Sunday, July 22, 2012

Solemnity of St. Mary Magdalene

Normally, throughout the world, today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. In most places her feast is superceded this year by Sunday. However, in my parish, The Cathedral of the Madeleine, we observe today as a solemnity because St. Mary Magdalene is our patroness. So, our main Mass for today moves from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM and will immediately be followed by a huge party on the Cathedral plaza (corrected from the original).

The Cathedral of the Madeleine is where I serve as a deacon and is the only cathedral in the United States dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, first witness of the resurrection, making her what she has been referred to continuously since at least the tenth century, apostula apostulorum, that is, "apostle to the apostles." This also means that she is patroness of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. She is also known as myrraphore, which means myrr-bearer, referring to the oil she would've brought to anoint the body of Jesus as it lay in the tomb, and perhaps also to her anointing his feet and drying them with her hair in the house of Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-50. It is not clear on the basis of Scripture alone that this sinful woman, probably a prostitute, was Mary Magdalene, but Tradition certainly identifies her as such.

Magdalene with smoking flame, Georges de La Tour, ca. 1640


One part of Tradition that identifies St. Mary Magdalene as the sinful woman is a prayer composed by St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), who also composed a lovely prayer to St. Stephen, asking for her intercession. His prayer begins,
St Mary Magdalene, you came with springing tears to the spring of mercy, Christ; from him your burning thirst was abundantly refreshed through him your sins were forgiven; by him your bitter sorrow was consoled.

My dearest lady, well you know by your own life how a sinful soul can be reconciled with its creator, what counsel a soul in misery needs, what medicine will restore the sick to health.

It is enough for us to understand, dear friend of God, to whom were many sins forgiven, because she loved much.

Most blessed lady, I who am the most evil and sinful of men do not recall your sins as a reproach, but call upon the boundless mercy by which they were blotted out.

This is my reassurance, so that I do not despair; this is my longing, so that I shall not perish.

I say this of myself, miserably cast down into the depths of vice, bowed down with the weight of crimes, thrust down by my own hand into a dark prison of sins, wrapped round with the shadows of darkness.

Therefore, since you are now with the chosen because you are beloved and are beloved because you are chosen of God, in my misery, I pray to you, in bliss; in my darkness, I ask for light; in my sins, redemption; impure, I ask for purity.
Post-Lauds addendum: I absolutely love that the Scripture reading for Morning Prayer on the feast of our lovely patroness is one of my favorite passages: "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect" (Rom. 12:1-2).

Sancta Maria Magdalena, ora pro nobis.

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