November 17, 2015

The Magdalen, A Garden and This by Kathleen O'Toole

Last night I stayed up an hour later than intended working on the first draft of my non-fiction piece for my Creative Writing class. I think it's going to be a braided essay, though at this point the paragraphs splashed together don't sound like much of anything. It needs a lot of work still.

But my piece is all about names, about how much of an impact a name can have. How much of an impact my name has had, or names, as I explain in the piece. I know I have owned a lot of names throughout my life, and they all mean something to me, something I'm trying to learn how to explain as I write this essay.

This month I have also read the story of Mary Magdalen meeting Jesus in the garden three times. This story is from chapter 20 of the book of John. I read it with my Christian Club on campus and then at a poem share with members of my Church someone brought a poem about the story. Last night I came to it in my Bible readings on my own.

Every time I hear this story I can just imagine Jesus standing there saying her name, and I can imagine Him standing beside me telling me my name, and it's just so powerful. There are times when someone says my name in just such a way that it becomes so much more than just a name. My boyfriend can say my name in a way that makes me feel like I finally took a breathe of air after almost drowning. My mom can say my name and turn me into a child sitting against her lap or into an adult who she loves and is proud of and know will be okay. My sister can say my name and show me that she knows, she understands, she's always here for me.

All of this in the way they say my name. The carefulness of a combination of sounds and letters spoken so carefully with so much meaning and so much history and so much future. (When the people I love say my name I can always hear that they are pronouncing the C. I can hear the difference between C and K.)

I can just imagine Jesus telling me my name. I think I would be like Martha. That would be the instant when I recognize Him.

I think of other mentions of names in the Bible. (There are a lot. I could probably write hundreds of posts about names and never end.) God is always so precise about naming, about changing names, about the meaning of names. I love it.

However, to avoid trying to write hundred of posts in one, I'm going to end here, quite abruptly because my writing classes have tired out my writing brain today, and leave you with the poem I mentioned. Because it's beautiful. And powerful. Almost makes me want to cry.

The Magdalen, A Garden, and This
(by Kathleen O'Toole)

Strip all else away and we'd know only
that she was grateful, that she found her way
to the cross, and that she returned

to the tomb. A disciple for sure, not
Mary sister of Lazarus, or the woman caught
in adultery or she who angered the men

by anointing Jesus with expensive oils.
This Mary of Magdala only named as one
from whom he cast out seven devils, followed

until that first day of the week, in the garden,
where, weeping at her loss, she was recognized,
became known in the tender invocation

of her name. Mary: breathed by one
whom she mistook for the gardener, he
who in an instant restored her--

gave her in two syllables a life beloved,
and gave me the only sure thing I'll believe
of heaven, that if it be, it will consist

in this: the one unmistakable
rendering of my name.

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