Tag Archives: St Mary Magdalen

St Mary Magdelene

The Church, East and West, liturgically honor St Mary Magdalene. She often bears the titles of “The holy myrrhbearer”, “equal of the apostles” and as scripture shows, she was “apostle to the apostles.” These titles give a deeper perspective on this woman called by Jesus.

The Byzantine Liturgy sings this kondakion for the feast:

Today, let us sing a special hymn in honor of that friend of the Lord who was the first to anoint him in death. Let us praise Mary Magdalen for being the messenger of joy for his disciples, and let us fall before the Lord himself, filled with wonder, that he should lavish on the world such a fountain of grace.

Scripture reveals Mary’s life as a devoted follower of Christ whose loyalty remained firm when even the faith of the other twelve apostles wavered.

As the monks of New Skete say in their hagiography of Mary, “The Church gives Mary Magdalene special honor as the most faithful companion of Jesus as she was at the foot of the cross when he was crucified, and was the first to witness his resurrection. Her encounter with Christ on her way to perform the funeral anointing, as recorded by John, earned her an apostles’ task, for it was she who was commissioned to tell the other apostles that Christ had risen.”

Keeping a perspective on today’s feast, it was Pope Francis who raised the level of liturgical remembrance from a memorial to a feast. The Pope, aligning himself with established tradition, names Mary Magdalene “Apostolorum Apostola” (Apostle of the Apostles). Keeping in line with his year of Mercy Francis gives Mary as a witness of mercy. It was said that St Mary Magdalene’s feast day is a call for all Christians to “reflect more deeply on the dignity of women.” In the Western liturgical tradition of the Church, most liturgical celebrations of particular saints are formally identified as memorials and those classified as feasts are reserved for key events in Christian history; saints of particular closeness to the Lord, the liturgical days like the Twelve Apostles are known as feasts. Hence, as equal to the Apostles is honored with a feast day not merely as a memorial.

Of the religious orders in the Western Church, the Order of Friars Preachers, has St Mary Magdalene as one of the patronesses of the Order (the other is St Catherine of Alexandria). It was Blessed Humbert of Romans, second Master of the Order after St. Dominic who wrote, “After Magdalene was converted to penitence the Lord bestowed such great grace upon her that after the Blessed Virgin no woman could be found to whom greater reverence should be shown in this world and greater glory in heaven.”

Why make much of St Mary Magdalene? For several reasons. In light of the Dominicans, the Order of Preachers, where we find several expressions of the Dominican vocation which complement the friar-priests, that is, there are brothers, nuns, sisters and laity –I think today she shows us that to be a preacher of the Good News of Jesus Christ a woman (or a layman) need not be a priest. The ministerial priesthood is now being questioned or revised herein. We have in our ecclesiology the priesthood of baptized, or it is called the global priesthood. The second reason I will give: do not underestimate the power and necessity of the witness one gives with the manner of life, our words AND our actions. Third, it is important to recall with intensity who was the first to proclaim the Good News of the Resurrection. God in His wisdom gave us Mary to draw our attention to the miracle of the conquering of death by death itself. Finally, Mary Magdalen is important because the Church esteems her as a model of how repentance opens us up to the grace of Jesus’ mercy and her ability to lead others to Christ. In short: there is always a need for God’s forgiveness known in the Sacrament of Confession.

St Mary Magdalen

Mary Magdalene 3 aThe entire Church rejoices today on this feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, the first to witness to the Resurrection of the Savior. From Magdala, a region in northern Galilee she is the Apostle to the Apostles (a title given by Aquinas) an an evangelist announcing the joyful message of Easter to the whole world. The Magdalene’s name is mentioned in the Gospels 12 times, more than any of the 12.

Mary’s known for her intensity in adhering to the Lord. From her we learn in a real way what it means to live the attitude of gratitude before God: we can think poignantly of her being released of the seven demons driven out by Jesus. This event of meeting the Lord personally becomes her mission statement for the building up the nascent Body of Christ (the Church) at that time, and for all time.

God’s method of drawing us to Himself if using a woman reputed to have had difficulties with a wholistic and life-giving faith. Hence, one can posit that without Mary’s witness we would never have heard of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. Theologically she is the key for the soul seeking, more, thirsting for God.

As one Cistercian priest-monk said, “We love Mary Magdalen because of the way in which the boldness of her love for Jesus made her stare death down beyond all human logic or hope.  For her there is no question that the Messiah of Israel, sent to redeem all humankind, and the Beloved of her most intimate heart are one and the same person. She perseveres in weeping at the entrance to the tomb because she perseveres in her love: the presence and actions of Jesus in her own life had taught her that love is indeed stronger than death. Against all odds and logic, in a sort of sublime madness, she clings to her Jesus dead or alive; and she does not reason about a her relative physical strength when she says ironically to the man she thought was the gardener, “Tell me where you laid him, and I will take him away.” Because she loves Jesus so much, she is prepared to carry his body away single-handed.”

On June 3, 2016, Archbishop Arthur Roche (of the Congregation for Worship) wrote: “It is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same level of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar and highlights the special mission of this woman who is an example and model for every woman in the church.”

A recent prayer for the Year of Mercy of Pope Francis identifies Saint Mary Magdalen: “Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured paradise to the repentant thief.”

Let us attend to the Magdalen for our journey of faith.

Saint Mary Magdalen

Mary Magdalene and the Risen LordSaint Mary Magdalen is honored today on our liturgical calendar. We know her for a variety of reasons but the most important one is that she is the first to encounter the Risen Christ. This meeting gave her the duty and responsibility to announce the Risen Lord to the Apostles. According to the Gospel of Saint John Mary is thus honored as the Apostle to the Apostles.

Pious tradition speaks of Saint Mary Magdalen being dedicated to prayer, and solitude. Saint Mary is the patron saint of those religious and laity committed to the contemplative life. The Order of Preachers have Mary as a co-patron, also as the patron of preachers.

Saint Mary Magdalen calls us to rejoice in the Risen Christ, to witness Him to the world, and to re-dedicate ourselves to prayer.

Saint Mary Magdalen

noli me tangereWe love Mary Magdalen because of the way in which the boldness of her love for Jesus made her stare death down beyond all human logic or hope.  For her there is no question that the Messiah of Israel, sent to redeem all humankind, and the Beloved of her most intimate heart are one and the same person.  She perseveres in weeping at the entrance to the tomb because she perseveres in her love: the presence and actions of Jesus in her own life had taught her that love is indeed stronger than death.  Against all odds and logic, in a sort of sublime madness, she clings to her Jesus dead or alive; and she does not reason about a her relative physical strength when she says ironically to the man she thought was the gardener, “Tell me where you laid him, and I will take him away.” Because she loves Jesus so much, she is prepared to carry his body away single-handed.
Such passionate intensity surely was born from her gratitude at having had no less than seven demons driven out of her by Jesus.  As one transformed by the healing power of Jesus’ love, she becomes “the apostle to the Apostles,” since more than any of them she can easily believe in Christ’s Resurrection. For all time St. Mary Magdalen stands as the foremost embodiment of the soul thirsting for God, the soul passionately seeking God.  And in the end she does find him.  “He whom her heart loves” is also the Beloved of the Father who had first come seeking her.  Mary could find him because he first chose, in utter love, to put himself within her reach.

Reflection by Father Simeon, OCSO (h/t Spencer Abbey blog)

Saint Mary Magdalen

St Mary MagdalenThe Church remembers liturgically the woman called the Apostles to the Apostles, the penitent woman who loved the Lord with a totality of being (Luke 8:2-3); from Bethany to the tomb to new life Mary give witness to something and to someone amazing! It is said that seven devils had been cast out of Mary (Mark 16:9). She is named as standing at the foot of the cross with the Blessed Mother and St John (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. She met the Divine Presence, received forgiveness, and followed the Him to the Cross and was the first to witness the resurrection. The meeting of Jesus is the crucial point here. Tradition holds that Mary died in AD 68. The Greek Church says that she retired to Ephesus with the Mary, the Mother of God. Some of her relics are in Constantinople and others in France.

The Magdalen is the patron saint of those in process (journey) of conversion, of monks and nuns, of Dominicans, those who struggle with sexuality, southern France, and the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Of St. Mary Magdalen, Bishop Alfred A. Curtis had this to say:

“We find in this Saint all that is noble, precious, beautiful and admirable; her creatures and contempt of self – and the root of all, her supreme and ultimate confidence in God was founded on the knowledge of her misery and nothingness, which made her despise self. She knew our Lord, He had reproved her for her crimes, but she turned to Him with her whole heart, and sought Him at a time and place that men might call unseemly. Oh, what a gift to know and loathe one’s self, and at the same time to believe that God does not loathe us! Let us ask St. Magdalen to get for us that confidence which she possessed in such a supreme degree.” (The Sisters of the Visitation of Wilmington (1913). The Life and Characteristics of Right Reverend Alfred A. Curtis, D.D. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons.)

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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