Regret, Remembrance, Restoration: Mary Magdalene at Crossbones Graveyard

1024px-Cross_Bones_Graveyard-0052On the 22nd of July, the day I posted my sonnet on Mary Magdalene, the day I was flying back from Canada, a profound and beautiful service was taking place in a scrap of reclaimed garden on the South Bank of the Thames, a service at which I was spiritually, though alas not physically present.  The service was for the consecration of an ancient burial ground, which had hitherto been formally unconsecrated ground, a place where the outcast and rejected, those unrecognised by the church, the unbaptised and those out of communion had been buried. Many of them were exploited women, working as prostitutes in the ‘stews’, the pleasure houses that lined the south bank alongside the play houses, such as Shakespeare’s Globe. These women and often also the many unbaptised babies, born out of wedlock ,sometimes not surviving birth or even their first few weeks were buried in unmarked graves in this scrap of waste ground. The terrible irony is that the church which excluded them was at the same time conniving with and profiting from their exploitation, for all this land belonged to the church which collected rent from the brothel keepers, well knowing how the money was made.. The grave yard itself was several times sold and many times nearly developed and concreted over. And all that time whilst it was fenced off and in course of being privatised local people would come and leave ribbons and prayers and memorials on its gates.

1024px-Cross_Bones_Graveyard-050

prayers and memorials on the closed gates of crossbones

It belongs now to London Transport, but thanks to strong local action and the  involvement of the church itself, the land has been saved and turned into a memorial garden, a safe quiet, beautiful space in the bustle of the city. On the 22nd of July this year, Mary Magdalene’s day, the grave-yard garden was formally consecrated and dedicated by the Dean of Southwark Cathedral in a beautiful liturgy which he himself composed and I am honoured and moved to say that my poem for Mary Magdalene was part of the service. Mary, a woman, despised and condemned by the self righteous, but loved by Jesus was chosen by him to be the first witness of the good news of his resurrection, and in her meeting with the love of Christ a graveyard once more became a garden. What better day to dedicate this new garden to the memory of those women who had suffered so much like her. The Dean of Southwark has given me permission to post the whole of this short and moving service. Do take time to read it, it has a great deal to teach, and do pray the prayers it contains especially for those caught up in present day human trafficking. Something was set to rights, some threshold onto grace was opened in a garden by the Thames last Wednesday. May it be for all our Good

An act of regret remembrance restoration

Crossbones Graveyard

The Feast of St Mary Magdalene 2015

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.

Today is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene. More has been said about Mary than is probably true. Her story has been mixed up with other stories –
of fallen women, of disturbed women, of faithful women, of passionate women, of accused women, of scandalous women – and all rolled into one story. But Jesus met all those women who challenged convention, who dared to speak, who dared to act and he welcomed them, as he welcomes us, with all our contradictions. But what we do know is that of all the people he could have met in the garden by the tomb in the first dawn of Easter Day, it was Mary, and he asked her to be the apostle of his resurrection.

This land on which we stand has received the bodies of women of our community and their born and unborn children, who served the needs of men, but whose own needs were ignored; who were paid a price for love but were refused the gift of real love; who were used to line the coffers of the church but rejected by the church; whose sins excluded them even though Jesus would have included them.

We cannot undo the sins of yesterday but we can do right today and that is why we are here, with regret, in remembrance and to pray for restoration, of this land, of these memories and of the eternal souls of our sisters and their children.

So let us pray.

Almighty God,
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene
to health of mind and body and called her to be a witness to his resurrection:
forgive our sins and heal us by your grace,
that we may serve you in the power of his risen life;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

Readings

A Sonnet for Mary Magdalene by Malcolm Guite

Men called you light so as to load you down,

And burden you with their own weight of sin,

A woman forced to cover and contain

Those seven devils sent by Everyman.

But one man set you free and took your part

One man knew and loved you to the core

The broken alabaster of your heart

Revealed to Him alone a hidden door,

Into a garden where the fountain sealed,

Could flow at last for him in healing tears,

Till, in another garden, he revealed

The perfect Love that cast out all your fears,

And quickened you with loves own sway and swing,

As light and lovely as the news you bring.
We repeat this chant three times

All: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom; Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John (John 20.11-17)

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said
to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’

Prayers

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, you received all who came to you. Forgive us when we exclude others.
Lord in your mercy

All hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, you exploited no one but gave yourself with generous love. Protect the exploited, the slaves, the abused
and change the hearts of those who use and abuse them.
Lord in your mercy

All hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, men put a price on your head
and exchanged your life for money.
Liberate those who are trafficked in our world
and give us the courage to confront the traffickers. Lord in your mercy

All hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, they buried you outside the city walls in a stranger’s grave. Receive with your love the bodies of those killed and lost
to their communities and families.
Lord in your mercy

All hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus,
hear our prayers
and as you received the love of Mary hold in your presence
the souls of all who have gone before us and give them peace.

All Amen.

Restoration

Let us ask God who created this land to hallow it still further this day.

It is right and good,
our duty and our salvation,
to praise you, the all-powerful Father, in every season,
and on this holy day to celebrate all who have gone before us. In Mary Magdalene you kindled a fire of love for Christ, whose word had set her free.
You gave her the courage of love
to follow him even to the cross.
Seeking her teacher after his death,
so great was her longing
that you made her the first to behold him
risen from the dead,
and the first to announce to the apostles
his new and glorious risen life.
As she stood in a garden
that had become a graveyard
we stand in a graveyard
that has become a garden.
Her words still ring throughout your world,
to strengthen faith and encourage hope
in those who gather faithfully for prayer.
May this be a holy place in our community,
set apart for the past, the present and the future
and a place where the dead and living may know your peace.

All Amen.

The Dean first sprinkles holy water on the ground and then censes the area as we sing

Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the holy One is here: Come bow before him now with reverence and fear:
In him no sin is found, we stand on holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the holy One is here

Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around: He burns with holy fire, with splendour he is crowned: How awesome is the sight, our radiant king of light! Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around.

Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place: He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace:
No work too hard for him, in faith receive from him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place.

David J Evans

Eternal Lord God, you hold all souls in life:
shed forth, we pray,
upon your whole Church in paradise and on earth the bright beams of your light and heavenly comfort; and grant that we, following the good example of those who have loved and served you here and are now at rest, may at the last enter with them into the fullness of your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All Amen.

And the blessing of God almighty,
Source of all being, eternal Word and Holy Spirit, Be among you and remain with you always.

All Amen.

Memorial Garden

Memorial Garden

6 Comments

Filed under christianity, Current affairs

6 responses to “Regret, Remembrance, Restoration: Mary Magdalene at Crossbones Graveyard

  1. richardk8245@yahoo.co.uk

    Thank you Malcolm for this very moving and spiritually challenging piece God bless Richard

    Sent from Windows Mail

  2. Wow..this is pretty interesting and new information to me, thanks for sharing

  3. Dianne mosley

    Thank you, Malcolm, for sharing this tragic and transformative Service. When I saw the title Regret, Remembrance, and restoration, I was sure The words were yours, And was quite surprised to learn that they were the Dean’s. I read the entire service and found it to be very moving. Your poem was perfect, as usual.

  4. “Something was set to rights” – that’s just it! And isn’t that the Kingdom coming; another piece of place and time annexed by love to the Kingdom of Heaven?

  5. Jerome

    Amen. Beautiful work of the Spirit in our midst!

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