Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

I originally posted this 22 July 2008 on The People of St. Mary Magdalene



"Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources" (Lk 8,1-3).

The before to the evangelist's "Afterward" is Jesus' supper at the house of Simon the Pharisee, during which a woman of ill-repute cast herself at Jesus' feet, washed his feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair. There is nothing in that pericope that would lead us to believe that the woman who entered Simon's house was Mary Magdalene. However, she has been taken for the woman in that story since Pope Gregory the Great, in the sixth century, identified this figure with that of our beloved patroness in a sermon. The story of the woman of ill-repute honoring our Lord in this way is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness and, as such, is certainly worthy of our lovely intercessor. In fact, it is twice depicted in the west transcept of our cathedral: in the mural just above the Our Lady chapel and in the center of the large circular window. This identification is certainly woven into our tradition concerning this great saint. No doubt this link is due, at least in significant part, to the passage above immediately following the narrative of the supper at Simon's in St. Luke's Gospel.

It is also important to note that, while itinerant rabbis, who traveled and taught accompanied by disciples, were not unusual in the religio-cultural milieu of Jesus' day, it was highly unusual and perhaps even scandalous, that these disciples would consist of women. We can assert with a high degree of confidence that there is nothing accidental about those with whom our Lord surrounded himself. These same women, including Mary Magdalene, would remain until the bitter end, not fleeing, like the twelve, when all the trouble started. Hence, Mary Magdalene is the first witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can certainly agree that this is no small thing! It gives her a unique role as is recognized by a title, probably given her by Hippolytus in the third century, apostola apostolorum, which means apostle to the apostles.

Interesingly, the BBC has a nice profile on this great woman of faith, whose people we are and yet still strive to be, witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and heralds of the kingdom of heaven. To that end . . .

Sancta Maria Magdalena- ora pro nobis

No comments:

Post a Comment