Mary Magdalen, Saint of Lebanon
Mary Magdalen holds me quite in thrall,
The Gospel speaks of her with greatness over all;
If twenty thousand years our time from hers divide,
This silence of the ages yet brings us side by side.
They pass, those millennia, like the wink of an eye,
I feel her beauty glowing as something that’s close by.
Her mother was a Jewess, her father a Phoenician,
Her brother first of men from death was to be risen.
Since the dawn of creation, she had known no peer,
No goddess famed for beauty came anywhere near.
The day that she was born the universe entire
Made celebration loud for love that blazed like fire.
Rainbows crossed the heavens and flowers were aglow
And hearts warmed to colors that into them did flow.
The universe knelt down, being lost in admiration
To the land where once took place Our Lord’s Incarnation.
All space was then enrapt with music pure serene;
Red roses and white jasmine and the wild eglantine
Inspired the muses all to poetic psalms supreme
And the spirits they responded as if caught in a dream.
The peoples of the earth rejoiced with gay and rhythmic dance
And all living beings came awake with their gifts to enhance
The birthday of this Mary who one day would be seen
As graceful and pure and a truly saintly queen.
The wealth of her father she was to inherit
But the things of this world for her had no merit.
She wanted a child in due course and due time
But God had for Mary a different design.
With seven more demons the devil of her took hold,
Promised luxury of every kind, pleasure more untold.
Perfumes strange were offered from Lebanese flower
To lend a sweet fragrance to her welcoming bower.
A sumptuous life but one that left a void deep in the soul
A hollow with no substance, but a wide and gaping hole,
With the devils of the earth and of hell galore
Destroying all of beauty when waging their fierce war.
But in David’s great city, from Phoenicia not afar,
A wonder of harmony was gleaming like a star,
Magdalen, a woman of full fine and sensual grace
With her up-tilted breasts and long hair around her face.
A body that was poised and deep in her eyes a look
That brought men to her bosom ere a word she spoke.
Her mouth and her lips gave the promise of the dawn
Of flowering love from her to be swiftly born.
Her rhythmic steps and charm were such that left no choice,
The call of her eyes and enchantment of her voice.
From Phoenicia there came perfumes inviting men to pleasure
That spoke to them of joy distilled beyond their measure.
Even luring the gods with the joys that she gave,
The Israelite Phoenician, who made all men her slave.
In the fair land of Canaan and Phoenicia all around
Men would admire her, for her great beauty bound.
Like a goddess they adored her, kneeling at her feet
Their entrails would melt and their hearts would quickly beat.
But one day she saw herself as by a new and blinding light,
She met the Truth Eternal and was saved from her sad plight,
Saw God in Christ, as Man and Liberator,
And lay prostrate at the feet of her God and her Creator.
Now Mary born in Magdalen was to know a second birth
As one who was baptized and now having Christian worth.
With perfumes and her tears, she washed the feet divine,
These both she kissed, and with humbleness sublime.
Wiped them with her long and shining hair,
Drying them and treating them with all her loving care.
She had discovered love that was of truest kind,
Love that makes a sacrifice, not just to passion find.
What joy for you, O Magdalen, now to approach your Lord
Who frees you of all sin, Son divine, Eternal Word.
I seek by every means, yes, I almost lost in sin,
To know like you that feeling of freedom deep within.
I envy you, O Magdalen, in love and faith so true,
United with your Savior in an act that makes you new.
For the Christian to repent means love self-sacrificing,
And pardon is fraternal, not reproaching or despising.
Christ forgave and Magdalen now through the love she bore
Was many times more beautiful than she had been before.
She lived now for a person celestial and divine,
Leaving all her pride with her silken raiment fine.
She saw the guiding light, no more obscured by sin,
She felt the mystic love illuminate within.
Now I seek you in the flowers and the warm rays of the sun,
The seasons that around the year in a cycle run
With seasons in my soul where Magdalen does sleep.
My breathing makes a bound, my heart takes upward leap.
I see you in the breezes of the morning and the eve,
I see you in the tempests and the ocean’s upward heave,
You are found where time stands still in plunging valleys deep,
In the music of the cosmos and the air I breathe asleep.
You enliven all our being like the blood that keeps us living,
With renewal of our youth and of joy that you are giving.
Faithful to Christ Jesus till he rose up from the dead,
Magdalen and mother shared hours full of dread.
Of Magdalen impassioned and beautified by light,
There not far south of Lebanon along the coastal bight
In this Orient of dreams, where saints and prophets see
Tyre and Sidon, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Galilee,
Villages and cities along the trodden ways
Keep alive the memory born in ancient days.
Before the twelve apostles, Mary gave to her adored
Unflinching faithful love as she followed Christ her Lord.
She followed close behind the Master of Creation,
Sharing with him times both of blackness and elation,
In Peter’s house, at Cana, in the Temple on the Hill,
And when five thousand people of bread and fishes had their fill.
She saw Lazarus breathe the air as the tomb he lift behind
And men who now could see although long they had been blind.
She saw paralytics cured and the sick with health endowed,
She heard her Lord speak parables and the stirrings of the crowd.
Nets when cast were full of fish and the tempest was calmed down
And Christ walked on the waters like a king who wears a crown.
He showed himself the master of every natural force
And won the heart of Magdalen, who shed tears in her remorse.
Her heart was like a fortress where love and joy could shine,
Obstinate, unshakeable, with purity sublime.
When the donkey trod on palms she followed in the wake,
Glorified or suffering, she loved him purely for his sake.
In the grove among the olive trees Christ suffered mortal fear,
So she also made a sacrifice of all that she held as dear.
The temptations of the devil he looked on them with scorn
While Mary practiced penance with suffering nobly borne.
Fasting and long prayer became her daily bread
For Jesus’ coming glory in the future she had read.
Now there was to come the greatest happening of all time,
The Holy Week of torture and many events sublime.
The judgment on the Master will be harsh beyond belief
Magdalen will suffer and be buried deep in grief.
She will follow her lord Christ as he bears the heavy Tree
With the other Holy Women who all the passion see.
And of the famous Twelve there is only one remains
Most odious is the man who sought ill-gotten gains.
With the Holy Women the Magdalen stays true
Before the Victim crucified her love gives heavenly force
She shows to him fidelity that comes from higher source.
She promises eternal love and strengthens those around,
Veronica and John, and Mother Mary there are found.
Strong and full of ardor, resolute and brave,
She calls the Twelve around her, for their mission she must save.
Messenger to messengers, ‘tis she who goes before,
This woman fair and gracious, this one whom I adore.
She wishes to anoint with oils the body pure and holy
With the other Holy Women rising in the morning early.
But they find the tomb quite empty, the shroud alone inside,
A brilliant light emitting while the door is gaping wide.
Turning back into the garden, filled with wild alarm,
She wonders if the Pharisees have done the body harm.
But as she runs to find the others, a man she sees in white
Who with unearthly splendor is radiating light.
His voice is reassuring, with tones of joy serene,
He calls her Mary Magdelen, and calms her with her name.
His feet she would embrace, in her hand his tunic take,
But “Touch me not,” he says to her, “for this is mystic shape.”
She was first to see her Lord when the tomb was opened wide,
She was first to spread the news to the men who were outside.
For forty days of thankful joy when Christ kept earth’s dimension,
She saw him walking on the land and witnessed his Ascension.
She saw him rise as in a cloud with kingly face and grave,
Giving all their mission, for the world he had to save.
A hundred friends, a little more, not much but ‘twas the yeast
That would go around the world and spread the Paschal feast.
After two millennia past, Christianity has grown;
Everywhere among mankind the seeds of truth are sown.
North and South and East and West, the Apostles took the road,
Baptizing, preaching, healing, wherever they took abode.
And Mary, too, she traveled far and reached fair France’s shore;
She spread the Word and boldly spoke and won both rich and poor.
For thirty years she labored there in work and meditation,
With angel aid from Paradise she taught God’s revelation.
She drew strength from Heaven’s grace, a nourishment unending,
And everywhere she offered prayer to the Trinity ascending.
Luminous and crystal pure, a poem free and melody,
You charm my soul, O Magdalen, like music come to me.
A poem, I say, that by its charm gives praise to Him
Who reigns eternal from above enthroned by seraphim.
You are the palette that I press full strong against my breast,
You are the colors I am looking for in my artistic quest.
Lady of the purest forms, of greatest beauty and delight,
A prayer, a burning flame and dream of summer night.
Mary, in your eyes I see depths that have no borne
And in your hair there is the gold that comes up with the dawn.
The moon, the planets and the stars all held their breath in awe,
Jealous of the earth below where they such beauty saw.
Magdalen I love you, of all women the ideal
For the beauty and the spirit that you alone reveal.
I find you everywhere, in every corner of my being,
In the dewdrops of the morning your mirror I am seeing.
In the caress of the zephyrs, in the far horizon wide,
In the waters of the Jordan, your charm I have espied.
In my dreams I see you, Magdalen, ravishing yet sweet,
Robed in folds of light, from your crown down to your feet.
I love you Magdalen, as I have loved no other,
With mystic love, yet human love as for brother or for mother.
On my knees I do implore you and offer you my heart,
So speak for me before the Lord when from earth I shall depart.
Joseph Matar – 2007 – Tous droits réservés Translation: Kenneth Mortimer