Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saint Mary Magdalen

Myrrhbearer and Equal of the Apostles

Mary Magdalen is very important in the story of the Resurrection. In John xx, she was the first to find the tomb empty. She was the herald to the apostles Peter and John, and then the other disciples. She saw the Risen Christ and took him for the gardener. Adam had also been the gardener, in the first age of man, and Jesus is the Gardener in Paradise. There has been much drama in the garden.
12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid.
13 They say to her: Woman, why weepest thou? She saith to them: Because they have taken away my Lord; and I know not where they have laid him.
14 When she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing; and she knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith to her: Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, thinking it was the gardener, saith to him: Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith to her: Mary. She turning, saith to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master).
17 Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.
She had been one of the Marys, at the Cross, whom took up the Body with Joseph of Arimathea. She was there to dress and anoint, for burial, hence the title ‘Myrrhbearer’. Because, she announced the Resurrection, she has been given the title ‘Equal of the Apostles’. Now, this is right and meet. I have encountered writers who make this point, as if it was an unique honorific. It is not, other great saints that brought nations to Christ have been so recognised, such as Patrick,Cyril and Methodius.

She has been misidentified many times and made the protagonist of many fictions, pious and blasphemous. She has been misused by all sort of propagandists, some enemies of orthodox christianity and political partisans, atheists and feminists, and charlatans on the make. We have a grand saint badly abused.

Gregory the Great, mistakenly confounded her with Mary of Bethania whose “pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price”*,and the penitent sinner, with the alabaster box of ointment that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair†, and as the anonymous adultress, Jesus saved from stoning. He tied too many identities in one body.‡ The eastern church did not make this error. Later stories change her into a prostitute, a further muddying of identity. And this current generation has invented all sorts of fantasies, that, blend old gnostic threads with innovations, more to shock than to illuminate.
*John xii. 3.
Luke vii. 37. & Mark xiv. 3.
‡And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth, — ‡ viii.2.

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