Waiting with Mary
There is a statue of Maria Magdalena carved from wood by the Italian artist, Donatello, that haunts me. I saw it in October of 2001 in Florence in the Duomo museum. This is no idealized image of her. She doesn't look anything like Botticelli's Venus. This Mary is sinewy and hard, eyes set back under a shadowy brow. Her eyes look mournfully at something or someone beyond the viewer. I wonder if the gaze Donatello captured in that remarkable piece is of the moment when Mary watched the stone being rolled into the mouth of the tomb where her dearly beloved friend, Jesus, was laid to rest.
Following the crucifixion and burial of her friend and healer that Friday, Mary Magdalene spent what I imagine was an agonizing 48 hours waiting to anoint his body with burial spices so that he could rest in peace. She must have spent most of that time pondering the times they had spent together, the meals, the miracles, the travels, the travails. She must have wondered what she would do now that the one she loved most of all was gone.
But Mary was no coward. She knew how much Christ had done for her. Nothing could keep her away from the one who healed her and then welcomed her into his band of followers. In a time and place where women were treated as property and cast aside at the whim of angry or vindictive men, Mary had found a place of welcome, refuge and safety with Christ.
So even on the darkest, saddest, emptiest day of her life, Mary stayed close by, near the tomb, not even hoping for a miracle. After all, she was waiting to anoint a cadaver, not welcome a triumphant and resurrected man back to life.
In her book, Just a Sister Away, Renita Weems speculates about her seven demons this way, "Indeed the 'demons' that claimed Mary are the same demons that prey on many of us: depression, fear, low self-esteem, doubts, procrastination, bitterness, and self-pity." I would add: loneliness, rejection, joblessness, infertility, kanswer, hopelessness, divorce, diabetes, addiction, disappointment, broken promises, abandonment, misunderstanding, poverty, miscarriages, infidelity - the list of demons that plague us as women, as people, is long.
So is every dark night of waiting, praying,
hoping for a reprieve,
for a miraculous healing,
for a desperately needed job offer,
for a wandering child to come home,
for the courage to initiate a difficult conversation,
for each of life's impossibly heavy stones to be rolled away.
I too am waiting, praying, and hoping
for a miracle,
for hope and a future,
for promises to be kept,
for help to arrive,
for the courage to speak truth,
and for a few heavy stones to be rolled away
on this Saturday night in early spring.
I am here - waiting with Mary.
This could be a very long night.