L'Apparition a Marie Magdala
The post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, recorded in John 20:11-18, has long been a favorite theme of artists. The moment is mysterious, laden with other-worldly meaning. The inconsolable Mary has mistaken her Risen Lord for a gardener, working by the empty tomb. Jesus calls her by name. She looks up and realizes who he is standing beside her. When Mary reaches out to embrace Jesus, he cautions her to “touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” Artistic depictions of the scene, usually titled, Noli me tangere (Latin for “touch me not”), never really moved me, until I saw French Abstract-Expressionist Alfred Manessier’s lithograph, The Appearance to Mary of Magdala (The Easter Garden.) Gone are those annoying, realistic details like the gardener’s hat in Rembrandt’s famous Resurrection painting or the yards of sheet, swathing Jesus, in Titian’s similar study. Such visual distractions (for me, at least) rob this supreme moment of Christ faith of its awe and wonder. I start thinking about what kind of body the Risen Jesus had and why he went unrecognized by those who knew him. What we see, here, is a picture, plain and simple, of raw-edged emotion. Looking at these explosive shards of color, dancing against the huge orange orb of what must surely be a risen sun, I sense something of the shock, amazement, and inexpressible joy Mary Magdalene experienced that first Easter morning.