The First Day of the Week
Magdalene: Hey, Susana… come up here…!
Susana: I’m coming…
Salome: Psst! Not so loud, Magdalene, you’ll wake the men up...
Magdalene: Don’t worry, they won’t budge, not even when there’s an earthquake… Look at them… sleeping like logs….
Mark: Ahumm…. And who told you they’re sleeping…?
Salome: Hey, Mark, why are you up so early?
Mark: This is precisely what I want to ask you… The stars are still up there… You still have time to catch some sleep…
Salome: We’ve got to go to the tomb to wash the body and wrap him in a shroud.
Mark: But Peter told me you’re going back to Galilee today and you wanted to start early.
Magdalene: That’s why we got up early.
Salome: Listen, Mark, when they wake up, tell them to gather all our things so we can start our jouney at once… We’ll be back soon…. Have we got everything?
Susana: Yeah, we’ve got the myrrh and the perfumes… Towels, clean sheets…
Magdalene: Hey, Susana, where’s Mama Mary?
Mark: She got up ahead of you. I saw her leave a while ago….
Salome: Where did she go?
Mark: Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t ask…
Susana: Where else would she go but to the tomb and weep there?… My God, what this poor woman must be suffering…!
Salome: C’mon, Susana, it’s getting late… let’s not waste time…
On the first day of the week, when everything was still dark, Salome, my mother, Susana and the Magdalene, left hurriedly with the perfumes for anointing the dead. They wanted to finish washing and embalming Jesus’ body. They didn’t have time to do it last Friday; and on Saturday, which was a rest day, it was prohibited…
Susana: We should have asked Mark to go with us… Or we could have awakened some of the men.
Salome: What for, Susana…?
Susana: So they could turn the stone open for us… We haven’t got that much strength to push it open…
The streets of Jerusalem were deserted…. The sun had not come out yet and the residents of the city of David were still sleeping soundly after the great feast of the Sabbath…. The women crossed the barrio of Zion, left the walled city through the gate of the Angle, then started to walk through the sandy road to Golgotha…
Susana: I can’t believe all this…
Salome: Everything is over, Susana. It’s finished. Let’s all be resigned to this… nothing more….
Magdalene: No, I’m not going to… never! He was all I have loved in this life… how can I accept all this, knowing that the worms will be feasting on his body?
Salome: C’mon, Magdalene, child, take it easy... Of course, you’ll have to accept this… Is there another choice…? C’mon….
They passed through the hillside, sown with black and blood-stained poles, where a couple of days before, they had shed a sea of tears… At the back of the macabre hill, beside the communal pits, were various caves. Among them was one that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, and which served as Jesus’ tomb…
Susana: Isn’t it this one, Salome…?
Salome: No, it’s over there… Come…. Gosh!
Magdalene: What’s wrong…?
Salome: Either my eyes are deceiving me, or the stone is rolled open….
Susana: I told you so… Mary had come ahead of us…
Magdalene: Who could’ve helped her turn the stone?
The women went near the entrance to the cave… The stone, round and cold, was rolled to one side…
Susana: Mary!… Hey, Mary, are you down there?… Mary!
Magdalene: Nobody answers…
Salome: She must be weeping beside his body… Poor woman, she’s so distraught…
Susana: That’s natural… he was her only son… and for him to end up that way… Every time I think of it…. Oh…this has been such a great misfortune…!
Salome: For God’s sake, Susana, there you go again… You, too, Magdalene… It’s all over now, stop thinking about it…. Come, let’s all go down and console Mary… then let’s all get to work…
Magdalene: No, no, I can’t go inside. I can’t bear to see him again…
Salome: Magdalene, child, you’ve got to be strong… We must comply with this final obligation. Jesus has done a lot for us… At least, he deserves a decent burial… Come, turn on the lamp and let’s go inside…
They lit the oil lamp. Their robes were hitched up and bending low so they would not trip, the women went down the damp and narrow steps until the end part of the cave…
Susana: Mary!… Hey, Mary isn’t here…
Salome: How can that be?
Magdalene: Oh, God, oh Holy God, look…!
The Magdalene brought the lamp to the stone bench where last Friday, before sunset, they themselves had left Jesus’ cadaver, hastily wrapped in a few sheets…
Salome: But where’s the…. Give me some more light, Magdalene!
Magdalene: It’s not here!!… Look!… They have stolen it!… Damn it, it was stolen!
Susana: But, how is it possible that in this country, not even the dead are spared?
Magdalene: Gosh, oh my God, great God, what a great disgrace to man, oh!
Salome: Calm down, Magdalene, child!
Magdalene: How can I? They’ve taken his body away and I don’t know where they put it!
Susana: Who could’ve done such an evil thing? Who would want to hurt us?
Salome: Perhaps Pilate’s men have desecrated the tomb, taken his body and thrown it in the common graveyard, like a dog!… That’s what could’ve happened…
Susana: That can’t be, Salome. It was Pilate himself who ordered the body interred here!
Salome: Then it must be Caiphas and his cohorts who could’ve wanted him nailed on the cross again to serve as warning to the pilgrims…. This is not the first time they’ve done it…
Susana: Oh, what a terrible thing. I don’t want to hear any more of it! I’m feeling nauseated…
Salome: I’m having shivers in my back…. Let’s get out of here…
The three women hurriedly left the burial cave… They were as pale and white as the sheets they were carrying….
Susana: Pff!… What do we do now…?
Salome: Let’s hurry and tell the men… They’ve got to know what’s happened…
Magdalene: Oh, I’m going to faint, oh, oh, I can’t bear it anymore. Oh God, I feel something heavy on my chest, oh!
Susana: Magdalene, stop lamenting now and let’s all run and inform Peter and the rest…
Salome: It’s okay, Susana, let her cry… Come, let’s go… You, Magdalene, stay here with the myrrh and the perfumes… We’ll be back at once…
Susana and Salome went back running toward Mark’s house, where everyone had been hiding since Friday…. Mary of Magdala, held her face close to the round stone slab, weeping disconsolately….
Susana: Mark!… Peter!… Wake up!
Salome: They took away Jesus’ body and we dunno where it is!
Peter: They what?
Susana: Are you deaf, delinquent? They’ve stolen the body!
Peter: I can’t believe this!
Salome: That’s right! The cave is empty and the stone was rolled to one side!
James: John, Philip, Nathanael, lock the doors at once and close all the windows! We’re in danger!
Mark: And you, screamers, did anyone see you come here?
Susana: Oh, Mark, my son, I dunno, I don’t care anymore!
James: We’ve got to leave for Galilee as soon as possible! If they catch us, then we’ll all be hanged!
At this moment, someone knocked at the door….
Peter: Damnation! They’ve found us. We’re doomed!
Magdalene: Open the door, open the door!
Susana: Don’t be a chicken, Peter. It’s only the Magdalene, don’t you hear? Run and open the door!
Mary, from Magdala, came inside the basement, our hiding place. Her hands were on her head and her eyes were bulging…
Magdalene: Oh, oh!
Peter: What the hell is happening now?
James: Close that door, damn it!
Magdalene: Oh, oh!
Susana: But woman, for heaven’s sake, speak fast! I’m getting nervous…
James: Speak up, once and for all, you wreck! What’s the matter? Are they following you?!
James: They’re after you?!… Did you see the soldiers?… Pilate’s men?… Herod’s police?… Damn, speak up!!… Who’s following you?!
Salome: Let her catch her breath, James… Can’t you see her tongue’s getting twisted?
James: Well, she’d better loosen it, fast! Speak up, woman. Who the hell did you see?
Peter: I swear by Moses’ ass, whom did you see?
Mark: How’s that again? Did they find his corpse?
Magdalene: No! I saw him alive!
Magdalene: Jesus! I’ve seen the Moreno!… I’ve just seen him…
James: What nonsense are you talking about?
Magdalene: I’ve just spoken with Jesus…. It was he, I swear…
Salome: I knew it, this young woman here has not eaten anything since Friday, and…
Magdalene: I’ve seen him with my own eyes, just as I’m seeing all of you now!
Susana: Of course, child, of course… Come, take something to warm your stomach… Calm down a little…
Magdalene: It was he! It was Jesus!… I talked to him a while ago….
Peter: Easy, Susana. Just let her talk.
Salome: Poor thing, she’s cried a lot…
Susana: The same thing happened to Aunt Domitilla when the husband died. It made her crazy and she continued talking until evening… Come, Magdalene, lie down and get some rest…
Magdalene: No, I’m not going to lie down… let me tell you what happened, oh, gosh!
Mark: That’s it. Let her speak, let her unburden herself… Later, she’ll be able to sleep well…
Susana: Let’s see, child, tell us what happened…
Magdalene: I was there, beside the empty tomb when you left. I was weeping and my eyes were all red like a tomato because of so much crying. Suddenly, I heard some footsteps behind me. I looked up and turned around… I couldn’t see clearly because of the tears in my eyes…. I thought he was the man guarding the place and I said: “Hey, countryman, if you have taken away his body, then please, tell me where the hell you have hidden him. I’m going to get the body…” And then… then…!
Susana: Then, what happened, child?!
Magdalene: Then he said: Mary!… He called me by my name, do you hear?… I was shocked… It was he! I’m sure! Who else could he be, he spoke just like Jesus, and laughed like him…?
Mark: C’mon, Susana, give her the soup to warm her up or prepare a poultice to cool off her brain.
Magdalene: You’ve got to believe me! He said to me: Mary! And I said: Moreno!… I threw myself down at his feet!
Mark: And he must’ve told you: “Let go, you’re tickling me,” is that it?
Magdalene: He said: “Run, run and tell my brothers! You, gosh! Tell them that if they’re going to Galilee, I’ll be there waiting for them! And likewise, if they stay here! They’ll see me soon.
James: So it was the keeper of the cemetery who scared the hooker to death!
Magdalene: No, no. I’ve seen him. I talked with Jesus before coming here… You went with me, Susana and Salome, you have seen that empty space, believe me… Oh, look, he’s there!
A shadow passed through the transom of the basement. We were all shocked and the Magdalene rushed to open the door… It was Mary, Jesus’ mother, who entered…
Susana: Oh my gosh, Mary, at last you came… Where have you been?
Mary did not say a word. She just looked at us, her eyes radiating with joy. In my whole life, I have never seen such a joyful look like that one….
Susana: Comadre… what happened to you? Where did you come from? Hey, Mary!
Without moving and with our mouths open, we all awaited what this brown, diminutive peasant woman, who was Jesus’ mother, had to say… Then the Magdalene went near her, looked into her dark eyes, as dark as the mourning veil covering her head…
Magdalene: Mam Mary, you saw him too, didn’t you?… Didn’t you see him…?
Mary: Yes, yes, yes…! I saw him!… I’ve seen my son!… I’ve seen him!
There were still stars in the sky. Jerusalem was still in deep slumber under the watchful and round eye of the bright Nissan moon… It was still dark, but it would be dawn very soon.
Wake up, wake up, arise, Jerusalem!
You who have drunk the cup of sorrow.
Look: God is taking this cup from your hands,
and you will never drink from it. Wake up, wake up!
Don your holiday dress, Jerusalem, Holy City!…
Shake that dust off, and get up,
break the chains from your neck!
for your light comes forth
and the glory of the Lord dawns upon you!
All Christian faith is anchored in an event that has been transmitted to us for about two thousand years by Jesus’ group of friends: ignorant men and women, fishermen, artisans, people looked down upon by the “decent ones.” This band of the poor has passed the news from generation to generation: God resurrected Jesus of Nazareth, who was killed. He is alive, he has a life that pushes history onwards. In the first century, Paul said to the communities in Corinth that “if Christ had not resurrected, all our faith would be a void” (1 Cor 15:12-24).
We have faith in the resurrection of Jesus through the words of his disciples. This faith is transmitted to us by way of the gospel. We also open ourselves to faith in the resurrection through the experience of the Christian community where there is love between men and women, where they share and work for justice, like Jesus. In this way, Jesus shows himself to be alive. In this account, all the episodes corresponding to the narrations about the resurrection, aim to highlight this significant aspect of theology. That is why the voice of Jesus cannot be heard again. We only hear the testimony of those who have seen him, those who have talked to him, those who ate with him after the resurrection. Thus, the community is shown to be the mediator of our faith. We no longer hear Jesus in the episodes. The disciples themselves communicate their experience to us, the way it happened two thousand years ago. The first Christian groups were structured upon this transmission from mouth to mouth of a common hope creating a community of life. Today, the Church is built upon the same. Jesus did not resurrect by himself. Resurrection is not a miracle Jesus performs on his own body to bring back his life. The first Christian formulas revealed how we should understand this truth about faith: God raised Jesus from the dead and we are the witnesses (Acts 3:15). Jesus’ death, caused by unjust powers, reveals the sin of the world, killing the innocent. The resurrection is the definitive confirmation of liberation from death as announced by Jesus. Through it, God shows which is history’s destiny and shows Jesus as Lord and Christ (= Messiah).
The resurrection is a historical fact. It is not a hallucination of the minds of the apostles and the women, of his own imagination, a frenetic desire for Jesus to continue being alive. No, it is an event that has really taken place in history. History cannot give an account of the event directly, but only of the experience of those men and women. Since that Sunday, they experienced that Jesus is alive in a definitive manner. It was not a simple reliving; it was an indestructibe life (Rom 6:9). It is an experience which we find difficult to understand exactly, but it is not because the same becomes less certain. Such experience is likewise shown historically, not only through the testimony of his word but also through his life, starting from the attitudes which the disciples had been adopting as a community. The life of the first Christians – among them were the disciples – shows the resurrection: they overcame fear, shared everything they had; they continued the work of Jesus, they gave their lives for the faith.
For the first Christians, the “empty” tomb meant that Jesus was really buried, that his death was a reality. This explains the importance given in the detailed description of his interment.
Jesus’ condemnation by the authorities of Israel had made the apostles doubt God’s justice and fidelity, as Jesus had taught them. In contrast to John the Baptist and the other Jewish martyrs, Jesus did not give his life for the faith, nor for believing in the God of his ancestors. He was “condemned” by God (Deut 21:23 and Gal 3:13). The Paschal intervention of God changes the whole process and confirms all the preachings and actuation of Jesus.
The expressions “appeared to,” “allowed himself to be seen” (1 Cor 15:3), are the same ones formulated in the Old Testament in order to announce the Theophany (Gen 12:7; 17:1). Thus these expressions are replete with an intense Christology.
We should not reduce resurrection to a series of visions of a revived ghost who appears and disappears. The accounts about the resurrection, added later to the evangelical text, aim to show in a plastic form, picturesque perhaps, and always alive, what the faith of the disciples was when they attested to the resurrection. The most primitive of these accounts is the apparition to the women (in the gospel of John, it only deals with the Magdalene). It takes a prostitute to be the first to witness that Jesus is alive. In Israel, the women could not serve as witnesses in trials, as they were regarded as liars and troublesome. However, a woman was the first in witnessing to the resurrection – a woman, who, to make matters worse, was a whore. The subversion of values characterizing the life and mission of Jesus continues after the Passover. The faith of the Church that is born moves on through the passionate testimony – which at first, was not believed – of a woman belonging to the lowest social class.
Although the gospels are not consistent about the moment in which the mother of Jesus experienced her son as being alive, tradition has ever since considered it was Mary who was the first to see him and experience his having resurrected from the dead. In her, more than anyone else perhaps, would resound the jubilation announced centuries ago by the prophets, when they sensed what God had reserved for human history in the future (Is 26:19; 51:17; 52:1-2; 60:1-2).
(Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-11; Jn 20:1-2 and 11-18)