the tale of the magdalene

i identify with her on so many levels...

Thalia Took, "The Tale of the Magdalene"

When I was young, and beautiful—how many tales begin this way? My youth fled long, long ago, and my body is now frail, but my mind is sharp, and this I will never forget—the true tale of my friend, my Teacher, my dearest beloved.

I was born the daughter of a beseiged people into an unjust world. The alien Empire that crowds this my homeland executes its Laws with cruel force and sets soldiers on every street corner who are always eager to demonstrate their power. My people are freely abused while allowed no recourse, until we are become like rabbits, starting at the slightest noise. We are powerless in our own land, and I rage at our God, whom I can no longer even imagine, for in my mind he has abandoned us, or has never existed.

I was young and beautiful when I first saw him. And he saw me, truly saw me—saw my spirit struggling beneath my rage as under a ruined building. He looked at me with such compassion, such knowing gentleness in his eyes, that suddenly I saw it clearly as well: my bitter hatred for God and this world, my useless rage and frustration that I had turned in on myself, my sevenfold anger that I had buried so far below I did not even know it possessed me. I saw the hurts done to my own bright soul for the first time, and in compassion for that soul I cried, as a child weeps at the war-ruined world—for there is no reason it must be so, only the folly of adults. So I wept for that child of me, and he comforted me as a mother, enfolding me in his humanity and warmth.

Through desert and mountain, down dry rivers to the poisoned inland Sea, I went with him. It was a hard way of rock and thorn, and I truly say I did not care, for I was with my beloved. He walked his life as he taught, and in his gentleness and passivity I saw a curious strength. He spoke of the peace and wisdom of the inviolate spirit, and the power of powerlessness—for he would not fight the conquerors, and by doing, so conquered them. For even an Emperor can have no power over another's soul; it is like trying to fetter sunlight.

I knew then, before the others saw it, that my beloved was on a divine mission, and also that brightness such as his cannot last. He knew it too, and said so, but in our love and fear for him we did not want to hear, and closed our minds to it.

Soon the soldiers came for him. As an added injustice, our own leaders had found his gentle words far more of a threat than the might of the Empire. They came for him during Passover, and God did not spare him.

They paraded him through the streets, humiliating and mocking him in public, to make a lesson of him to our people, one more demonstration of their power over us. They piled pain and indignity upon him until another would have recanted, and indeed he did weep. But not for himself; he wept for their ignorance and their poor trapped spirits, shackled within them.

Then, the hardest thing I have ever lived through.

Before our eyes the soldiers cruelly murdered him, and he died slowly and in great pain. I wept and wept to see my beloved in such agony, powerless to help and unable to avert my eyes.

When it was over, they allowed us to take his body to be buried. His mother and I wept together as we worked our women's work, anointing his body and wrapping it in linen, laying him in a borrowed tomb in a garden. Why is it that such sorrow and betrayal should again take place in a garden? Then they shut up the tomb with a stone, and I had to at last say farewell to my beloved.

For some time after I mourned before that door, unable to go on with my Love taken from the world. And on the third day a terrible sight: the tomb was open and his body gone, taken I know not why. In anger and hopelessness at this new outrage I cried and ranted, bent over in the garden, my hair in the dust. Then a gentle voice, as the voice of God, or a child: Lady, what is wrong? Why do you weep? Then he said my name, and I knew him.

I did not stop to reason: I leapt into his embrace. He felt real enough, warm and solid, though with my inner eye I think I knew he was gone to the spirit, and was indeed dead. For a brief time then he walked among us, and told of what he had seen, of the bright kingdom that would welcome us after death. But before long he was gone again, and my heart finally broke.

So I wait until that day, not far off now, when I will be with him again. He is like a star in the sky, and I am a rooted herb, clinging tightly to the dry, unnourishing dust of this life. But I know now that my God does exist, and that he and my Beloved are the same.

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