Rainier Maria Rilke is a poet who confronts the painful, existential truths of what it is to be really human. What I treasure about "The Risen One" (below) is how it honors the achingly lonely truth of how eventually our earthly foundation disappears: each of us must eventually make our way to God alone. No matter how beautiful our relationships may be, ultimately our destination is beyond even those precious bonds. It was a journey which Dante also knew well- eventually, he had to leave behind even Beatrice in the Divine Comedy, to ascend beyond his guide and muse of his soul, to enter the heart of the Empyrean in Paradise. "You have made us for Yourself, O God," wrote Augustine, "and we are restless until we rest in Thee". There is a Love beyond even love, Rilke knew, and he choose Mary Magdalene as the vehicle to express that truth.
THE RISEN ONE
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Until his final hour he had never
refused her anything or turned away,
lest she should turn their love to public praise.
Now she sank down beside the cross, disguised,
heavy with the largest stones of love
like jewels in the cover of her pain.
But later, when she came back to his grave
with tearful face, intending to anoint,
she found him resurrected for her sake,
saying with greater blessedness, "Do not --"
She understood it in her hollow first:
how with finality he now forbade
her, strengthened by his death, the oils' relief
or any intimation of a touch:
because he wished to make of her the lover
who needs no more to lean on her beloved,
as, swept away by joy in such enormous
storms, she mounts even beyond his voice.
(Rainer Maria Rilke, New Poems, Second Part, 1908)
(translation, ANN CONRAD LAMMERS, 1998, 12/10/98)