The tomb is one of the most powerful archetypes in the Easter imagination. This year I have found it extra-ordinarily ‘fit for purpose’ for my contemplation in this holy week . The very nature of tombs implies death, depth and void. The structure of tombs, often naturally formed caves cutting into the earth create a threshold space in me. And there – the tomb symbol opens like a portal to the state of mind where I feel renewed by an intuitive sense of death that is a birth, of how darkness can be radiant, and how emptiness can be full of presence.
Which brings me to the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. This week I have read and reread the tightly described but highly dramatic journey of the soul passing through four inner ‘climates’. In each climate there is an encounter with powerful energies that one way or another intend to subvert the journey and cut the soul off from the source of life. And in each encounter is a transforming dialogue.
To burn Mary Magdalene’s soul map into my mind I re phrased the journey as the passage through four ‘shadow-lands’ – four countries each with their prevailing culture. It is I fully admit only a broad brush poetic impression - but it reminds me of why Good Friday is said to be ‘good’ and Easter morning is a joyful celebration of freedom. And a call to journey.
Watching and waiting in the dark
Miriam says what she sees
and tells those who want to hear
of her Beloveds descent
through the shadow-lands.
‘I see souls stumbling on
a zigzag path cutting this way and that
through the first country of Darkness
where the landscape is a no-where place
and voices from the void keep whispering.
But see, my Beloved walks there
and the emptiness is full of presence.
I see souls gaining entry through the gates
to the second country, the land of Craving.
The air is thick with demands and complaint,
every breeze is hot with desire to possess.
But see, my Beloved recognises fear
and claims the freedom to simply walk by.
I see souls crossing into the third shadow-land,
the country of Ignorance and culture of refusing to know.
Strident voices repeat themselves ‘I never knew ’
the softer face of ignorance mumbles ‘I prefer not to’.
But see, my Beloved stops to ask wilful ignorance
Do you know who you are? Do you remember?
Then I see souls barely moving through a dense climate
in the most hostile land of all, occupied by violent Wrath.
I see dominant powers without limit, that cannot be satisfied;
the force of lethal jealousy and the havoc of addicted bodies.
I see fools dressed up as sages, blind drunk or power mad.
But see here, in this most gripped place of all
Here I see my Beloved rising by
raising, holding, returning all powers
all knowing, desiring and remembering
returning all to the Good.’