The Magdalene Mystery

Thursday I received the proof copy for my novel, The Magdalene Mystery. This is often a moment of surprise, in spite of the fact that I have been watching for the manuscript file to appear in my inbox each day (okay, sometimes three times a day…).  I know when I see and open the attached file, it is time to clear my desk and cancel appointments for the next few days. It is time to do a last read, checking for typos, repetitions, and inconsistencies. I finished the reading and correcting yesterday and sent it back to OakTara. Hopefully we shall see the novel in print within the next month.

How did I arrive at this place in my life? I often wonder at times like this. Being faithful in prayer and sacrament, waiting on God, I usually reply to myself, simple stuff really. And today, I would add, accepting an invitation many years ago and many many Sundays since.

In today’s Gospel Christ tells the parable of the man who made a great supper and invited many friends. But the many friends had better things to do – one needed to check his property, one his cattle, and one just got married (an odd excuse, maybe it was his honeymoon). So the master of the house invited “the poor, the maimed, the halt, the lame, the blind…” (Luke 14:16+).

This story is traditionally seen as an invitation to the Holy Eucharist, a personal invitation from God to each of us. Like the parable of the sower and the parable of the wedding guest, God wants to plant himself in the soil of my soul, feed me at his table. Do I accept this intimate and loving invitation? Or do I have what I consider more important things to do?

In the spring of 1967, I accepted the invitation. I said yes, not fully understanding what I was doing. It wasn’t an altar call, and it wasn’t a road-to-Damascus conversion, but it was a moment of surprise-by-joy. My reason had been won over by C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and I wanted to experience Lewis’s choice of church, his own Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church in the U.S.  Having been raised in a purposely plain Presbyterian Church, the experience of the Liturgy of Holy Eucharist (incense, bells, candles, processions) with its chanting and kneeling and the receiving of the Son of God at the altar, stunned me. I fell in love. I happily, giddily, said yes to the invitation. Yes, absolutely, I’m coming, sign me up! It was by far too good, too beautiful, too glorious, to be true, I mistakenly worried at the time, but I didn’t want to miss this chance, so I boldly entered through the door, crossed the threshold, and was soon confirmed by the bishop. I was twenty.

The Church nursed me through my infancy as a Catholic Christian, taught me to speak her language, sing her psalms, confess her creeds, pray her prayers. I grew up, hopefully, up and up and up and continue to grow, to mature in this fabulous Faith. I shall never be fully grown, a true adult, I know, until I meet God face to face in heaven, but the journey in the meantime is a joyful one. I have no regrets that I accepted the invitation, accepted, as the evangelicals say, Jesus the Christ as my Lord and Savior, as my one true God.

But without crossing that threshold in 1967 to eat and drink of the Eucharistic banquet I would never have grown out of my infancy. I would not have learned to speak, to sing, to dance. I would not have been fed with and by God in this sacramental way. I would be one of those who had turned down the supper invitation, one who, Christ says at the end of this story, would not be invited again.

So over the last few days, as I read through the words on my screen, the sentences and paragraphs and chapters that form The Magdalene Mystery, I prayed for discernment, for a good eye to spot mistakes. The story is about truth, its telling and its abuse, or its not telling. It’s about media lies and Internet predators. It’s about witnessing to what is real and what is not. It’s about that moment two thousand years ago when a healed woman named Mary from the village of Magdala reached to touch the risen Christ. It’s about our search today for truth and our yearning to touch God. And, also, it’s a literal cliff-hanger…

Mary Magdalene accepted the invitation from the risen Christ to go and tell the others. She said yes and told the news of her Lord’s resurrection. Just so, we can say yes. We can cross the threshold each week and kneel before the altar table. We can tell the truth, the good news, what its like to be fed by God, to touch him.

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