Liminal Space : Mary Magdalene : Noli Me Tangere

I have already posted a couple of times on the theme of Liminal Space.

See Blue Eyed Ennis: Liminal Space and the Garden of Gethsemane and in today's Gospel reading the theme recurs again when the risen Christ appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden but says Do Not Touch Me.

This startling phrase has been taken up by artists through the centuries in works bearing the Latin phrase for Do Not Touch Me : Noli Me Tangere.

For me this is one of the most moving passages of the Gospels. Anyone who has been bereaved knows of the aching longing for a dead person to return and this yearning can be so powerful that very often in the early days after death a visitation of a dead person is commonly reported by loved ones.

I remember reading somewhere that Jesus made a special appearance to Mary simply because he was aware of her utter distress and wanted to console her, but it was almost a breach of protocol because Jesus knew she could not touch him.

( I like to think of Jesus rebelling against the orders of Big Daddy here too!)

His human nature was secondary now -his divine nature was in the ascendancy and just as in the Old Testament tale of the Burning Bush when Moses was told to go no further as he edged towards God and in the fleeting glimpse the disciples had at the Transfiguration this moment of meeting was a gift from Jesus of pure love but only transient. I can't explain why it has to be like this because the pain of separation must have been agonising for Mary. To be called by her name must have been utterly amazing.

We cannot touch.
So that is that and we have to get over it !!
Don't ask me why it has to be this way because I don't know why !!

Lest anyone assume that this passage in the bible is just a metaphor for the resurrection and that there was no physicality to it they will be reminded that this is far from the case when the hapless Thomas sticks his fingers into the wounds of Christ when he makes a special appearance to Thomas because he steadfastly refuses to believe the other disciples when they say Jesus has appeared to them.

Jesus appears to be in a liminal space after his death and resurrection:  Betwixt and between earth and heaven.

(James Tissot two images below from here

This separation leaves Mary Magdalene dislocated in heart and mind but her vision demands her to reach out and touch the flesh of the risen Jesus.

Mary the sensual woman that we know of already who flings herself at the feet of Christ and thinks nothing of caressing his feet with expensive ointment simply cannot understand why she cannot touch Christ whom she loves with all her heart and soul.

She too is in a liminal space of mourning.

Christ cannot literally be the same as before.

She has to be aware of his absence in the landscape of the living from now on and it is time to let go.

But she has been given a message and she has the sublime privilege of carrying that to the rest of the disciples.

That is what energises her to run as fast as she can to tell them what she has seen.

The message of the Resurrection carried by a woman to whom Jesus has appeared in the flesh !!

“I have seen the Lord,”

Wow !!

Gospel Reading

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.


Tim said...

The concept of liminal space intrigues and comforts me, Phil. How and when it "works" remains a total mystery--as it should. Yet knowing that space is somehow available to all of us (even Christ) during turning points gives me great assurance.

Jesus is indeed transitioning between "worlds" here. I agree this is not metaphorical, but an actual physical manifestation. Yet ironically (though, given how these things tend to work, perhaps not), this literal depiction of liminal space does become a metaphor for our very similar liminal space--an ongoing transition between worlds.

That is, if I'm understanding this correctly...

I once mentioned over at Claire's place that a pastor I once knew described the altar as a "thinly veiled boundary" dividing mortal existence from eternal life. Your post brings that to mind once again. Thank you.


PS: One of the great treats of Lent's conclusion is now having time to catch up with all the marvelous things you have here. I'm very much looking forward to that!

Philomena Ewing said...

Hi Tim,
I like the way you identify that liminal space is available to us as something that is always on offer. Yes, that gives me comfort.
The altar as a "thinly veiled boundary" is a wonderful image for me to stick with this week too.

Blessings to you and many thanks- I am delighted to have your comments.