July 22nd is the commemoration day for St Mary Magdalene. Mary was a follower and close companion of Jesus. One of the inner circle of disciples. She was termed the ‘apostle to the apostles’ by the early Christians, as the Lord first appeared to her and commissioned her to carry the news of his resurrection to the disciples. The Gospels record her friendship with Jesus and this important first resurrection appearance.
There were other women, some mentioned by name in the Gospels, who followed Jesus and supported him financially, but (apart from Mary his mother), she is the only one who managed to overcome the restrictions placed on women’s lives and achieve almost iconic status. There are many legends associated with her. The idea took hold that she was a reformed prostitute or adulteress. This is not now supported by modern scholarship or the Anglican, Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches. It is now widely accepted that she had an important leadership role in the early church. Such a role would have been so challenging in the male dominated society of the first century that it is no wonder there were scandalous rumours and efforts to discredit her. There has been recent speculation that she is the ‘beloved disciple’ referred to in the Gospel of St John. See the Wiki link below. Whatever the truth, her controversial personality continues to shine down the centuries.
There is an apocryphal Gospel of Mary The disciplines are disheartened and fearful about the Lord’s commands to preach the Gospel to the gentiles. Mary encourages them. There follows an hilarious account of a row between her, Peter, and Andrew, where Peter asks her to tell them the things the Saviour said to her and then when she does the men get in a strop saying surely Jesus wouldn’t tell these things to a woman. “Levi answered and said to Peter, ‘Peter you have always been hot tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Saviour made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very well. That is why He loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect Man, and separate as He commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Saviour said.’” I have no opinion as the truth of this document, but it does make me smile, as I can quite imagine the scene!
From Wikipedia: The apocryphal Gospel of Philip records Mary Magdalene among Jesus' female entourage, adding that she was his companion: There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His aunt, his mother and his companion were each a Mary. Others' irritation from the love and affection presented by Jesus to Mary Magdalene is made evident (the text is badly fragmented, speculated additions are shown in grey):
And the companion of the saviour was Mary Magdalene. Christ loved Mary more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Saviour answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her?"
Mary is patron to a varied collection of people, places and causes:
apothecaries, druggists and pharmacists; Atrani and Casamicciola, Italy; contemplative life and contemplatives; converts; glove makers; hairdressers and hairstylists; penitent sinners and penitent women; people ridiculed for their piety; perfumeries and perfumers; reformed prostitutes; sexual temptation; tanners; and women.
The list makes me smile too. All the glitzy associations and yet she is also patron to comtemplatives, penitents and people ridiculed for their piety. Somehow I suspect she was no ‘plaster’ saint but a very feisty lady.
This poem was written by friend, whose special saint is Mary Magdalene.
Oh, Mary, Mary Magdalen What have they done to you? They’ve put you in a pigeon-hole And hidden you from view.
They’ve diminished your extravagance And cleared your life away, Turned your passion into prudence In a good housewifely way.
Of course, you are not married. So to keep your idle hands From devil’s work, they’ve busied you With housekeeping demands.
You mustn’t terrify the men By being strong and free, But keep them safe and happy By your conformity.
For churchmen like their ladies To be nice and sweet and good, And doing all the useful things A proper lady should.
It doesn’t do to love so much In polite society. You have to be respectable To suit the C of E.
But Mary, Mary Magdalen We envy you your role; Your liberated womanhood, Your being, true and whole.
We don’t mind doing dishes And serving how we can – Not because we’re women But because it’s Love’s demand.
For Christ restores us to our self To be what we should be – Apostle, lover, woman – all Without man’s boundary.
HS (posted here with permission)
If you would like to comment on the story of Mary Magdalene, please visit our public forums and join in here.