Give the gift of grief. Allow it. In the Grunewald altar piece, one of humanity’s great works of art, at the crucifixion of Christ, Mary Magdalen looks like a melting candle, her sorrow has turned her molten and she has lost her structure. Her body is burning and melting. Somehow her dress has shredded and it looks as if it has become a translucent rainbow. A quivering rainbow. The Madonna is stiff and insensate as if she too is already lifeless. John, the disciple Christ loved, is pale and in parallel sympathy to the mother, holding her up as his reason for being. The only one in an active posture is John the Baptist, that forerunner who is already dead.
I’ve had so much loss in my life. That isn’t the same as misery, especially the grinding daily misery of poverty and oppression. To lose a lot means to have had something. I have lost all of my original family, but one brother – which means I not only had them once, but also I had their love so that it grieves me for them to be gone. Friends, so many friends gone, which means I have known and loved many people and that many of them were older than I, so the gift of elders has been mine, too. Recently I lost something else, a trust I had in someone, I have lost work, been betrayed and cheated, stolen from, and all of these things mean that I had something to lose. I could have held myself back from taking these people and things into my hands – many people do – and my losses would not be so many or so deep. Those are the choices.
But now I am left with a question and it is of resurrection. What can that possibly mean? It is too ubiquitous for me to cast it off as wishful thinking. That sort of disrespect and sour grapes goes against everything I know. But what is it? That is a mystery. What I do know is that resurrection is not possible without full surrender to the fact and feeling of loss. The clue seems to be in the melting Magdalene.
The willingness to suffer through it, as Christ is doing on the cross is the way that the turning inside out is begun. Every grieving Jewish, Afghani, Syrian, Ukrainian mother does not experience a resurrection. Many of us go down, and to all appearances, stay down. It is not a matter of ‘everything happens for the best.’ If that is true, I have no way of knowing. No, all I’m saying, is that when there is resurrection, when life and transformation assert themselves, surrender has come before it.
Only the melted Magdalene has eyes to see the risen Christ. And that is her resurrection.