I had recently been reading an extract on “Presences” in Hope Sings, So Beautiful where Etty Hillesum speaks of the eclipse of God. Etty was a young Jewish woman who lived in Amsterdam and was exterminated in Auschwitz.
A few days later I was introduced to a painting of Mary Magdalene which touches me so deeply that I gaze and gaze. I have no words. There is a Star of David – just visible in blue. Christ and Magdalene enChristing us with their love.
I share the Magdalene’s heartbreak. The grief tied up with Love: The beauty of the world, its desecration, children giggling over secret silly jokes, the rape of a six month old baby, looking into the kind eyes of a wrinkled old woman, seeing a crippled man help her over the street: Yet again war spreading over Europe and the Middle East, the reverse vengeance of a Palestinian in Israel, the attack on a Synagogue in France. This is the year 2014. The brutalization of women. The murder of refugees. The non-recognition of our own Divinity: Our own enChristing: The mutuality of Mary and Jesus.
The Hebrew Slaves Chorus says it beyond words [link here].
And yet Etty could write this just before being sent to the transit camp of Westerbork:
Saturday morning, 7:30 The bare trunks that climb past my window now shelter under a cover of young green leaves. A springy fleece along their naked, tough, ascetic limbs.
I went to bed early last night, and from my bed I stared out through the large open window. And it was once more as if life with all its mysteries was close to me, as if I could touch it. I had the feeling that I was resting against the naked breast of life, and could feel her gentle and regular heartbeat. I felt safe and protected. And I thought, How strange. It is wartime. There are concentration camps ….I know how very nervous people are, I know about the mounting human suffering. I know the persecution and oppression and despotism and the impotent fury and the terrible sadism. I know it all.
And yet – at unguarded moments, when left to myself, I suddenly lie against the naked breast of life, and her arms round me are so gentle and so protective and my own heartbeat is difficult to describe: so slow and so regular and so soft, almost muffled, but so constant as if it would never stop.
That is also my attitude to life, and I believe that neither war nor any other senseless human atrocity will ever be able to change it.
It could be Mary Magdalene writing. Can we hear Her ?
**Jennifer Mayol is an artist and her paintings will soon be publicly available. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave a Reply