Grace guards that moment when the spirit halts
to watch the Magdalen
in the mad turbulence that was her love.
Light hallows those who think about her when
she broke through crowds to the Master’s feet
or ran on Easter morning,
her hair wind-tumbled and her cloak awry.
What to her need were the restrictions of
earth’s vain formalities?
She sought, as love so often seeks and finds,
a Radiance that died or seemed to die.
One can surmise she went to Calvary
distraught and weeping, and with loud lament
clung to the cross and beat upon its wood
till Christ’s torn veins spread a soft covering
over her hair and face and colored gown.
She took her First Communion in His Blood.
O the Tumultuous Magdalen! But those
who come upon her in the hush of love
claim the last graces. A wild parakeet
ceded its being to a mourning dove,
as Bethany had prophesied. We give
to Old Provence that solitude’s location
where her love brooded, too contemplative
to lift the brief distraction of a wing.
There she became a living consecration
to one remembering.
Magdalen, first to drink the fountained Christ
Whose crimson-signing stills our creature stir,
is the Blood’s mystic. Was it not the weight
of the warm Blood that slowed and silenced her?
Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.
The Blood’s Mystic (1950)
Powers, J 1999, The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Featured image: James Tissot’s Touch me not (Noli me tangere) captures the image of Jessica Powers’ “Tumultuous Magdalen” with “her hair wind-tumbled and her cloak awry.” The Brooklyn Museum gallery label provides additional insight:
Mary Magdalene, meeting the resurrected Christ, falls to the ground “thinking to resume her old place at the feet of Jesus and to embrace them,” as Tissot notes. While Christ had encouraged the Magdalene’s ministrations in an earlier scene, The Ointment of the Magdalene, now he counsels caution, warning, “Touch me not”; the time for such familiarity has passed. The Magdalene’s prostrate body and full, flowing hair provide a clear visual cross-reference, effectively linking the two moments.