Mary in the garden grieving (website only)

Festivals and Seasons:
Authors & translators:
Lea, Stephen

first-apostle-to-the-apostles-from-art-in-the-christian-tradition-miller-mary-janeMary in the garden grieving,                 
for her slain beloved weeping,
not yet knowing or believing:
Mary, mourning for her Lord. 

Mary seeing angels seated
where the graveclothes lie rejected,
still not grasping death’s defeated:  
Mary, searching for her Lord.       

Mary challenging a stranger
where he might have laid her master;
reckless now of any danger, 
Mary, pleading for her Lord. 

“Mary.” “Master!” Ever after
known and knowing in that answer,
turning tears to tears of laughter,
Mary, reaching for her Lord. 

“Mary, run and tell my brothers
they and you and I go further.
Preach my living to all others.
Mary, speak now for your Lord.” 

Grieving, seeking, pleading, daring,
may we weep and laugh like Mary –
speaking, singing, running, sharing,
loving Mary’s living Lord. 

Words: © 2011 S. E. G. Lea 

Metre: 88.87. 

Suggested tune: Quem Pastores (StF 585) 

Ideas for use

The reading of the Gospel of John chapter 20 is often included in worship on Easter Day. Stephen Lea’s hymn is a wonderful way of reinforcing both the story of Mary’s encounter with Jesus and what it can mean for us. With the familiar tune Quem Pastores providing a gentle setting for the words, this hymn can offer a few moments of quiet reflection in the upbeat celebrations of Easter Day.

More information 

christ-appears-to-mary-from-art-in-the-christian-tradition-jesus-mafa-easterThere are not many hymns that focus on the experiences of the first female disciples of Christ (see below). This text, however, is based solely on Mary of Magdala (Mary Magdalene)’s post-resurrection encounter with Jesus, told in John 20 – especially verses 11 to 18. Stephen Lea encapsulates in short lines both the context of the encounter and Mary’s shifting emotions. There is a memorable clarity in such phrases as “known and knowing in that answer” (v4); and “they and you and I go further” (v5). 

Stephen begins part way through the events of John 20, after the disciples Simon Peter and John have (at Mary’s insistence) investigated the empty tomb in Gethsemane and returned to their homes. Mary is left alone. She encounters, first, two angels in the tomb, and then Jesus himself, mistaking him for a gardener. (Pictured above right, from the Jesus MAFA project, Art in the Christian Tradition.) Like the male disciples, to begin with Mary does not grasp what has happened, that death has been defeated (v2). “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him,” she tells the angels (John 20: 13). By then challenging a stranger (v3), Mary is being – as Stephen puts it – “reckless”, revealing that she knew the executed ‘criminal’ Jesus and has likely been his follower. 

But it is to the task of following that the hymn turns in conclusion, whatever place we find ourselves in – “grieving, seeking, pleading, daring”. We are invited to join with Mary in her personal, and deeply emotional, encounter with Jesus and to join her in the work (but does it feel like work?) of sharing the resurrection good news – “speaking, singing, running, sharing, / loving Mary’s living Lord”. 

Hymns about the women disciples 

In his resurrection hymn, All you that seek the Lord who died (StF 294), Jesus’ conversation with Mary is one of the gospel accounts Charles Wesley draws upon to represent the search of all believers for the risen Jesus. 

Rachael Prince writes of another moment in Mary of Magdala’s journey. Her hymn, headed Easter Sunday (website only), begins with Mary “there on the mount of crucifixion”, before moving in subsequent verses to other key witnesses of the day of resurrection. 

easter-morning-from-art-in-the-christian-tradition-wesley-frank-1923-2002At Early Dawn They Rise to Come by Richard Leach turns to the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16: 1-8) and the three women on the way to Jesus' tomb, wondering who will move the large stone sealing it:  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. (Pictured left, by Frank Wesley, Art in the Christian Tradition)

Mary the mother of Jesus is also sometimes portrayed as one of Jesus’ early disciples (though for a thought-provoking and sometimes disturbing critique of this idea, you may wish to read and discuss the short novel by Colm Tóibín, The Testament of Mary). We do meet Mary in some hymns stepping beyond Bethlehem and the events of the Nativity. For example, in Remembering Mary (website only) Gillian Collins follows Mary from Jesus’ birth to an upper room after her son’s execution. See also Thomas Wilkinson’s hymn Through long years of watchful waiting (StF 232), which takes as its starting point the presentation by Mary and Joseph of the baby Jesus for baptism at the Temple in Jerusalem. (cf. Mary and Joseph came to the Temple, StF 229, by Andrew Pratt.) 

Finally, the once-popular Sydney Carter song, ‘Said Judas to Mary’ (see e.g. Hope Publishing or listen on YouTube), is sometimes assumed to be about Mary Magdalene, but the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume (John 12: 1-8) is more likely Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. 

stephen-leaStephen Lea is a Local Preacher in the Exeter, Coast and Country circuit, and a tutor on the Worship: Leading and Preaching course in the circuit and across the wider south-west region. Before starting training as a preacher in 1999, he had served in children’s and youth work for the Church in London, Cambridge and Exeter. An academic psychologist with interests in animal behaviour and economic psychology, he continues some teaching and research for the University of Exeter despite being officially retired.



Photograph: © Tom Seymour,
courtesy of University of Exeter

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