It is a quiet, gentle day, a light rain having watered the night and a weak sun working its way through filmy strips of stratus clouds, the temperatures coolish. Somehow church was like that too, quiet, gentle, thoughtful.
Yet our celebrant and preacher stirred our souls with greater understanding, both of head and heart. He spoke of the Body of Christ, how we are one with one another, sitting at the same table, in union with Christ in the Eucharist. We are his bride the Church. As Paul tells us, we are one body, one Spirit, and we have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:1+)
Heady stuff. Mystery and miracle, the intersection of the eternal in time, the union of the immortal and the mortal, the raising from dead to life. All through baptism. All through sitting at the same table of the Lamb.
I’ve just finished my nearly final draft of my current novel, The Magdalene Mystery. I say nearly for I’m still tinkering and receiving input from reader friends. My Magdalene icon hangs nearby. Her golden hair flows over red robes and she holds a small white canister, presumably containing the oil she carried to the tomb that Easter morning, or perhaps recalling the story of the anointing of the feet of her Lord. It is an image from a church in Biot, southern France, not far from Cannes. A sculpted image stands alongside, colorless, with flowing robes. She holds a perfume bottle, in a graceful pose, waiting. Both gaze peacefully, knowingly, as though having become full of fullness itself. They encourage me to tell the tale.
In the writing, I’ve journeyed to those early years after the Resurrection, when it is said that Mary Magdalene arrived on the southern shores of France with Lazarus, Maximin, Zaccheus, and others. They say she preached in the Marseilles region, and probably in Marseilles itself, then a Greco-Roman port. She told the news from the East, the life and death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Astonishing news it was then, and not yet illegal to be a follower of the Christus, the anointed one. She probably preached in the shrine that would have been in Marseilles, Diana’s, as Paul did in Ephesus around the same time. She may have gone into the surrounding countryside which still is dotted with hermitages said to have been from the Cassianites of the early fifth century. Why did they choose this place in such numbers, these monks sent out from the Abbey St. Victor in Marseilles? It is likely because of the earlier presence of Mary Magdalene and Lazarus and Maximin (the latter two became bishops of Marseilles and Aix).
I’ve written in previous posts about the grotto in the ancient forest where they say Mary Magdalene lived her last years. There has long been a Magdalene shrine there, today kept by Dominican friars and sisters. As I walked with my characters in my mind through the forest of beeches and oaks, up the switchback stairs, past the crosses and the etched Beatitudes, up to the terrace on the side of the mountain, I was so thankful for her witness, thankful for her speaking the truth. Indeed, truth, and how to know and find it, is one of the themes of the novel. How do we know what happened? What is history? Are the Gospels historically true? Others have said they are fairy tales, but in researching I was pleased to find real evidence to support them. There may be a leap of faith involved, but the leap is a short one, the probabilities of Gospel truth so high. It might be better to call the leap a baby step of faith, a step that changes everything for the stepper.
This morning I thought about the Magdalene and her life as our energetic and dynamic preacher spoke of the one Body of Christ to which we all belong. Two thousand years telescoped to nothing. Saint Mary Magdalene is a part of us and we are a part of her, part of the long procession of saints and sinners who seek God. We sit at the same table, partake of the same body. For we have found him and he has found us and we are all one in him.