July 29, 2009

Retreat Notes: Mary Magdalene

For her day today, I was praying with Mary Magdalene, especially through the gospel for her feast, John 20:11-18

"Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping." The beginning of prayer. We are left alone, and we lament before the empty tomb. What is our lament? Our compunction over our sins and distraction, and the obscuring of the presence of God we have brought upon ourselves. Contrition is the beginning of prayer.

As Mary addresses her concern and pain to the one she thinks is the gardener, so we cry out into the obscure and unknown wilderness that opens inside us through prayer.

But then this Unknown is recognized as God--not because of our efforts, or because our perception is clever, but because we are called by name. Mary, who knew Jesus well in his earthly life, does not recognize him right away in his Risen Life. But once she is called by name there is no doubt, and this Encounter cuts through and renders obsolete all of her previous concern and sorrow. Something new has appeared, broken in. It is the Resurrection.

But that experience in prayer, of being called by name and knowing, recognizing the Teacher in that moment--that's all you get. You can't hold on to it, and afterward you can hardly understand or recall it. Noli me tangere, "stop holding on to me." God refuses to be a possession. This is the coincidence of prayer and holy poverty.

4 comments:

LM said...

Thank you for your retreat notes. I missed reading your blog whilst you were gone, but it has been good to read your notes.

pennyante said...

Thank you for those insights... I am happy you are sharing them with us. I had not thought of Mary Magdalene's experience in just that way; though I recognized the importance that calling her name was for her. It became a personal encounter. It turned her mind and heart around; from sorrow to joy...

Qualis Rex said...

Fr Charles - thank you for this. As a church, we need to "take back" the good name of St Mary Magdalene from the new agers, (neo)gnostics, and conspiracy theorists who have corrupted and dishonored her memory to suit their own agenda.

KAM said...

Fr. - Thank you for that brutally honest yet loving take on the Gospel reading. Through your insights I was better able to put myself into Mary M's sandals, and to turn my head in thinking about the whole encounter in a different light. To search for God so strongly as to really long to hear Him call me, will add a new insight into my prayer life. I guess I could say I knew it on an intellectual level, but for some reason to me it may have seemed unattainable.