But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. John 20:11-18
The story of Mary Magdalene is comforting to me. She was tormented by all those demons, and it must have made her crazy, but Jesus loved her in spite of all that. He loved her enough to rescue her from the demons, to die for her sins, and then, like icing on the cake, to appear to her personally after His resurrection. I am tormented sometimes by anxiety and depression, and sometimes it makes me crazy, but Jesus loves me too.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
I don’t really think that “crazy” and “pure in heart” are the same thing, but through His death and resurrection, Jesus purifies my heart, and some day I will see Him face to face just like Mary Magdalene.
I’m sure Mary Magdalene was in my subconscious as Easter approached. She was there along with many other thoughts, some of which make me very anxious each time a holiday approaches.
I attended both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services and kept my composure, which I view as a small victory. Easter Sunday arrived, and I was anxious, but still everything was pretty much under control. Thomas and Jack were playing for the service, and that always makes a mother a little nervous, but they were well prepared, and there was really no reason for concern.
We had prepared two pieces of pre-service music. Jack was to go first, and Thomas was to follow. The instruments were all tuned, and the boys were in their places. About thirty seconds before Jack was to begin, another young boy entered the sanctuary. He was high on the excitement of life, chocolate, the Easter Bunny, and perhaps even the Tooth Fairy, and he came running across the front of the church smack dab into Jack’s cello. The cello fell with a clatter onto its bridge. In an instant, my carefully guarded composure disappeared.
The tension that was simmering under the surface welled up into panic. I started to scold. “Jack! I told you to hold onto your cello!”
“Deborah.” I turned around, and there was my pastor all in his white alb and chasuble. He said something to the effect that it wasn’t Jack’s fault. Thomas re-tuned the cello, and really the worst of the outcome was that we started five minutes late. Still, I was shaken. By the time we got home from the service, I was exhausted.
Wednesday afternoon found me in my therapist’s office for a regularly scheduled appointment. I recounted the events of Easter Sunday, and I mused that it was really a bit of a relief to panic out in the open. If the cello had not clattered to the floor, no one would have seen my anxiety simmering below the surface. I would have been left to wrestle with it alone. Instead it was witnessed by someone who cared.
I told my therapist how comforting it was to hear my name. Thinking back on the service I cannot even recall the Gospel account. (It wasn’t from John). What I remember the most is the sound of my name being spoken. “It’s really kind of silly,” I admitted.
“No, it’s not silly,” my therapist countered. He explained that what I had experienced was called anchoring. When I was upset before church, the sound of my name spoken in a caring manner served to anchor me.
Mary was upset in the garden on that first Easter morning. Then she heard Jesus speak her name, “Mary.” In that moment, I think she must have felt anchored. I know John wrote the account as a witness to the resurrection and not as a psychology lesson, but really, who could anchor someone more than Jesus?
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
Jesus has redeemed me, and through my baptism, He calls me by name. I am anchored in my place as a child of God. It is a true blessing when God sends people to care for me, but even when I am alone and tormented, I can rest secure in the knowledge of my baptism. As Martin Luther states in his Large Catechism:
When our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.
My pastor is not always standing behind me, and my therapist will soon be retiring, but I am anchored in my baptism. I have the promise of life and salvation, and that promise is always and forever.