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death and lying down in the grave, his enthroning, his sitting down in that chair, where he is to receive his crown."l
O holy, blessed Mary Magdalene, though you tell us not the tale of the great joy of your heart, yet your Easter gladness is our Easter gladness, and from the silent tomb living has sprung from dying, and from the Slain Lion, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, for thee and for us, the Table of the Feasters is spread in the Wilderness.
Here is joy for sinners. For she "who sinned much," because “she loved much," is forgiven, dead and buried the sad former life, for she "that sometime sinner Mary," is numbered among the Saints of God.
A grand garden that doubtless was, wherein our dear LORD slept, wide and expansive in its domain, for it was the Garden of the Great Counsellor. There the tall palms waved gracefully and luxuriantly their wide spreading branches. There the Syrian Cedars cast a pleasant shade in the weariness and heat of the deep blue of an Eastern sky. There the luxuriant Cacti, those strange plants, with their lovely red flowers, towered amid the tamarisks and shrubs of the Garden, casting evermore shadows like "a great Rock in a weary land;" and there was the New Tomb of the Counsellor, his "Memento mori," with its outer and inner chambers, the type of many a Christian Church, standing ever through the Ages in the consecrated Acre.
A pleasant and a very fair place at all times was this Garden, and around, seeming as it were to pierce and to reach the sky, were the holy hills, circling earthly Jerusalem, mindful of those words of Israel's sweetest singer, "The hills stand about Jerusalem, even so standeth the LORD round about His people for evermore." A grand garden, verily, the world has never seen one more holy; grander, in the eyes of the followers of the Crucified, than the hanging gardens of the once beautiful Babylon.
And to this garden, in the darkness and early grey of the morning, when the most glorious day that ever dawned, was tinging with the molten gold of an Eastern Sunrising the holy hills, came the Magdalene. To this garden "sorrowful she must take her way.” Oh! who can tell the thoughts of her heart, as she stands there in that holy Garden, and as in the quietude and stillness of the early morning, she hastens through the glades of the Garden? She is alone, bearing the precious spices, and unguents, alone, but not so lonely as in the loneliness of her sin, and sad former life. Sorrow has indeed filled her heart, but
1 "The Resurrection of the Body." Dr. Donne.
it is not the sorrow of sin,-alone she can never be more, for ever before her eyes must be, till they shall be closed in death, the Vision of her LORD, now near, as if omnipresent, now distant, as if receding far off. Now indeed it is, as she last saw Him, as she saw Him gasp His last breath, as she heard Him with holy words commend His soul to His FATHER's keeping. Alone, never more can she be, only alone of a truth in her sorrow, alone in the heartrending thought of recent death. There is nothing more for her to care for in life. A yawning chasm, O so dark, is before her, more terrible than any she has ever known, and from that yawning chasm there rings ever and anon in her ears the loud shouts, and yells, and fierce blood-desiring cries of cruel men, thirsting like bloodhounds in the chase for Him she loved so dearly in life. And before her eyes there comes a vision of cruel, hard, earth-stained faces, so black, so dark with hatred, as if they had been sent to haunt the earth for that sad Day only, from the Realms, where the Prince of Evil has his seat, and she sees over again the terrible portents of the sky and earth, the sun going out and fading from the heavens, and the earth, groaning and rocking in its agony. And she shudders as she thinks of how they say that the ancient dead have been seen going about the streets in the doomed hour and in the dread still silence, which fell upon the land, when nature rested, as it were, from her untimely throes. And then, and then she sees, amidst it all, the pale, bloodless holy look of deep, placid peace on the Face of the Great Confessor, when the worst had been over, and earth and sky, and sun and moon, and cruel men and high priests, and scribes, and the Roman governor with his soldiers, had satiated their envy, spite, malevolence, hatred,-and then she sees that dying Face, in the most perfect beauty of, I say, the greatest Witness earth had ever seen, witnessing to the truth of His Life, and His fearlessness of man's most dreaded enemy.
Ah! and will this Face fail her now? Will that dying look cease to haunt?
O eyes, O ears, O throbbing brain, O aching, bursting heart, all uniting to bring up in one dire, and fearful chaos the terrible, awful scene. Oh! with what weariness she threads the winding paths! How her limbs seem to refuse their office. O sad and sorrowful, lonely Mary Magdalene. "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven," her dear Master once had said, "because she loved much."
Does she love much now? now that her dearest Master has died a
malefactor's death? Will she go back to the city and its pleasures, and crowned with garlands of roses, drown all the bitter past? Shall the short-lived happiest days of her life be as if they had never been? She loves much still. Early ere the break of day she has come, and in her hands she bears the proofs of her love. The great Counsellor has wrapped the dear Body in fine linen, and Nicodemus, the Master in Israel, had provided the myrrh and perfumed aloe wood, with which they had hastily spread the winding sheet.1
She who had broken in her great love the alabaster box of ointment over His Head, she cannot now, let the world say what it will, leave the sacred Body to be a prey to the worm, no, not if she can help it for many years.
And as she goes along her way, a fearful dread comes over her, that a great stone has been rolled at the Cave's mouth, and who shall roll away that stone, a very stone of stumbling to all her love?
O loving Mary Magdalene, that shall not trouble thee long, for One, mightier than any thou knowest has by Angel hands, rolled away the stone, and the earthquake has delivered up once more thy most precious Dead into "the land of the living."
And now the sepulchre is reached and the stone is rolled away, her dear Master is not there. The Angels of the Resurrection are indeed there, but He is not. The cave tomb is empty, and the stone is rolled away. Not the sight of the Angels can restrain her tears. Her eyes more than ever are fountains of tears, more than ever in the dread crucifixion time.
Useless now are the spices and the myrrh. She may cast them to the winds now. "They have taken away my LORD out of the sepulchre," she cries, "and I know not where they have laid Him." And ah! indeed the whispered malice of the Jews may be too true, seems to throb, O terrible thought, through her inmost soul. She must turn aside to weep now. But He, who had said, "Blessed are they that mourn," never forgets His own words.
He is there, standing before her, as she raises her sad eyes. Never had she seen Him thus, though Angel-haunted the cave tomb might be. Oh so fresh and pure, so glorious, so lovely in His risen Beauty, so intensely spiritual, transcending thought, and imagination! The pale pallid hue of Death is gone now, and yet it was there but two days and a half ago, marking so terribly the dear countenance.
'Dr. Farrar's Life of CHRIST. Illustrated Edition, p. 717.
In the glamour and maze of the sight her senses seem to wander, she calls Him "the Gardener." "Oh, Sir, if you took Him away, tell me," she cries, "where you put Him, and I will take Him." "Take Him," still she will. Embalm His dear Body she will yet, if she can. JESUS saith to her, “MARY." She saith to Him, "Rabboni," my Master." "O my Master, O my Master," "Rabboni, Rabboni," for ever and ever—yes, her Master, her LORD, and her GOD. Gladly then she will throw away the spices and unguents. They are useless now. Behold, O great Miracle, the Grave has opened her mouth, He, Who rested but yesterday in her insatiate Bosom is, "alive and well.” “O my Master, O my Master," "Rabboni, Rabboni," yes, her GOD for ever and ever. O most happy news to men and angels. O holy, happy Mary Magdalene.
Shall I say more? no, I will not add another word, save that yours may it be to say the same before your LORD in His Royal Court, and to hear S. Mary tell herself to you, how on this most glorious morning "she loved much."
This will be, O Beloved, the true outcome of all our earthly EASTERTIDES.2
NON NOBIS, DOMINE.
ANTIGONE, OR A SISTER'S SELF-SACRIFICE.
AN OLD GREEK TALE.
THE funeral rites were over. The hapless Eteocles had entered the realms of Hades, and there filled the place assigned to him by the irreversible decree of the Judge below. But the body of Polyneices lay, cast forth beyond the city walls, exposed to the heat of the sun, to the dew of the night, and to the rains from heaven. The ravening wolves and the wandering wild dogs raised a mournful howl as they
1 See the Rev. F. W. Farrar's Life of CHRIST, (Illustrated Edition, page 722,) for this translation of the word, "Rabboni."
2 Before writing the above, I had last year, "The Guardian," containing an account of the Easter Services, (1879,) lent to me for an hour. In the Supplement there was a striking sermon on S. Mary Magdalene, by the Rev. Mr. Holland, the Incumbent of a Church in London. This sermon I read, and returned the paper, without taking any MS. notes upon it. This gave me the idea of the above which I have written, and beyond this, the above is entirely my own, and original. I have not seen Mr. Holland's sermon since, so as to compare mine with it.
scented their prey from far, and only waited for the approach of night to commence their foul repast. The hungry birds flapped their wings around the unburied corpse, and sent forth their piercing shrieks, the offspring of eager desire; but the watch set to keep off the hand of pious compassion frightened them away for the present, though as hunger grew stronger, shorter and shorter were their circles around their longed for victim. And the city of Thebes was in quiet and peace, for men were worn out by the excitement of past days and the joy of victory, so that the calm of weariness came over all, and when black night cast her dark shadows over the land men slept.
But the eyes of Antigone knew not sleep, as she thought of the brother whom she loved, lying thus dishonoured on the plain, and she remembered a request that he had made of her shortly before, when in the sacred grove of the dread goddesses their father had driven him from his presence with fierce curses, and she had wept out to him a long sad farewell. Then the prophetic spirit came over him, and he knew that he was going to his death; but he had prayed her, if the worst should befall him and his father's curse should take effect, to do for him one last act of sisterly love, to scatter the earth over his remains and pronounce the parting words. And moved by the remembrance of this she resolved to dare the anger of the rulers and keep her promise.
Alone must she go through the darkness of the night, alone and unassisted to do her perilous work. Her sister would not help her, but regarded it as a freak of sheer madness to strive against the people's will, or for a woman to contend with men. But the sad ghost of her brother flitted before her, stretching out suppliant hands, and his mournful cry rang in her ears, and she thought of her own desolate condition, bereft of her father, bereft of her brothers, and death seemed to her preferable to life; but she resolved to die nobly, having done brave deeds.
So she went forth from the city, and when the sun arose the watchers near the body of the dead found that their care had been fruitless. A light sprinkling of dust had been scattered over it, how or by whom they knew not, for the doer had left no traces behind, but the deed was done, and the shade of Polyneices had crossed the dark river. Loud did the guards wrangle among themselves, sentinel accusing sentinel of treachery, but at length a common fear silenced all their tongues. Creon must be told what had happened. To him therefore was one of their number sent with the tidings.