Women's History Reflection: Anne Alexis Harra
For Mary Magdalene, who danced with Jesus
This past Sunday, Jim shared some news with the congregation at the 10:30 service, and now I want to share it with you all in cyberspace and beyond: About three weeks ago, I received notification that Bishop Gutierrez has made me a postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese. This affirmation of my calling has filled me with such joy and gratitude – especially for the holy women in and out of the Church on whose shoulders I stand, whose lives have made my own possible. This March, this Women’s History Month, I give particular thanks for the life and witness of Mary Magdalene, whose proclamation upon seeing the Risen Christ in the Gospel of John, “I have seen the Lord!” informs and inspires my ministry every day.
Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name 12 times in the canonical gospels – even more than most of the 12 disciples! The part of Mary’s story that is so compelling to me is that all four canonical gospels explicitly identify Mary as a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion. Most of the disciples scattered after Jesus’ arrest…and yet Mary (and many other women, including Mary the Mother of Jesus) stayed. There was nothing she could do to save her beloved Jesus…and yet she stayed. I wonder, how badly did Mary’s heart break as she watched the One who loved her die? I wonder, would I have been able to stay?
In addition to being named as a witness to the crucifixion, Mary is also identified as being the first (either alone or in a group) to encounter the Risen Christ after his death. Even though Mary does not initially recognize Jesus, he recognizes her. He says her name – “Mary.” In return, “she crie[s] out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’” (John 20:11-16). And again, I can’t help but wonder, did time stop for Mary when she heard the voice of Jesus? How did that experience change the rest of her life, or shape her relationship with God?
Many of you may remember that in July 2022, I took a pilgrimage through England. One of the more poignant stops on the pilgrimage was Ely Cathedral, where the attached picture was taken. The photo is of a sculpture by David Wynne, “Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus.” When I first saw it, tears filled my eyes because in the sculpture I saw Mary Magdalene and Jesus, filled with utter joy, dancing together after the Resurrection, even though that was not the intention of the sculptor. I like to think that Mary and Jesus did dance, and cry, and hold one another for a moment. I like to think that they prayed together, perhaps even shared a meal. I like to think that Mary was so full of joy and surprise that she couldn’t help but laugh, which made Jesus laugh. There is such a profound joy in the beautiful mystery of the life and ministry of Mary Magdalene that I simply cannot envision anything other than elation and love on that glorious morning.
This Lent, I hope you will join me in offering thanksgiving for all of the women whose sacrifices and love offer a rich glimpse into the love-filled world God has created for us. And, I hope you will join me on Easter Morning – just 38 days away! – to rejoice and dance with Jesus, just like Mary Magdalene did.
Anne Alexis Harra
Minister for Children, Youth & Families