Belfast’s Shaftsbury Square and Ormeau Road are connected by a street called Donegall Pass, half way along which is a Church St Mary Magdalene which celebrates the feast of that saint today. It’s a welcoming parish with a faithful congregation of regular worshippers, most of whom refer to it affectionately and proudly as ‘The Magdalene’. Taken as a noun, the dictionary definition of that word as ‘reformed prostitute’ is not lost on anyone. Of course strictly speaking, it’s an assumption scripture does not directly support.
But of all her famous Gospel appearances, it’s Easter morning that’s immortalised in ‘The Magdelene’ on Donegall Pass and in wonderfully low key fashion. In its west end window: the risen Christ stands at the door of the empty tomb, and in the distance two small female figures draw near. It’s as though the wonder of what has taken place must be carefully and reverently approached.
But it also underlines the honour Mary Magdalene is given in making the official discovery. Loving persistence is what Mary seems to be rewarded for. Having seen Jesus’ body laid to rest Mary returns to the tomb after the Sabbath, but in John’s Gospel she makes a third visit and in the end it takes Mary to bend over and strain in through the rocky opening before she finally sees for herself, for the disciples and for all the world that the grave really has given up its dead.
Lord grant us we pray, the humility that knows we are not worthy, the devotion that longs for your nearer presence, and the perseverance that trusts and hopes to death and beyond. So let us meet, as Mary did, the living and forgiving Lord Jesus Christ. Amen