The Woman Robed in Red

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Saint Mary Magdalen, the Apostle to the Apostles, is one of the patron saints chosen by Mother Mectilde for her Institute. For this reason, we Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration have a special devotion to Saint Mary Magdalen. The Responsory at Lauds is Tibi dixit cor meum: Quaesivi vultum tuum: “My heart has said to Thee: I have sought Thy Face” (Psalm 26, 8). Here is something I wrote nine years ago on this feast:

Woman of fire,
woman of desire,
woman of great passions
woman of the lavish gesture,
Mary of Magdala!

The icons show you robed in red,
covered in the blood of the Lamb,
a living flame, a soul set afire.
You are there at the foot of the Cross:
kneeling, bending low, crushed by sorrow,
your face in the dust.

You love,
but in that hour of darkness,
dare not look on the disfigured Face of Love.
It is enough that you are there,
brought low with Him,
Enough for you
the Blood dripping from His wounded feet,
Blood seeping into the earth
to mingle with your tears.

You seek Him on your bed at night,
Him whom your heart loves.
David’s song is on your lips:
“Of Thee my heart has spoken: Seek his face.
It is Thy Face, O Lord, that I seek;
hide not Thy face from me” (Ps 26:8-9).

His silence speaks.
His absence is a presence.
And so you rise to go about the city,
drawn out, drawn on by Love’s lingering fragrance.
“Draw me, we will run after Thee, in the odour of your ointments” (Ct 1:3).

You seek Him by night
in the streets and broadways;
you seek Him whom your soul loves;
with nought but your heart’s desire for compass.
You seek Him but do not find Him.

In this, Mary, you are friend to every seeker.
In this you are a sister to every lover.
In this you are close to us who walk in darkness
and wait in the shadows,
and ask of every watchman,
“Have you seen Him whom my soul loves?”

Guide us, Mary, to the garden of new beginnings.
Let us follow you in the night.
Wake our souls before the rising of the sun.
Weep that we may weep
and in weeping become penetrable to joy.

The Gardener waits,
the earth beneath His feet watered by your tears.
Turn, Mary, that with you we may turn
and, being converted,
behold His Face
and hear His voice
and, like you, be sent to say only this:
“I have seen the Lord” (Jn 20:18).

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