Wednesday of Holy Week : Day of Mercury
- Wednesday of Holy Week : Day of Mercury
The Three Years
The "Still Week"--as Holy Week is called in some countries--is not really
still until the middle day is past. On Palm Sunday the city is in a state of
tremor; on Monday the tables of the vendors and money-changers were overturned
in the Temple; on Tuesday, sword-thrusts were dealt in spiritual conflict
between Christ and His opponents. It is not until the last part of the week
that stillness descends. Wednesday, Mercury Day, is the turning point. The
mercurial element of living movement represents the transition from the first
unquiet days of the "Still Week" to those in which the consummation of Christ's
life moves into ever deeper stillness.
Towards evening on Wednesday, a scene stands out which, although it has
also occurred before, takes on a special significance on this middle day of
balance. The Christ has turned from the tumult of the city to the quiet country
town of Bethany, beyond the Mount of Olives. He stays in the circle of those
with whom He is particularly united. A meal has been prepared for Him as on
other evenings. But it is as though a certain radiance fell upon the scene,
shining in advance from the Meal which will be celebrated the next day. A
presentiment of the Last Supper hovers round the community at table. The
country town of Bethany, quiet as it is, has shortly before been the scene of
the raising of Lazarus, the event which had given the signal for battle.
Lazarus is one of those gathered round the table, and it is he, as we know, who
is described by the Gospel as resting on the heart of Jesus the next evening.
At the Last Supper it is he who is nearest to Christ, both outwardly and
Two women also belong to the community at table, Martha and Mary
Magdalene, whom the Gospel of St. John states to be the sisters of Lazarus.
They have been led by the hand of Providence into this circle, which is more
related by the spirit than by blood. In the life of each of these three persons
there has been an event which brought a radical transformation. For Lazarus it
was the awakening from the grave, the great release of the John-spirit for its
flight to the heights. For Mary Magdalene the event lay somewhat farther back;
it is called in the Gospel a "driving out of devils." She had been healed of
the tragedy of "possession" and had experienced the freeing and purifying of
her soul. For Martha there had also been a significant event. She is said in
early Christian tradition to be the woman who was healed of the issue of blood.
Destiny had decreed that she should bring with her into life a weakness through
which her bodily organism was unable to hold its forces together. Through
meeting with the One who could heal her, a staying power, a formative force,
drew into her body, just as an inner peace had entered the soul of Mary
Magdalene. The brother and sisters of Bethany became the intimate friends of
Christ through healings of the spirit, the soul and the body.
As they all sit at table with the disciples, Mary is recorded as having
anointed the feet of Christ with precious spikenard ointment and wiped them
with her hair. St. John's Gospel says that the whole house was filled with the
perfume. Mary Magdalene had performed a similar act a year and a half
previously. She had experienced a freeing and redeeming through her meeting
with the Christ, and in order to show her overflowing gratitude she had, as the
Gospel of St. Luke describes, anointed the feet of Christ and dried them with
her hair. St. John's Gospel, in the introductory words to the awakening of
Lazarus, refers to this earlier scene (11.2). Mary Magdalene is described in
St. Luke's Gospel as the "great sinner," and it is possible, according to old
traditions, that she was a prostitute, driven by demons, in the mundane
watering place of Tiberias, near her home at Magdala. But what does her act of
anointing signify now? It is the type and symbol of a sacramental act.
Therefore, when others declare her deed extravagant and become indignant,
Christ can accept what this woman does as a sacrament of death, as a
fulfillment of the Last Anointing. On the occasion of the earlier anointing He
had said, "Be still; she has loved much, much will be forgiven her." And one
can feel how Mary has since been able to deepen the natural forces of earthly
love erring on false paths, and transmute them into religious devotion, and the
capacity for sacrifice.
Then the solemn stillness is suddenly broken, a figure who forms a
complete contrast to Mary Magdalene. It is one of the apostles, and as he sees
the deed of Mary he loses all self-control. This is Judas. He says that the
precious money which has just been squandered could have been given to the
poor, and thus many social needs might have been relieved. St. John's Gospel,
however, makes it plain that his real motives are not the ostensible ones. The
gospel openly calls him a thief. It may well be that the anger which Judas felt
at the deed of Mary Magdalene gave the final impetus to his act of betrayal. He
had waited a long time in tense expectation that Jesus would come forward
publicly; then a political miracle would inevitably follow. In his feverish
impatience, it seems to him that Christ wastes His time, and finally at Bethany
his patience can endure no more. In uncontrolled irritation he goes out to
those who lie in wait for the Christ. The second crucial event of the Wednesday
is the betrayal by Judas.
Both Judas and Mary Magdalene are typical Mercury people; they are active
and temperamental. One of the virtues of their nature is that they are never
tedious. Something is always happening round them. Mary Magdalene, however,
subdues her restlessness and transforms it into devotion, peace and the
capacity for love. One can see from the Gospel account that true devotion is
the final achievement of an active soul, a soul for whom peace is not mere
immobility, but mobility redeemed, made inward. Mary Magdalene has been
storm-tossed; she has endured sinister experiences. But now an intense power of
devotion grows from all that was formerly dark and disturbing. This intensity
will later lift her above all other human beings; to her it is granted to be
the first to meet and behold the Risen Christ.
Judas is the type of restless man who must always be outwardly active. He
pretends to want something for the poor. However good and commendable social
activity may be, it is often only self-deception. The underlying motive is not
always a genuine social impulse, but very often one's own inner restlessness.
Many people would be most unhappy if they were obliged to do nothing for a
time. It would then be seen that their social zeal is no true inner activity,
but a yielding to an unacknowledged weakness. In Judas this kind of mercurial
soul meets with a dark fate. His unrest springs from a deeply hidden fear, and
it leads to his betrayal of Christ Jesus. Such a soul cannot show devotion;
above all, it cannot love. A restless person is not capable of real love; for
love is possible only where the soul has found peace. Thus in the two figures,
Mary Magdalene and Judas, two roads separate, as at a crossroads. One leads to
the realization of the nearness of Christ, the other into dark night, into the
tragedy of suicide.
Martha, the other sister of Lazarus, is a transition, as it were, between
Judas and Mary Magdalene. St. Luke's Gospel tells the story of Mary and Martha
early on, and has a purpose in doing so. Martha is the constantly active one
who cannot exist without undertaking some service. One cannot deny the genuine
nature of her devotion, but one must not be blind to the fact that the unrest
from which she was healed in the body has remained in her soul. Mary, who
listens with devotion, is described as the one who has chosen the good part.
The figures taking part in these scenes on the Wednesday show us the
crossroads which we must face before we may hope for admittance to the sphere
of Maundy Thursday. The ways separate in face of the mystery of the sacrament.
Judas is the man without ritual. He becomes restless and loses self-control
when he comes into the sphere of true ceremonial worship. Mary Magdalene is the
sacramental soul. One the following evening, when the circle of disciples will
be united in the Sacrament as under a great dome, it will be apparent who is
nearer to Mary, and who to Judas.
Mercury, who for the Greco-Roman world was both the God of healing and
also the God of merchants and thieves, comes now into the orbit of the Christ
Sun. The scene in the house of Lazarus and his sisters at Bethany shows how
Mercury, the God of Healing, can himself be healed by the Sun of Christ.
[Thanks again to Liz, she knows why!]
Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Small Business $15K Web Design Giveaway