Light had gone from the world:
Their Master, Jesus, crucified–
They were alone, to darkness hurled
the fearful, darkening day He died.
Few had followed to His cross.
John was with Him at the end,
but disciples scattered to escape more loss
when Judas betrayed Him. Peter, stout friend,
defended his Master, then denied Him
thrice, and fled to save his life.
John and His mother stayed beside Him
with Mary of Magdala and Cleopas’ wife.
By this disgraceful means he died.
The dumb earth groaned that light had gone.
Two nights dragged by while Magdalena cried
for Jesus, sealed behind a stone.
The Master’s band crept back, bereaved,
outcast, in hunted terror hidden.
Huddling together, together they grieved,
lost and comfortless, guilt-ridden.
Peter cursed his own betraying
fear; John wept; none slept; some stood about
His mother Mary, who knelt by a cold hearth praying
when Mary of Magdala stole out.
Wraithlike, in silent trembling fright,
with her grieving all forspent,
Mary crept through waning night
toward the tomb that had been lent
her Lord. With gentle care she bore,
wrapped in a kerchief, a precious hoard
of unguents to anoint the sore
wounds men had inflicted on her Lord.
Through gray unwakened streets she sped,
hoping none would see her pass,
all her joy and beauty dead,
spilled like blood upon the grass.
In her mind was one thought only:
how to give Him one last gift–
how to reach Him in the lonely
sealed-up shelter on the cliff.
One thought only tore her mind–
that His body not be left
all alone, untended, blind,
to molder in the frigid cleft.
So she came, a fresh wind beating
at her garments while she passed
sheep upon the hillside, bleating
as faint dawnstreaks lit the East.
In that bleak light, weary, shaken,
Mary stumbled to the tomb–
found it open and forsaken,
yawning maw of stone-cold gloom,
found an empty, cast-off shroud
where she sought to find her Lord–
found and, falling, cried aloud:
“They have taken my dear Lord!”
As she knelt there, shocked and quaking,
through the echo of her scream
One appeared, as though just waking
from a hideous, fearsome dream–
appeared, and asked her why she wept.
Hopeless now, of no man wary,
through her tears, with sight inept
she told him. Then his one word: “Mary!”
brought her to unstable feet
reaching toward that single word,
spoken low, so strong and sweet
this could only be her Lord.
“Yes, my dear, it is I.
Do not touch me yet, nor fear,
but to our mourning comrades fly.
Tell them you have seen me here.”
On wings of joy lithe Mary flew
down hill and over sunlit path
bursting with the love she knew
would not quail before man’s wrath–
burst upon her friends to tell them
she had seen the risen Lord!
joyfully–and then beheld them
unbelieving of her word.
They at first, like us, dumbfounded
at her transformed, radiant face,
disbelieving, scared, astounded,
all held off from her embrace–
all but Mary, Jesus’ mother,
who to Magdalena came,
recognizing like no other
miracle’s sweet piercing flame.
“Woman, you are mad!” men uttered;
“No one rises from the dead.
Grief has left your senses cluttered–
come, lie down upon your bed.”
Still she cried, “But I have seen Him!
Seen His face and heard His voice!
Stop your doubting, don’t blaspheme Him!
Come with me! Come and rejoice!”
Numb and anxious, John stared at her,
saw light steady in her eyes.
Hope flared in him. “Don’t berate her–
she’s not mad! She never lies–
but, Magdalena, Mary dearest,
all the night you keened and wept.
You were of us all His nearest–
are you sure that, as dawn crept,
God did not send sleep to salve you,
sleep with healing, hopeful dreams?
You were near Him, child, but have you
swallowed whole what merely seems?”
“He’s alive, John–He, our Lord!
wrapped in light, not wan and shrouded–
strong with life though pierced with sword!”
‘Round them the disciples crowded,
wanting to believe–aghast.
John, remembering Jesus’ promise,
strapped his sandals on in haste.
“He said He wouldn’t stay from us–
would raise the temple in three days!
Hurry, brothers! move, make room!
See the truth in Mary’s face!
Come! Let’s find this empty tomb!”
Peter grasped his staff and followed
up the sunlit, silent street
to the cliff from which was hollowed
Joseph’s tomb, on stumbling feet.
So they saw Him, on that morning,
saw as many have seen since
God’s glory to believers dawning
in the risen, living Prince.
Thus they lived and died proclaiming
the great wondrous truth they knew:
God no longer all sin blaming
Through His Son forgives us too,
sends the holy, blessing Spirit
till we live with Him again.
Marys, Peters–we are near it.
May He come to us. Amen.
© Lucia Walton Robinson .
( Maundy Thursday-Good Friday, 1983)
Lucia Walton Robinson is a born-again Episcopalian filled with gratitude for salvation.