The Angels hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre,
Painted by William Blake (1757-1827),
Painted in 1805,
Watercolour, pen and ink on paper
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London / Alamy

The Angels hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre,
Painted by William Blake (1757-1827),
Painted in 1805,
Watercolour, pen and ink on paper
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London / Alamy

Gospel of 2 April 2024

Easter Tuesday - Mary Magdalene saw two angels

John 20:11-18

Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

Reflection on the watercolour on paper

Our Gospel passage today mentions the two angels who greeted Mary upon her arrival at the tomb. Our watercolour shows these two angels watching over Jesus before he rose from the dead. William Blake (1757-1827) painted over 80 watercolours of subjects from the Bible. Where the feet of both angels are situated is where they are sitting when Mary Magdalene arrives: at the top and feet of where Jesus laid, as per our Gospel reading. The imagery of this drawing is taken from a description in the Book of Exodus. When the prophet Moses is alone on Mount Sinai, God tells him to instruct the Israelites to make a 'mercy seat' flanked by cherubim (angels) all made of gold (Exodus 25: 20: And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be'). The continued description of the angels in the Book of Exodus is the source for Blake's design here. Where the angels' heads meet there sparks a burst of light. They have folded hands. The angels themselves, in our drawing composition, look almost like a giant pair of prayerful hands, where just the tips of the wings or our fingers would meet. The composition also looks almost like a keyhole… the resurrection being the key to our Christian lives.

To the question, ‘Why are you weeping?’ Mary Magdalene can only answer, ‘They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him’.  Into that deep grief of Mary steps the risen Lord. Initially, Mary’s grief blinds her to his presence; she mistakes him for the gardener. When we are grieving the loss of a loved one, we don’t always recognize the Lord’s presence to us initially. Our grief can overwhelm us and isolate us. But Jesus is always there, especially in our darkest moments. He comes to us as he came to Mary to bring light to our darkness and to proclaim the triumph of life over death.

Mary became the first and primary preacher of the gospel. This is the Easter gospel that continues to be proclaimed to us through her. The risen Lord is always in a deeply personal relationship with us, even in those times when we feel we have drifted from him or when we don't feel his presence. He doesn’t drift from us.

 

Share this Gospel Reading

Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?

Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading

Subscribe
Notify of
17 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
15 days ago

I love that when when I look at this painting I am being guided upward to heaven. I also love in today’s scripture that Mary recognizes Jesus as soon as he mentions her name.

Janey M
Member
Janey M
15 days ago

I absolutely love the artwork. The wing tips touching in prayer.

After the emotional turmoil of Thursday and Friday, the waiting on Saturday, the uplifting joy of Sunday when I abandoned all that held me back and embraced the hope. Yesterday and the wonder of the empty tomb and we talked about the boulders in our lives and I got such a helpful and loving response from Patricia, Carol, and Chazbo. To – today and Mary Magdalene meeting the risen Christ.

Today is a day of prayer, thinking over the emotions, knowing that in the next 40 days the disciples all met with the risen Lord. He will call us by name, we are His.

I prayer that we can rise above the contradictions of our lives (per Blake via sfg), and meet with our Lord as He reveals Himself to us.

Last edited 15 days ago by Janey M
Carol Heise
Member
Carol Heise
14 days ago
Reply to  Janey M

Dearest Janey…after reading todays post and going back to yesterday’s I think I may have been too gruff and hurt you with my words. I am sorry, I did not mean to do that or seem hard-hearted in any way. I feel left behind and utterly hopeless about my experiences with my son and DIL. I would like to think that there may be hope for reconciliation, but anymore I’m afraid to and worn out from trying. But, If you saw your daughter in the market and felt that both your heart AND hers were broken it seems there is a very good chance for a good, or at least a better outcome to all this. Was it because her partner was there, perhaps ? 20 years is so long…try again, Janey. If you get the same rebuff it can’t be because you didn’t try again. Your relationship may never be the same, but perhaps you can hope for a new aspect of it. Hope is so very hard to let go of…we can feel it in our hearts…it hurts, but we can feel it.

Janey M
Member
Janey M
14 days ago
Reply to  Carol Heise

Carol, no you were not hard hearted or gruff and I was not hurt.. sadly, somewhat comforted that I was not alone. It all is exhausting and utterly debilitating, the feeling of loss is akin to grief without physical death. I blame her partner simply because my own daughter couldn’t possibly behave so badly – but unfortunately she has and does. She is broken hearted because I will no longer chase after her, it is an ego and domination/control thing with her.

Hope is impossible to let go of, but it prevents us from moving on.

Bless you, Carol, love to you.

Thimas@
Member
Thimas@
15 days ago

William Blake is certainly an interesting character. Very talented and with some quite open minded views for his day if you look him up on Wikipedia.
And did those feet in ancient time ?🎺🥁

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
15 days ago
Reply to  Thimas@

Now Thimas there is an example of someone with a strong religious impetus who wrote a poem which is pretty obviously about something that never happened. And yet it has inspired religious emotions in us English for generations and brought comfort and solace to our island race. Isn’t that enough? Does it have to be picked apart and subjected to the microscope of cold rationalism? NO!!
It’s beautiful and that is enough……

Thimas@
Member
Thimas@
14 days ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Of course it never happened it’s very unlikely isn’t it . 🫢

Kristina Rogge
Member
Kristina Rogge
15 days ago

What stands out for me is:
‘He doesn’t drift from us’.
‘My Father and your Father’, ‘my God and your God’. This brought tears to my eyes.
How fortunate we are.
Of course I like ‘Mary became the first and primary preacher of the gospel’, in such a time, that is extraordinary.

Elvira
Member
Elvira
15 days ago

I agree with Louise, for me it is also a beautiful reading.
Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb, for it seemed impossible for her to recognise that her Love had disappeared forever, and Jesus made up for the wait with his appearance. The risen body was not enough for Mary to recognise him, but when she heard his name she needed no further proof, it was the voice of the beloved ….. How badly the history of the Church has treated this woman! The first witness and evangeliser of the Gospel ended up as a repentant prostitute ….
When I hear the voice of Jesus calling me by name ….. will I be a witness …., along with thousands of other Christians around the world?
We are all asked to do a different and small work, a drop of water in the ocean but, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta says “sometimes we feel that what we do is just a drop in the sea, but the sea would be less if it lacked a drop”.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
15 days ago

I very much like Blake’s poetry, much less so his art – but it has clearly pleased some, so… morning SfG!
I went to the Queen’s Gallery yesterday to see the Holbein drawings and paintings – truly stunning. However, upon entering, the very first painting that faces you is ‘Noli mi Tangere’ so apposite for Easter week. It is particularly heartening to see a woman, Mary, centre stage in the recounting of Our Lord’s resurrection. You can feel her being beside herself with sorrow – then the sudden realisation and amazement!
On Fr Patrick’s last sentence, I remember seeing one of those Christian posters years ago which said “When you feel far from God, guess who moved…?”

Elvira
Member
Elvira
15 days ago

Today’s painting seems to me a bit phantasmagoric (is there such a word?).

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
15 days ago
Reply to  Elvira

Ghostly? That’s his very English soul coming out! He saw angels in the trees in a London suburb and wrote a lovely poem about Jesus, as a boy, visiting this country with his father.
He means a lot to us.

Elvira
Member
Elvira
15 days ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Of course, I know who Milton and Kipling are, but not the others you mention. I’m going to look for something well translated by Blake to get to know him a bit, I have to admit that today’s painting “intrigues me”.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
15 days ago

Blake stands out as an extraordinary figure in the English poetic and artistic canon. His work cannot be seen in isolation, but here we have a stunning image which does speak for itself. I don’t recall having seen Blake on CA before and so it is especially welcome, together with one of the most beautiful passages from the whole of scripture.

The pure light here shimmers rather coldly, Blake was a searcher for purity in art and poetry and so often seems cold and unearthly as here. There is a sense of distance in the lack of colour. This is a light like no other; wonderful, pure illumination.

I thank Father Patrick for reminding me of my lost love of Blake who for me follows Milton in the my list of favourite poets. I shall return and read them both, but maybe not today as I have the long journey home to make.

So I must go, but this image is now in my favourites.

‘What is dark within me, illumine…’ John Milton, Paradise Lost.

‘We are not meant to resolve all contradictions but to live with them and rise above them,’ William Blake.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
15 days ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Kipling wrote a rather moving poem when he was visiting his son’s war grave called ‘The Gardener’. Check it out.

Milton we read at school – one of the books from Paradise Lost – he’s so impressive but who reads him now? He’s too dense and abstruse for today’s generation of schoolchildren says old guy having a moan on his computer! True though.

I love Blake’s paintings and went to an exhibition of them once but they weren’t so easy to look at as they are so small!

I often think that these English religious giants such as Blake, John Bunyan, John Wesley, Smyth (Baptist founder) and others would have ended up as saints had the Catholic hegemony survived in this country. What if?

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
15 days ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Thanks for the quotes SFG – very good ones.

Louise Kirk
Member
Louise Kirk
15 days ago

Stunning and a contrast with all the beautiful representations of the resurrected Christ circulating at this time of year. thank you, Fr Patrick . This is also my favourite Easter reading so I’m doubly pleased to start the day with them.

Readings related to John 20:11-18

22 July 2021

John 20:1-2,11-18

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

14 April 2020

John 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene saw two angels

3 July 2019

John 20: 24-29

Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle

19 April 2020

John 20:19-31

Divine Mercy Sunday

Join our community

In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: 

The mission of Christian Art is to offer a daily Gospel Reading paired with a related work of art and a short reflection. Our goal is to help people grow closer to God through the magnificent pairing of art and the Christian faith.

CONNECT WITH US

Join over 70,000 people who receive our daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection

Skip to content