” And to the soldiers: “Any way, if you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, that is me. Please, let my friends go away unmolested.”

The events that followed, believe me, do not bear calling to mind. All the world knows what happened to Jesus in those awful days. If you want to meditate on it, you just read what my friends have written down for posterity in a considerable number of books. I for one cannot bear going back to those streets of Jerusalem and risk seeing the faces of those that sympathised with Jesus’ execution. Those streets where even the cobbles remind me of the pains he must have suffered. But believe me, at the time I did not run away, I have been there all the time when the events unrolled. I was there with his mother, my dear friend, whom we used to call ‘the other Mary’. As for the apostles, they did not dare show themselves. I understand, all of us were in danger. But forbid a woman to be with the beloved, when he is suffering….”

12

When all was over, my Master in a tomb in the hills, an enormous rock dragged to keep it safe from beasts of prey, we, the women, had to hasten home because of the approaching Sabbath. As soon as the Law allowed us, we returned, darkness still all around. We wanted to check if his body had been adequately prepared for its final rest, what with his hasty burial before the Sabbath. We would thus for the last time perform a labour of love. But aghast, we found that the rock of safety had gone and the tomb did not contain Jesus’ body any longer. There were other things, the cloths his body had been rolled in, a neat little heap now, and strangely, two figures all in white, like guards. All this I noticed in less time than is needed to describe this. I was not interested in what was there, though, I wanted to find what was not. To find my Beloved.

Outside, my eyes scanned the dark lanes of the garden, hoping to find those that had committed this awful desecration of the dead. I saw one figure only, someone standing very quietly and at ease. Surely a person so at ease could not be a desecrator of tombs? The gardener maybe, out very early in the day?

“Sir, have you taken my Master’s body from the tomb?”, I called, hurrying towards him. “If so, tell me where you have left him, and I will carry him back!”

And then, wonder of wonders, a familiar voice. The person I had spoken to, calling me by my name. What was that? He was gone, was he not? Could I be experiencing what had happened to so many before me? Healing of all my pain?

Full of joy I cried out: “Rabbouni, my dear Master.” Indeed, he was there in front of me.

I embraced him. “Please, Jesus, do not leave us again. Let us all go back to Galilee, where people love you and will not let you come to any harm again. Please, please.”

Gently the Master freed himself from my embrace.

“Mary, you must not try to keep me here. My Father wants me, too…

However, you may be my messenger of good news. Go tell my brothers and sisters that I am alive. I shall go ahead to Galilee. It is there that they shall see me.”

I hurried back to the tomb. The other women were there still, wondering what had become of me. I told my story. They listened, their faces shining with eagerness to tell what had befallen themselves: a message from angels that Jesus lived. All of us shouted for joy, wen we had heard each other’s story.

13

We ran back to the room where we supposed the other disciples would have taken refuge. We knew what Jesus meant when he spoke about his brothers and his sisters. We found them as we had known we would, hiding in fear.

We knocked on the door, impatient to tell our story.

At last the door was opened, just. Someone said: “who is this?” I managed to get my foot in. “It is us, the women. Listen, we have great news.”

The others let me tell my story first. However, the men did not even want to consider that my news could be true. Then the women recounted what had happened to them. It did not help.

They accused us of women’s make-belief.

It was an irritating and shameful reaction. One would have thought this a normal behaviour, for people who had never known our Lord. But for those who had travelled with him for three years? Had they not had evidence of the greatness of our Master? Had they not been witnesses of unbelievable occurrences before?

14

We the women, nothing daunted, went on doing the things our Master had commanded us. We did it even before the Helper came down upon us all, in the very room where the men sat in fear of the authorities.

It is true that the apostles had gone to enquire at least what the truth was of our tale of the empty tomb. Belief came to them at a more leisurely pace, because of their great fear and their shame of not having the courage to stay with our Master in his sufferings. But when the Spirit of the Lord finally descended upon the Rabbi’s dedicated followers, all of us overcame whatever fear we still harboured, and went out and preached his message of love, all over the world….”

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