Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mary of Magdala

Mary Magdalene belonged to the inner circle of the Lord’s disciples. “Magdalene” indicates the place of her birth, Magdala, a town in Galilee, on the west shore of the Lake of Tiberias.

At a time of great need in her life Jesus healed her of evil spirits and disease. In fact we read that he had driven seven demons out of her (Mark 8:2).

I don’t really want to buy into the age-old debate as to whether or not Mary Magdalene was the prostitute who received new life from Jesus, or the one who in loving thanksgiving for sins forgiven poured rare perfume worth $35,000 (i.e. 300 days’ wages) over his feet.

We DO know, however, that Mary Magdalene spent the rest of her life serving the Lord.

She was one of the women who travelled with Jesus around the countryside, supporting his ministry with her own funds (Luke 8:1-3). She was part of the tiny sorrowful community at the foot of the cross, close to Jesus as he died. When most of the other disciples fled, she followed as the body of Jesus was taken to the tomb and watched as the stone was rolled into place (Matthew 27:55-61).

Mary Magdalene hurried back to the tomb on Sunday morning with spices and perfume to care for the body of Jesus. That’s when she found the stone rolled away and encountered him, risen from the dead, in the garden. She carried the Easter message to the other followers of Jesus, becoming the “apostle to the apostles” (John 20:1-18).

Here is part of the famous homily on St Mary Magdalene by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), taken from today's Office of Readings:

"She longed for Christ, though she thought he had been taken away When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them.

"The text then says:
The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb. We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away.

"And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved. At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love.

"As David says:
My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love. Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

"Jesus says to her: Mary.
Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching."

whose blessed Son did call and sanctify Mary Magdalene
to be a witness to his resurrection :
Mercifully grant that by thy grace
we may be healed of all our infirmities,
and always serve thee in the power of his endless life,
who with thee and the Holy Ghost
liveth and reigneth one God,
world without end. Amen.

Go HERE for a Canadian sermon on St Mary Magdalene.

Go HERE for a great set of resources to help you get your head around the Da Vinci Code and other fanciful nonsence regarding St Mary Magdalene.

And, finally, from her blog, details of Amy Welborn's book on St Mary Magdalene:

Amy Welborn

Are you interested in an objective examination of the life and lore of Mary Magdalene, a narrative that isn't agenda-driven or saturated with ideology?

Do you just want to learn more about Mary Magedalene's identity and role in Christian spirituality, literature and art?

I wrote this book for you.

There's a great deal of material out there on Mary Magdalene, it's true. Some of the scholarly material is really fine, but too many of the books for popular audiences are informed by one ideology or another, or fall completely into fantasy.

In De-coding Mary Magdalene I stick to the facts - what we know about Mary Magdalene from the Gospels, and then how Christian tradition in both East and West continued to meditate on the figure of Mary Magdalene, seeing in her the model disciple - and weaving all kinds of fascinating legends around her as well.

Here's the bottom line: The Da Vinci Code propogates the lie that Christianity through the ages marginalized and demonized Mary Magdalene as a "whore" in order to minimize her impact.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Mary Magdalene was the second most popular saint of the Middle Ages. And do catch that word - saint - Honoring someone as a saint (feastday July 22) is a truly odd way of "demonizing" a person. Don't you think?

So - come meet Mary Magdalene - as she comes to us in the Gospels, as Christians imagined her through the ages as they contemplated her fidelity and discipleship, and how some contemporary interpreters get her so completely wrong.

Table of Contents

* Mary of Magdala
* "Why Are You Weeping?
* The Real Mary?
* Apostle to the Apostles
* Which Mary?
* The Golden Legend
* Touching the Magdalene
* To the East
* The Penitent
* Mary and the Mystics
* The Magdalene in Art
* Rediscovery

Go HERE to purchase the book.


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