David Jones’s 1922 engraving of the Noli Me Tangere—created just a year after his conversion to Roman Catholicism—resonates with sacramental and liturgical overtones. Christ stands over Mary in an unmistakably priestly posture, with his right hand raised in a gesture of blessing; at the same time, his left hand is held up both to prevent her from touching him, and to show her the scars from his suffering. Mary, meanwhile, kneels before her Lord as if at an altar rail, with her hands raised to receive the gift of blessing that Christ offers to her. Her eyes are fixed on his wounds with unyielding devotion, calling to mind the Catholic liturgy of Benediction (in which the Blessed Sacrament is brought forth for adoration). It is as if the living and resurrected Christ is the Eucharist, a real presence whose miraculous resurrection triumphs over death.
As he prepares for his impending physical departure from the world, Jesus shows himself to Mary in such a way as to remind her that he will remain with the faithful in and through the life of the Church.
Jones foreshadows Christ’s imminent withdrawal from this world—and from Mary in particular—by imagining their encounter at a literal point of juncture: the Magdalene kneels on a small patch of grass at a fork in the road, implying that Christ will soon depart in one direction, and that she will set off in the other. Yet this moment in the garden reminds us she will be sent with Christ’s blessing and commission to be his servant in the world after he has ascended. Perhaps the artist wishes to remind the beholder of this work that she, too, is blessed and commissioned by God through her participation in the liturgy.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” 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.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-boʹni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” 18Mary Magʹdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.