Beyond the Empty Tomb 3: Mary meets her risen son

Podcast Script

Juan de Flandes - Christ Appearing to His Mother - WGA12056

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3 May: Jesus and his mother Mary
Welcome to ‘Beyond the Empty Tomb’ Weekly podcasts providing a led meditation on the Resurrection Appearances of Jesus.
Today’s Resurrection appearance is Jesus appearing to his mother, Mary. 
There is no direct scriptural mention of this resurrection appearance, but recognition of this happening goes back to the early Christian tradition. I will be using scriptural references to Mary’s journey as Jesus’ mother, as a way of helping to engage with her and leading into an imaginative presence at her meeting her risen son. As ever with this approach to prayer, we seek and trust the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. 
The symbol I suggest you use with this meditation is a symbol of mothering. Something that for you connects with the love, acceptance, nurturing that mothering has been for you. 
If you don’t have it with you, I suggest you pause now to get it.
Take time now to settle into this space – to let go of what you have been about before  and to simply come to presence in the here and now of this moment
Let yourself hear the sounds that are around you
Focus on any coming from outside
As you notice the individual sounds, take a moment with one of them, then move to another, and another.
Then let yourself notice the sounds coming from within your room, again pay attention to each that you notice
Then come to attention to yourself, the sound of your breathing, the pulse of your heartbeat, these simple symbols of our life. That show we are alive. 
And in your awareness of your aliveness, bring to mind your desire for this time. What you are hoping for, what you are wanting to give to it. 
And recognise that God was here before you, and is welcoming you into this time.
Let yourself receive God’s welcome and relax into presence with God, your creator, your constant companion, the breather of life into you. 
Entrust yourself into God’s holding of this space, into God’s holding of you in this space and ask for the Holy Spirit to help you as you pray. 
I invite you now to pick up your symbol of mothering, and hold it. And imagine yourself present to Mary, shortly after reports of Jesus’ resurrection have begun circulating in Jerusalem.
Let the scene come to you. Notice where you are, be in this place, noticing the room, its features, the sounds, the smells, the feelings
Look at Mary.
As you look at her, we recall her journey, her life as mother of Jesus
Going back to those years ago
– annunciation – Angel giving her extra-ordinary news – that God has favoured her and by the Holy Spirit she is to bear a son. Her response ‘Here I am, the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me in accordance with your word’
recall all that has happened to her since that moment
– birth – not in the comfort of home, but away in Bethlehem, where there was no room for them at the inn, the manger serving as a cradle – the shepherds – and their story of angels – and how Mary ‘kept all these words pondering them in her heart’
– magi – with more news of heavenly guidance and gifts suitable for a king and for burial
– presentation in the temple and Simeon’s prophetic words ‘this one is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel… – and to Mary ‘your own soul will be pierced by a sword’
– slaughter of the innocents that led to their fleeing to Egypt – refugees with the added pain that somehow this child has been the catalyst for all the pain and suffering innocents back home. 
– watching Jesus grow up – going through those mid years – remembering him when he was lost, finding him in the temple and his response ‘do you not know I must be in my father’s house’
– then leaving home – the absence, and hearing of the extraordinary things he did – seeing him water into wine, healing, teaching, preaching, loving and caring, challenging and disturbing
– another piercing when she sought time with him and his retort ‘ who are my mother, my brothers’!
– then just a few days ago, his arrest, trial and crucifixion –Mary’s agony of watching things unfold, powerless. As he is abused, struggling to carry the cross, nailed, hanging , yet still caring about his mother, finally dying. 
– Mary there as his body was removed from the cross, prepared for burial and then entombed
– and now the stories of the empty tomb, the missing body, the appearances to some of the disciples
Notice how Mary is in this moment
How are you feeling as you watch her. Is there something in you want to say, or do?
Watch as her son appears to her. 
Looking at her face
Looking at his face
Notice the joy, the love
How do they respond to each other, what are they saying to each other as they share their feelings about this meeting
Talking to make of what has happened with each other
Let them draw you into the conversation – they listen to your feelings about being there – how do they respond
Tell them of what you are making of it all, what is making sense and what is beyond your sense. Let the conversation unfold. 
Then the time comes to draw the conversation to a close – for the ‘goodbye for nows’ be said
Return to presence to where you are and the symbol of mothering in your hand. As you hold it, reflect on how being with Mary meeting the risen Jesus has affected you. 
As you do that noticing what has brought you more joy, hope, peace
Dwell on those moments
Notice any things that disturbed you
Seek light to be shone on those disturbances
And now pray that your symbol may be a reminder of Jesus’ resurrection. 
Next week’s meditation is Jesus appearing to Thomas, who had asserted he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he had felt the wounds in his hands and side. So I suggest as a symbol a nail or some other sharp piercing object. 
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I found this one of the more tricky meditations to put together. Having the foundation of scripture provides a certain support and also a text to read and to structure things around. 

There are all sorts of things that must have happened in Jesus’ life that are not recorded in scripture, not least that the risen Jesus appeared to his mother Mary. I first encountered this when I was praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and found it very moving, pondering how it was for them both to see each other the other side of the tomb. So much so that I felt it worth including in this series. 

But, putting something together for others was a taller order than I envisaged. How to come at it without introducing all sorts of conjectures – like giving the encounter a time, a place, a context. To have done this would have gone against the grain of the stance I seek to maintain in leading meditations – which is to introduce as little as possible that isn’t in the text, nor to lead in terms of describing the inner thoughts and feelings of those involved. This all falls back on Ignatius’ wisdom of the importance of not getting in the way of the encounter of the pray-er and God, and God with the prayer. 

What helped me move into this process was a study of the ‘Seven Sorrows of Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ’ – the work of Terry Mason, Rector of the Brown Clee churches in Hereford Diocese. He had produced this as part of a recent sabbatical which I had supported him in taking. This tracing of the ‘piercings’ of Mary foretold by Simeon at the Presentation of  Jesus in the Temple gave me a valuable framework for setting the context of this encounter in terms of Mary’s experience as mother of Jesus. Thus the scriptural story of Mary, mother of Jesus became the background context into which the encounter with her risen son could be set in a way that was authentic to scripture without imposing any conjectures beyond the possibility of this meeting. 

Having led people in imaginative contemplation for about twenty five years and listened to people share their experience,  I am often awed by the wonderful ways in which the Holy Spirit works with people through it. The personal inner encounter with God that seems frequently to be profoundly personal to the individual’s situation with a message or impact that speaks directly with a wisdom that I’m in awe of, and with a grace and love that profoundly moving. It seems time and time again a way of prayer that is better than Heineken at reaching the parts that others don’t reach. This leads me into finding it easier to leave space for the Spirit to do what the Spirit will do, while leading people in meditations such as these. May the Spirit continue to inspire our prayer.

5 thoughts on “Beyond the Empty Tomb 3: Mary meets her risen son

  1. Thank you again, Nick, for your gentle promptings through these meditations which are helping us to stay in the Easter season. I have found new insights as I’ve reflected on Mary after the resurrection.
    Relevant , helpful, encouraging.

  2. Thanks Nick for these meditations which I am finding extremely helpful – especially in these difficult times. This week the thing that struck me deeply was the reminder of the importance of family even for the resurrected Jesus – and to know that that bond is formed and framed in God is comforting when family contact is as limited as it is at present.

  3. Dear Nick
    I have been profoundly moved by your meditation on the appearance of Jesus to his mother, and encouraged by the thought that the presence of the two Mary’s at the crucifixion could be read as representing the femininity of God in the context of both nature and nurture.
    Thank you so much for all you have done in recent weeks to get us through this dark time.

    1. Thank you for sharing this Priscilla.

      My hope in all of these meditations is that God who is both within and beyond our human constructs and limitations will open us to the bigger reality of a life and grace that is rich and fulfilling.

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