Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Feast of St Mary Magdalene

Today is the feast of St Mary Magdalene, who is one of my favourite saints (I particularly like the penitent saints of various kinds, they give me hope!).

St Mary Magdalene has been a bit of a victim of protestant influenced revisionism in recent times my view (let's not even mention the secular nonsense that's around) - in the traditional mass today, the Gospel is from Luke 7 (the story of the sinful woman washing Jesus' feet with her tears, and whose ins are forgivne by virtue of her great love, contrasted to the decided lack of hospitality displayed by Simon the Pharisee).

Protestants, as we know, aren't big on the idea of great sinners becoming great saints. Nor are they alone - the Orthodox similarly hold the various Mary's and anointing stories in the Gospel to refer to different people, following Origen who found it ‘incredible’ that “Mary, whom Jesus loved, the sister of Martha, who had chosen the better portion, should be said to have been a sinner in the city.”

And it is true that the story doesn't explicitly identify the woman as being the same person who was the sister of Lazarus and Martha, was was the first to see the risen Lord. But Chapters 11 &12 of St John's Gospel makes it pretty clear that it is the same person, hence the Latin Church very early on (in texts by Tertullian, St Augustine, and St Gregory the Great) insisted on an identity between the various Mary's, and assigned this reading to the feast. In the Novus Ordo lectionary, however, John 20 is used instead.

Either way, she is a very important saint, as 'apostle to the apostles'; witness to Christ's divinity, and to the power of love, when she anointed him shortly before his death (John 12); a person who had been exorcised by Jesus (Lk 8); and one of the women who accompanied Jesus on his travels and provided for the disciples out of their own resource.

Traditional also holds that St Mary Magdalene ended up in Provence as a hermit.

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