Saturday, March 22, 2008

Later, on that Black Day

Mary Magdalene sat looking across at Mary and the small group of women that sat near to console her. She barely thought of the normal Sabbath routine; her thoughts continued to swim in and out of those last hours near the cross. His face, His hair, His feet, the blood that ran down his body and continued down the cross to pool near its base. Then, a surreal procession to a tomb, and the body of Jesus carried in, the stone rolled into place, while they had sat near and cried until the beginning of Sabbath. The whole scene seemed to linger in reality even as the black day wore on.

The small knot of women across from her remained mostly silent. Jesus' mother had begun to sit the customary shiv'ah ritual of mourning, but as it was the Sabbath she was expected to maintain dignity; thus, wailing and other outward signs of grief were held in check. The eyes of her attendants were all puffy and red, and tears flowed silently down the cheeks of two, yet the matron herself remained in a stoic trance of meditation. Mary Magdalene wondered of her thoughts; what must she be thinking of, now that her first-born was gone, taken away to death even as He was revealing a strange new Power to those who had been following him for the last several months. Was this mother thinking of the healings, of the life-giving word of a great Teacher, of the irony of the rising of Lazarus; or did she think of a babe she once held in her arms, the boy who worked next to his father Joseph learning to hew a timber, the son who provided meat and laughter for the table? It was impossible to read the thoughts on the blank face or in the sunken eyes.

The young man John had called early in the afternoon, but the visit had been short and awkward. On entering the home, he had bowed to the women with eyes averted, and had silently turned to sit near the door. He had remained motionless and silent until Jesus' mother spoke quietly: "John, what have you to say to us?"

These words seemed to pierce straight to the young man's heart, and he sobbed silently and hid his face. Tears streamed from the attending women, but Mary remained composed and spoke again: "Come, what have you to share?"

John summoned the last remnant of his inner strength, and raised his head. Mary Magdalene rose and offered the young man a cloth with which to wipe his face. He did so, and looking toward the young maiden in appreciation, seemed to receive the necessary control to speak.

"Mother," he spoke reverently and in acknowledgment of Jesus' final words to him, "I...I'm so sorry." He hesitated another moment, and then.."I have come to offer my heart and my arm to you in your time of need. Is there any task I may perform for you now...for I may not see you again for some time."

"You leave us then, John?" Mary inquired quietly, with her eyes fixed on the floor in front of her. "Does another pull you away?"

John seemed taken aback at the question. He glanced around and noticed that the eyes of all the other women in the room were on him. He glanced again at Mary Magdalene, and she had looked at him with a sidewards, questioning tilt of her head.

", mo...mother, no. Yet this place holds naught but grief for me. It may be that I may find myself on the road."

"Are you lost, then, John?" the blessed mother asked quietly, with her eyes still fixed on the ground between them.

At this, the young disciple's head sunk once more to his chest, and he pulled his scarf down to cover the upper half of his face. After a few more minutes, he rose, and as he moved to the door, turned to her and said quietly, "I'm so sorry." Then he was gone.

Mary Magdalene had pondered this for some time, but exhaust had forced her eyes shut, and when she had awakened again it was nearing dusk, and her thoughts of the prior day had returned once again. All was silent, until at last, as the last rays of the setting sun gave up their grayish light, the mother Mary rose and began to assemble a small cache of spices. The other women quickly sprang to their feet and implored Mary to sit, to rest, but they all seemed to find relief in the household tasks that accompanied the end of the Sabbath. A few other followers of Jesus stopped in, but the others of The Twelve were not among them, and words were few. The final preparation of the body had not been performed, so they would rise before first light in the morning and return to the tomb, where the work would be properly finished. Again, the thought of work brought relief from the thoughts of the past days.

As Mary Magdalene laid down for a final time that evening, her thoughts once again returned to the man whom had taken over her heart so completely. And as she thought of Him, He smiled...and she smiled in return. Across the room, by the light of a single candle, the mother Mary noticed the smile on the face of the drowsing maiden...and her spirit lifted.

Next: Prophecy Fulfilled

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