Easter Tuesday 2021

Noli me tangere by Fra Angelico
Noli me tangere by Fra Angelico

Every Easter Tuesday I try to say something new about Mary Magdalene’s meeting with the Risen Christ, and every year I fail. The failure is not because there is nothing new to say but because, like Mary, I find myself falling to my knees, ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’. The meeting between Jesus and Mary is one in which we all share — the moment our souls are touched by grace and we recognize him as our Saviour.

It is no accident that Mary sees her Lord through a mist of tears. The human heart must be washed clean if it is to see clearly, and it tends not to be the big, dramatic sins that obscure our vision so much as the little faults and infidelities we allow to become habitual. Mary’s gaze has the simplicity and freshness of the garden in which Jesus stands. For us, that may be more difficult to achieve but the great privilege of monastic life is to do our theology on our knees. It keeps us grounded, and I think it enables us to see what otherwise we might miss. The wounds in Christ’s feet, now channels of grace and healing, hold our gaze as they held Mary’s, and they make sense of what could easily be baffling: we have a God who is near, not one afar off; one who has shared with us the human experience of birth and death and now shares with us the divine gift of resurrection. Mary’s privilege will one day be ours, too. But there is more.

The post-resurrection gospels are full of women whom the Lord comes to meet. They have no need to climb mountains or prepare elaborate sacrifices to find him. He surprises them as they go about their ordinary tasks. This morning Mary is lingering by the tomb when she encounters Christ. There is that momentary lack of recognition characteristic of all the post-resurrection appearances, but then everything changes. Jesus is the same, but different, but how is he different? For Fra Angelico, there is no ‘stained and dirty kirtle’ to suggest a gardener, but Mary does not recognize Jesus until he speaks her name. When he recognizes her, she is able to recognize him. There is something to ponder there. We think we must go in search of God and sometimes become sad and angry when we feel we have failed to find him, not realising that the initiative always remains his. He finds us; he names us; he calls us.

One further point. Look at the garden and what is beyond the garden. The trees outside are fairly uniform but within, what a variety! Where Christ is, there is always abundance. It was to restore the fullness of life to the world that God gave his only Son. This morning Mary experiences what that means, and she is charged with telling the Church in every generation. We have been redeemed by one who knows us by name and lives for evermore.


10 thoughts on “Easter Tuesday 2021”

  1. Love this reflection. Much to meditate on here and on throughout my day.
    Thank you for sharing this Dame Catherine.
    Grace and Peace +

  2. My heart swells in thanksgiving as I look at this picture of Mary Magdalene, of the garden, and of Jesus Christ – then the tears come into my eyes. Thank you for your lovely Post.

  3. Please please can you tell me why Jesus says ‘don’t cling to me’ to Mary. This has troubled me for a long time! I have never received a satisfactory explanation – can you help?


    • I imagine there are a thousand explanations. Mary has a mission to perform, so she must not linger in the garden. She must go to the other disciples and proclaim the Resurrection.It is rather like prayer: we may love being with the Lord, but there are also duties to be performed in obedience to the Lord.

  4. When Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me”, didn’t He also say why? “Because I have not yet …” I can’t remember the full quotation. Can you help please, Sister Catherine?

    • “‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.” I am suggesting that Mary has a mission to perform now. As I said, a thousand interpretations are possible.

  5. That He chose her to appear to, resurrected, and in a garden means for me that He might do so for me, a mere sinner.
    And this painting shows a beautiful thriving garden, what better place to appear? A place of growth, new beginnings, beauty and grown food – for us.
    How lovely.

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