Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Column: An act of faith, constantly repeated

Mary Magdalene is venerated as "the apostle to the apostles," first to see the risen Lord, first to proclaim the resurrection.  One meaning of Magdala is tower and I enjoy the sense of Mary the Tower as a complement to Peter the Rock.  The Church may be built on Peter, but Mary ignited it with these words, "I have seen the Lord."

This column appeared at CatholicPhilly on 8 April 2015.

Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her. John 20:18

A musical friend posted on her Facebook feed, “Jesus is risen, but the music ministry has collapsed in exhaustion.” I, too, had gone home after the Easter Vigil, wearily joyous after a long week of work peppered with rehearsals, liturgies and three late nights of vigil. Following a night of trumpet blasts, where our voices shook the walls of the church, Easter day was quiet and still.

This morning I laid my breviary on the kitchen counter, and while the water came to a boil and my tea brewed, prayed Morning Prayer for Easter before I went to work. The Church celebrates Easter as an octave, eight full days of feasting, so each morning, the prayers replay Easter. The same psalms. The same antiphons. A sparkling feast hiding within an ordinary day.

Did this Easter change anything for me? Or exhausted from Easter, will I let the brilliant alleluias fade from my consciousness? I find myself wondering what happened to Mary Magdalene, who in John’s Gospel encounters the newly risen Christ in the garden. Can I proclaim with such calm certainty what she did that Easter morning: “I have seen the Lord”?

Last week Pope Francis reminded us that as Christians we are called to be “sentinels of the morning.” We should be people who know how to see Christ, not just on an altar, suspended high in a glittering chalice, but in our ordinary days, planted in the middle of the aisle at the Acme and huddled on a street corner in Philadelphia.

Dorothy Day, who established the Catholic Worker movement in the early 20th century, wrote that many people wondered how she was able to see Christ in the people she served and served with. “It is an act of faith,” she said, “constantly repeated.”

The octave celebration of Easter, with its continually repeating round of prayer mixed into my daily routine, is a powerful reminder to me that Christ is risen, here and now, in the everyday as much as in the glorious liturgies of Easter. And that good news is to be proclaimed again and again, here is Christ, among us. Here is Christ, in need. Here is Christ, come and receive.

It is an act of faith, constantly repeated: I have seen the Lord. And once I have seen him, how can I not bend down to anoint his feet with perfumes, or to offer him a meal, or something to drink when he thirsts?

May the Light we carried into the Church on Easter never be exhausted, but still be found burning in the day and months to come.

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