Monday, July 22, 2013


Five Sinful Hymns for the Love of Saint Mary Magdalene (and a postscript)


Sweet Mary Mags.
Loved Jesus’s feet more than her lovely hair and her diamonds,

I mean her tears.
And, as everyone but Augustine knows,
She really couldn't help but love her lovely hair.

And it's no great gift to give what's not loved much
to one you love more.
What does it profit a girl,
She said,
To gain the kingdom of heaven
But to lose his sole. 


Magdalena cut herself
Longing for something deeper
Than the sex of centurions, publicans,
And guilt-ridden rabbis
Who paid extra for her silence.
The dirt she’d eaten as a child
Was all she knew of Love
Until the day, no doubt,
He scratched her name
Into her mother’s skin
(I mean the earth).
And said,
“Close up your wounds
And drink from mine."


At Saint Mary Mags in Oxford,
This prayer above her image:
“Saint Mary Magdalene,
Whose sins were forgiven and whose life was transformed
By the grace of Christ
Pray for us that Christ may forgive our sins
And transform our lives by his grace,
So that we at last may share with you
In the joy of the eternal kingdom. Amen.”
I can’t say Amen to this.
It might as well be about Paul. Saint Paul or even Paul,
The guy two blocks over from my house in Indiana.
I’d light a candle to twenty holy Wesley hymns before this clichĂ©.
In the private chapel of my chest, this:
“Darling dear Saint Mary Mags,
Whose passion, hair, tears, and lips,
Entered paradise,
I mean, touched the body of the Master,
Before the Pharisees, the Scribes,
And all the righteous men who abused you,
And even before the apostles themselves
(except John, who loved to lean his head on Jesus’ breast),
Pray for me, that my passion and love may overflow,
May annoy, may provoke, may outrage,
And may lead me to everlasting life.
Pray for me that I may never spiritualize my love
For the body of Christ.”


Martha cleaned things up for the love of God
And served only kosher coffee to his Son,
For she knew the law and kept the commandments.
To tell the Torah truth, she was damn sure of your duty as well.
Mary, who often skipped her lessons and skinny-dipped instead,
Remembered only this from synagogue:
“How lovely are the feet of those who bring good news.”
. . . . .
She recognized them right away,
Dirty from the long pilgrim road of love,
And knelt in the mud of her own tears and snot,
Convulsing with a passion unknown to angels,
Kissing, for hours, the sweet skin of the virgin’s son--
Her whoring done, her truelove whispering her name.


Saint Mary sinned with all her senses--
She loved the look of her lovely hair reflected in a Roman bath,
Craved the taste of pork on a pagan’s lips,
Sweet music swayed her into dirty lover’s arms,
Whose touch she sometimes much more than endured,
And the human smell of sweat and love, like sage,
Could sometimes make her moan with madness.
The dappled sunlight, the wind on her neck,
An earnest young man brushing against her in the street--
All these and more could set her skin to shivering with delight.
Until the day she was accused and
Knew, for certain, she was going to die.
The crowd, the stones, the law she couldn’t keep--
All cursed her now for what seemed sweet the day before.
When, in the irony of time, it came to pass,
That the old world somehow spun backwards on its base.
A young man scratched strange magic in the earth,
And, behold,
The righteous hung their heads like whores,
And Mary shone like Moses,
Her sinful eyes seeing the face of God,
Where others saw but scandal.


When the gardener met her in the garden
Near the tomb that early morning,
Mary gave him a royal headache demanding
Specific information about the body she had come to see.
Worn down, the risen Lord whispered her name,
As once he’d done so tenderly
when she'd wiped his feet that night with her sinful hair.
She squealed with joy and reached out for his skin.
At this point, scholars and sermons debate about just what
Our rude Lord was up to when he wagged his still-bloody finger at her
And said, “Don’t touch me, girl!”
The answer is obvious.
He knew this lovely human inside out--
Like the time he woke to find her snuggling up and squeezing his feet
Before sunrise in Samaria.
With Mary, you had to always watch out for the
Scratching and the pinching. Even the biting.
The marks she left on John’s back sometimes!
Saint Mary Magdalene,
Pray for us.

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