Monday, July 22, 2013

St Mary Magdalene's Day

Today is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, the “apostle to the apostles” because she announced to them the resurrection of the Lord. In the western Church, she is identified also with the penitent woman who washed the feet of Jesus, and sometimes with Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus. Certainly, Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century declared them to be the same person. But the East has never made that identification. Today, there Western Christians tend to be divided on the question.

Here are two hymns for today. The first (sung to the tune "Petersham") was written in 1884 by Mrs R.F. Williams, and clearly identifies Mary in the traditional Western way.

The second is from the Saint Helena Breviary, published in 2006 and focuses on the Gospel for the day. It goes beautifully to the tune "Puer Nobis Narscitur."

When Mary, moved by grateful love,
The precious ointment poured
Upon the head and feet of him
She owned as Christ and Lord,
The odour of the costly gift
Pervaded all the room;
How grateful to the sense it seemed --
How sweet the rich perfume.

An off’ring similar I bring
In thanks and praise to thee
My heart’s devoted love is all,
O Christ, accept of me
This gift, and may its fragrance rise
As incense to thy throne
And seal me with thy gracious hand
To work for thee, thine own.


Out of the night where hope had died,
to tomb once sealed, now gaping wide,
the Magdalene made haste, to mourn
and bring her spices through the dawn.

She gazed in disbelief and pain
where Jesus in his death had lain,
until the radiant angel said,
Seek not the living with the dead.

Soon trusting love cast out her fears;
she rose and brushed away her tears.
As first apostle, Mary ran
to tell God’s resurrection plan.

Jesus is risen! Mary cries,
Lift up your hearts and dry your eyes,
Jesus is risen - come and see - 
and goes before to Galilee.

All glory be to God above,
for Mary’s apostolic love,
all praise to God whom we adore
for ever and for evermore. Amen.


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