In this section of the sermon, Bp. Andrewes focuses on the character of St. Mary Magdalene’s love for Christ by looking carefully at her physical actions at the tomb, her words to the angels and Christ, and the words used to describe her interior mindset at that moment. This is a splendid example of the minute way Andrewes goes about examining the text, drawing more and more out of it. It also shows his deep appropriation of the Greek and Latin Fathers (here Origen and St. Augustine) as a tool for exegesis. This is a hallmark of catholic (and truly Anglican) reading of Scripture. Finally, the reader will note that Andrewes frequently ends complex passages about the text with short, pithy, and almost earthy sentences drawing emotionally-laden conclusions for application to our lives—serving to keep the intellectual and the emotional balanced in the sermon. This, too, is a necessary element of good Anglican preaching.
Ver. 11. 'But Mary stood by the Sepulchre weeping, and as she wept she stooped, and looked into the Sepulchre.'
Of the favours vouchsafed this same felix peccatrix, as the Fathers term her, this day;
1. To see but Christ's Angels,
2. To see Christ at all,
3. To see Him first of all,
4. But more than all these, to be employed by him in so heavenly an errand, reason we can render none that helped her to these, but that which in a place Christ Himself renders, Quia dilexit multum, 'because she loved much.'
'She loved much;' we cannot say, She believed much; for her by her sustulerunt thrice repeated, the second, thirteenth, fifteenth verses, it seems she believed no more than just as much as the High Priests would have had the world believe, that 'he was taken away by night.'
Defectus fidei non est negandus, affectus amoris non est vituperandus: it is Origen; 'We cannot commend her faith, her love we cannot but commend,' and so do--commend it in her, commend it to you. Much it was, and much good proof gave she of it. Before, to Him living; now, to Him dead. To Him dead, there are divers.
1. She was last at His cross, and first at His grave.
2. Stayed longest there, was soonest there.
3. Could not rest till she were up to seek Him.
4. Sought Him while it was yet dark, before she had light to seek Him by.
But to take her as we find her in the text, and to look no whither else. There are in the text no less than ten, all arguments of her great love; all as it were a commentary upon dilexit multum. And even in this verse there are five of them.
The first in these words, stabat juxta monumentum, that 'she stood by the grave,' a place where faint love loves not to stand. Bring Him to the grave, and lay Him in the grave, and there leave Him; but come no more at it, or stand not long by it. Stand by Him while He is alive--so did many; stand and go, and sit by Him. But stans juxta monumentum, stand by Him dead; Mary Magdalene, she did it, and she only did it, and none but she. Amor stans juxta monumentum.
The next in these, Maria autem stabat, 'but Mary stood.' In the autem, the 'but'--that helps us to another. But Mary stood, that is as much to say as, Others did not, 'but' she did. Peter and John were there but even now. Thither they came, but not finding Him, away they went. They went, but Mary went not, she stood still. Their going away commends her staying behind. To the grave she came before them, from the grave she went to tell them, to the grave she returns with them, at the grave she stays behind them. Fortior eam figebat affectus, said Augustine, 'a stronger affection fixed her;' so fixed her that she had not the power to remove thence. Go who would, she would not, but stay still. To stay, while others do so, while company stays, that is the world's love; but Peter is gone, and John too; all are gone, and we left alone; then to stay is love, and constant love. Amor manens aliis recedentibus, 'love that when others shrink and give over, holds out still.' The third in these, 'she stood, and she wept;' and not a tear or two, but she wept a good as we say, that the Angels, that Christ Himself pity her, and both of them the first thing they do, they ask her why she wept so. Both of them begin with that question. And in this is love. For if, when Christ stood at Lazarus' grave's side and wept, the Jews said, 'See, how He loved Him!' may not we say the very same, when Mary stood at Christ's grave and wept, See, how she loved Him! Whose presence she wished for, His miss she wept for; Whom she dearly loved while she had Him, she bitterly bewailed when she lost Him. Amor amare flens, 'love running down her cheeks.'
The fourth in these, 'And as she wept, she stooped, and looked in' ever and anon. That is, she did so weep, as she did seek withal. Weeping without seeking, is but to small purpose. But her weeping hindered not her seeking, her sorrow dulled not her diligence. And diligence is a character of love, comes from the same root, dilectio and diligentia from diligo, both. Amors diligentiam diligens.
To seek, is one thing; not to give over seeking, is another. For I ask, why should she now look in? Peter and John had looked there before, no had been in the grave, they. It makes no matter; she will not trust Peter's eyes, nor John's neither. But she herself had before this, looked in too.
No force, she will not trust herself, she will suspect her own eyes, she will rather think she looked not well before, than leave off her looking. It is not enough for love to look in once. Thus we use, this is our manner when we seek a thing seriously; where we have sought already, there to seek again, thinking we did it not well, but if we now look again better, we shall surely find it then. Amor quæens ubi quæsivit, love that never thinks it has looked enough. These five.
And by these five we may take measure of our love, and of the true multum of it. Ut prosit nobis ejus stare, ejus plorare et quærere, saith Origen, 'that her standing, her weeping, and seeking, we may take some good by them.'
I doubt ours will fall short. Stay by Him alive, that we can, juxta mensam; but juxta monumentum, who takes up His standing there? And our love it is dry-eyes, it cannot weep; it is stiff-jointed, it cannot stoop to seek. If it do, and we hit not on Him at first, away we go with Peter and John; we stay not out with Mary Magdalene. A sign our love is little and light, and our seeking suitable, and so it is without success. We find not Christ--- no marvel; but seek Him as she sought Him, and we shall speed as she sped.