Saint Mary Magdalene is one of the most powerful witnesses in the whole history of the Church. There are several reasons for this: first, she fell completely into grave sin and wallowed in the depravity of impurity and vice; second, she became enamored of Jesus and sought our His teaching and His mercy; third, her mind and heart remained fixed on Him even during the uncertain period between his death and resurrection; fourth, the conversion of her life and her devotion to Jesus put her on a mission to spread the Gospel far and wide.
Saint Mary Magdalene is a Saint for sinners. Her conversion is a great encouragement and source of hope. Intimacy had in some ways been ruined for her by a life of wantonness. Those who observed her approaching Jesus were suspicious and uncomfortable – would she bring dishonor upon him? would she unwittingly be His downfall? – but Jesus was not afraid of her or her brokenness. He was able to repair what was broken in her by a pure and invincible Love. “On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves – I sought him but I did not find him.” The bed symbolizes the place where intimacy and union are consummated. In the case of Mary Magdalene, the bed came to symbolize death, sin, and brokenness instead. Jesus himself sleeps the sleep of death in that bed – his tomb – in order to restore intimacy and union by His resurrection. The consummation cannot happen by physical touch – “Stop holding on to me” – but by the spiritual touch of a loving faith, “Touch me as God, that is believe in me as God.” (Augustine)
And because we see the heavenly mysteries represented allegorically on earth through the gospel, let us come to Mary Magdalene and to the other Mary. Let us meditate upon how they sought Christ at night in the bed of his body, in which he lay dead, when the angel said to them, “You seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen. Why then do you seek the living one among the dead?” Why do you seek in the tomb him who is now in heaven? Why do you seek in the bonds of the tomb him who frees all men of their bonds? The tomb is not his dwelling, but heaven is. And so one of them says, “I sought him and I did not find him.”1
GREGORY OF ELVIRA:
To what does this bed refer, upon which the church seeks the one whom its soul loves, if not to the bed of its heart in which wisdom rests, where it seeks our Lord and Savior through continuous meditation? If the bed is the secrecy of the heart, then what is the night in which the church sought the Lord but was unable to find him? Surely it means that the God of light was not easily found in darkness.2
Happy the person in whose heart Jesus sets his feet every day! If only he would set his feet in my heart! If only his footsteps would cling to my heart forever! If only I may say with the spouse, “I took hold of him and would not let him go.”3
THEODORET OF CYR:
She says she found him and did not let him go before bringing him into her mother’s house and the inner chamber of the one who conceived her. By “city” she refers to the house of God, which we call church, by “marketplaces” and “streets” the divine Scriptures, by the city’s “watchmen” the holy prophets and the sacred apostles, from whom the pious soul learns in its longing for the divine Word. After these she finds the bridegroom attended by guards and attendants, she lays hold of him, clings to him and is reluctant to leave him before she brings him into her mother’s house and the inner chamber of the one who conceived her. Now, we recognize the mother of the pious as the Jerusalem on high, of whom blessed Paul says, “The Jerusalem on high is free in being mother of us all.”4
GREGORY THE GREAT:
Mary Magdalene came to the sepulcher when it was still dark. We note the hour historically, but we who seek understanding must find what is mystically intended. Mary was looking for the creator of all things in the tomb whom she had seen physically dead in the sepulcher. Because she did not find any trace of him, she believed that he had been stolen away. Truly it was still dark when she came to the sepulcher.5
Some assert that she asked for spiritual grace because she had heard him say to the disciples, “If I go to the Father, ‘I will ask him, and he shall give you another Comforter.’ ” But how could she who was not present with the disciples have heard this? Besides, such an interpretation is far from the meaning here. And how should she ask such a thing when he had not yet gone to the Father? What, then, does it mean? I think that she still wanted to talk with Jesus like she used to and that in her joy she perceived nothing out of the ordinary in him, although he had become far more excellent in bodily appearance. To lead her therefore from this idea, and so that she might speak to him with more awe (for he no longer appears so familiar with the disciples either), he raises her thoughts so that she is more reverent toward him. To have said, “Do not approach me as you did before, for matters are not in the same state, nor shall I any longer be with you in the same way” would have been harsh and high-sounding. But by saying, “I am not yet ascended to the Father,” it was not as painful to hear, although he was basically saying the same thing. For by saying, “I am not yet ascended,” he shows that he is hurrying and pressing on. He was saying that it was not right for one about to leave for [heaven] and who would no longer converse with human beings to be looked on with the same feelings as before.6
What is “Touch me as I ascended to the Father”?
Touch me as equal to the Father.
What is “Touch me as equal to the Father”?
Touch me as God, that is believe in me as God.
- ISAAC, OR THE SOUL 5.38, 42. Wright, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (p. 325). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPLANATION OF THE SONG OF SONGS 5.2. Wright, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (p. 325). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON THE PSALMS 26 (PSALM 98). Wright, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (p. 326). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE SONG OF SONGS 3. Wright, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (p. 327). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 22. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 338). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 86.2. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 349). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 375C.4. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 350). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.