“The underneath. That was the first devil. It was always with me
And that I didn’t think you—if I told you—would understand any of this—”
[Magdalene – The Seven Devils, Marie Howe]
I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross. We sing it in church on Good Friday and I think of her. Mary. I think of her posture. I think of her longing. I wonder what it looks like to cling to the cross, to cling to Jesus. It looks like Mary, I imagine.
(“Do not cling to me,” Jesus says to her on Resurrection morning. It makes me laugh out loud.)
Later my friend Libby and I talk more about Mary over cold pizza at my kitchen table. We had both watched the beautiful and powerful Mary Magdalene film during the week and we had All The Thoughts, especially on Good Friday. We talked about the things that resonated with us, challenged us, inspired. I find it helpful to engage my imagination with scripture and I am grateful for how Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett engaged theirs as they wrote this film, as they wrote Mary Magdalene right under my skin.
I think of her all weekend. I imagine her turning up in church with her wild hair, earnest and emotional, staring longer than is socially appropriate.
There is this bit in the film, before the crucifixion, where Mary just lies down on the side of the road in the dirt and the dust. Haven’t we all been there, at some point, in our spiritual journey?
I read John 20 aloud in my kitchen when no one is about and I honour this woman that I have overlooked in the past. This woman who came early, this woman who ran, this woman who stayed, this woman who wept, this woman who would not stop looking for his body.
“Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.”
I read John 20 aloud in my kitchen and I honour the women I know who come early, who run, who stay, who weep, who persist – who are overlooked.
The film adaptation respectfully and helpfully imagines the deeper, wider story of this woman who is mentioned so briefly, yet significantly, in the Bible. What is her story? It helps us wonder. I have soft spots for every single one of those disciples – denying Jesus, doubting, hiding in locked rooms. But Mary – courageous, vulnerable, showing up, bearing witness – “I have seen the Lord” – how did she end up there? What was her story?
The poet Marie Howe talks about the dilemma that we all have of never really being known. “There’s something in that Mary Magdalene character”, she says, “and how she got embellished, and how it was read between the lines who she was.”
The film reads between the lines and it’s helpful. It offers a story of a woman seen and known by Jesus – and if we can see ourselves reflected – perhaps that’s the most beautiful thing of all.