Mary Magadalene, the repentant sinner, weeping in the garden in front of Christ’s empty tomb is a figure of the People of God. God espoused Himself to His people in the covenant, but she, His bride, was unfaithful, and went after false gods, committing adultery against her divine Bridegroom. Mary is weeping that the Lord has been taken from her. And it is the sins of His unfaithful bride that have put Jesus to death. But He loves His Bride so much that makes atonement for her unfaithfulness. “For a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:8).
“And as she wept, she stooped and looked inside the tomb, and she saw two angels, in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet” (John 20:11-12). She is looking at an image that calls to mind the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem: the two cherubim on either side of the Ark of the Covenant, looking at the kaporet, the mercy seat, the golden lid of the Ark, which in Greek is called hilasterion (instrument of atonement). Once a year the High Priest would come into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the kaporet to atone for the people’s unfaithfulness to the Divine Bridegroom. Now Mary Magdalene sees the blood of Christ staining the funeral shroud lying between the two angels. “But Christ arrived as high priest of all the good things which have come about through the greater and more final tabernacle not made by human hands, that is, not of this world; and not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood he entered once for all into the holy place, having found everlasting redemption” (Hebrews 9:11).
So great is Jesus’s love for His unfaithful Bride that He enters into the darkness of this world bearing to bear in full the suffering that reverses her sin.
Mary Magdalene is therefore a figure of the Church also in this: that she recognizes the reconciliation that has taken place, and calls out to Christ with love and joy. This is what the whole Church, the Bride of Christ, does now on this great Feast of Easter. This is what we de as parts of the Church—all of us:
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry! Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness. Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.Paschal Homily attributed to St. John Chrysostom