I Have Seen

“So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.'” – John 20:25

I told you first, Peter. I told you first.
“I have seen the Lord,” I told you,
“after you had gone away from the grave.
He’s alive, I tell you, alive.
I have seen the Lord.”

I told you first, Peter, and you… well.
I’ve seen your eyes narrow before
when things don’t make sense, or you don’t
understand. Then you made a comforting noise, but:
I had seen the Lord.

Condescension from you isn’t new, Simon Peter.
You’re polite, but you’ll always rely
on the witness of your own two eyes –
or the witness of another guy – even though
I had seen the Lord.

Did you hear me that night when I laughed?
Oh, the sight of your faces was rich!
Where was your superior eye?
Though puzzled, your eyelids spread wide!
Now we had seen the Lord.

Is it mean of me to then delight
when Thomas repeated your cant:
“I’ll believe when I see it myself
and have touched what I know I can’t.”
Even though we had seen the Lord.

Will you learn, Simon Peter, from this?
Will you learn to trust more than yourself?
Will you learn to appreciate others?
Will you learn to believe when a woman tells you:
“I have seen the Lord.”

A poem/prayer based on John 20:19-31, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year A, Second Sunday of Easter.

The image is Portrait of a Lady as Mary Magdalen by Bartolomeo Veneto (1520s) – lAF6gZfe-aeNCQ at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23590313.

I struggled a great deal to find an image of Mary Magdalene fit for this poem. There ought to be one depicting her declaration “I have seen the Lord!” to the male disciples, but I didn’t find one. She is frequently shown at the crucifixion and, of course, at the empty tomb. Most versions of “Noli me tangere” (Do not hold onto me) leave me cold. Mary has frequently been confused with other women in the Bible, partially because so many of them were named Mary (Miriam), and partially because of a strange tendency on the part of Christians to assume Jesus had few followers in his lifetime, so if two people look similar or have the same name, they must be the same. Pope Gregory I’s 591 Easter homily erroneously conflated Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the unnamed “sinful woman” of Luke 7. As a result, European Christians came to assume Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute and the misnomer has lingered and grown. Paintings of the “Penitent Magdalene” are… well. They’re awful. Truly awful.

Veneto’s portrait comes from the “Magdalene as Myrrhbearer” genre. The woman’s side-eye glance comes close to expressing what I imagine Mary Magdalene’s irritation with Jesus’ male disciples. Now if someone would only paint her rolling her eyes, that would be better.

6 thoughts on “I Have Seen

  1. This is wonderful. I just wrote a post about Mary Magdalene after visiting Donatello’s sculpture in Florence. In it, I addressed the myth, though, in the interest of expediency, not its source. I’m glad you included that here. I mainly wrote these posts for friends and loved ones who wanted to know about the trip, so I didn’t include much background. Keep pushing the truth about dear Mary Magdalene. She has been so maligned through history. Great post!


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