The Secret Magdalene

Selections from The Secret Magdalene


It is now that John, in search of his next flight of winged words glances beyond his flock. He too sees who comes. He starts. He steps forward. He points. “Behold!” he shouts as he points, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Each man and each woman turn as one, every eye seeking this lamb, and no eye faster than Simon the Magician’s. I cannot stop myself, I touch the mind of Salome. How does she bear to hear her beloved greet Yehoshua in this way? What can it mean? She does not know what it means, and not knowing cuts her down to the bone.

Yeshu is by now less than a stadion away, his face shining as the morning sun over Jerusalem, shining as Tata told me my face shone when I awoke from Glory. If I did not know better, I should think him somehow larger. We all stand in perfect silence as Yeshu walks towards us. We all of us watch every move he makes, even Eio who has lifted her head from the river reeds. She has turned where she stands so that she faces him, silently dripping, silently chewing.

He is closer now, and closer, and as he comes, the light that shines forth from his face is more than the sun. It is the light of all the stars that Joor of Thebes has taught me are also suns, also worlds. Yeshu looks at me—at me,! There is no movement of his mouth, no movement of his eyes, yet I know that he smiles in his heart to see me. As for my heart, it beats as the heart of a bird, so fast I might fly away. I do not question how this has come to be, this feeling for Yeshu, this joy. It is enough to feel it.

Yeshu turns his attention from me to John of the River. “Come, cousin,” he says, and for once his voice rings from riverbank to riverbank, and from cliff to cliff. “Bathe with me in your river. We will wash away the dust of the wilderness.” And with that, Yeshu walks past John and past Simon Magus and past the astonished people, and straight into the water. He does not stop until it reaches his chin. A moment later, John laughs, throws up his arms, and plunges in.

I have never seen a more surprised people than those who have come to hear John. I do not think a single one of them has ever heard a prophet laugh, nor wishes to. But oh, he laughs now! He and his cousin Yeshu’a laugh in the water as if they were yet boys, and I stand on the bank of the river and I am as one with Salome. Her envy is every bit as green as mine.

John is louder than ever in his enthusiasm. Up to his chin in the water of the river, his grey beard floating before him as a child’s feeding cloth would float, his loincloth coming loose under the water, he holds on to his small bit of goatskin, and he shouts, “Where have you been, Yeshu’a, son of my mother’s sister? What have you done with yourself, Yehoshua of the Nazorean? You come as one who has had his fill of strange foods, as one whose eyes have been opened with strange sights. What have you eaten? What have you seen?”

Yeshu is splashing near John and the dust of his wandering comes free from his person, coats the skin of the water. I see him swallow river water, but it only makes him laugh. Yeshu is full of laughter, there seems nothing else in him but laughter, laughter loud as John’s laugh, as loud as thunder. “You would hear, John? You would know? I shall tell you! I saw the Spirit descend like the whitest of doves with wings as white as linen, wings as white as clouds! I felt it land full on my head! On my head, John! And in that moment I ate of the Spirit as I would eat fistfuls of honey. I feasted on meaning. You would behold? You would see the Lamb of God?” Yeshu spins in the water, and shining drops of the Jordan shoot from his red hair and from his red beard as stars shoot in the sky. “We are all the Lamb of God!”

Shouting as John shouts, and all the while spitting out water, Yeshu in his great joyous laughter looks towards the shore where the people stand aghast and agape, each one listening to the ravings of this second wild man. But this one they think spouts nonsense. Yeshu knows they think this, and it makes him laugh all the louder. “Hear me, Lambs of God! There is not one of you to whom God would not say you are my beloved sons and my beloved daughters and I am well pleased with you!”

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