Festival of St Mary Magdalene
The Lord be with you
Today is the Festival of St. Mary Magdalene. Mary is, perhaps, one of the most celebrated ladies of the Bible. This day is used to recognize her on all liturgical calendars I am familiar with. So, what makes her so special?
With only one exception (John 19:25), whenever the New Testament Gospels name the women who were with Jesus, St. Mary Magdalene is listed first. Many speculate that the reason for this is that Mary was blessed to be the very first person to see the risen Lord Jesus (John 20:10-18).
According to Luke 8:2, Jesus had cured Mary of being possessed by seven demons. Through the centuries, she has often been identified with the repentant “woman of the city” (prostitute) who anointed Jesus’ feet as He sat at the table in the Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36-50). This identification led to the inclusion of the word “Penitent” in her official title in the Medieval Church, the only person to be so designated. However, there is no biblical reason to identify the two women. This miss-identification found expression in the “Rock Opera” Jesus Christ, Superstar.
Another miss-identification that is common is to think she is the same woman as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. By now you have probably guessed that “Mary” was a rather common name in 1st Century Judea.
Over the centuries, there has been wild speculation about her. The book/movie The daVinci Code capitalized on these myths. These Medieval fantasies often have Jesus surviving the crucifixion and moving to the south of France with Mary and other New Testament persons, where Jesus and Mary get married and have children. There isn’t a scrap of truth in them.
Here is what we do know, aside from Jesus healing her. Mary was one of a number of ladies who followed Jesus and helped support him and his disciples. She was present when Jesus was crucified. She watched Jesus be buried by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Easter Sunday morning she went to the grave and found it empty. After the others left, she remained behind and was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. Jesus sent her to tell the other disciples that he had been raised from the dead. The word “apostle” means “sent one.” Because Mary was sent to tell the apostles about the resurrection, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 –1153) called her the “apostle to the Apostles.”
Mary stands out for her deep faith and devotion to Jesus, and as a witness to the founding events of our Christian Faith, the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord.
Prayer: Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, restored Mary Magdalene to health and called her to be the first witness of His resurrection. Heal us from all our infirmities, and call us to know You in the power of Your Son’s unending life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert