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The Feast Day of Saint Mary Magdalene

July 22, 2010

Saint Mary Magdalene was one of the original followers of Jesus along with the twelve apostles and the Gospels attest to her presence at the tomb from which Jesus rose from the dead.  In the Gospel of Mark, she meets an angel in the tomb who tells her that Jesus is not there, but that He has risen.  She is further instructed to go to the disciples and bring them the good news of Jesus’ Resurrection.  Because this tradition holds that she was the first to see the Risen Lord, and to announce His Resurrection to the disciples, she is sometimes referred to as “the apostle to the apostles.”

Tradition has long held that Mary Magdalene, who was the woman possessed by seven demons that Jesus drove out of her in the story in Luke 8, was a prostitute.  However, more recent scholarship has contested this, saying there is no indication of this.  The idea arose from the presumption that because she had seven demons she was a spectacular sinner coupled with the fact that she was also a woman of some financial means.  Nevertheless, she has become the patron saint of those suffering from sexual temptation.

Another interesting legend about Mary deals with the reason she is depicted in iconography, as above, holding a red egg.  The legend comes out of the Eastern Orthodox tradition wherein following the Ascension, Mary went to Rome to bear witness to Caesar how poorly Pontius Pilate had handled the trial of Jesus.  She went on to say that no matter how poorly it was done, it did not matter because Jesus had risen from the dead.  According to the legend, she used an egg which was sitting on the table to illustrate her story of the Resurrection, presumably by saying that out of something which appears dead can come life.  But Caesar rebuked her saying that a human could no more rise from the dead than the egg which she held could spontaneously turn red.

The egg immediately turned red.

This led to the further tradition in Eastern Orthodoxy of exchanging red eggs at Easter, which gets carried over to the more Western tradition of dyeing Easter eggs.  (A bunny is in nowise involved.)

I think the most important part of Mary’s story for us today is the fact that she bore witness to the Resurrection.  We, as a Christian people, are Resurrection people.  We, by our life, doctrine, words, and deeds should bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  What are some ways that you think you do this?  They could be simple or complicated.  But think about it.  How do you, like Mary, bear witness to others about the Resurrection?  How do you live as a Resurrection person?

The Collect for Saint Mary Magdalene

Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by thy grace we may be healed of all our infirmities and know thee in the power of his endless life; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Fr. Ryan+

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Pete permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:58 am

    I’m not sure how I witness it, but I just believe it. Because I believe it, I try to live my life the way he would be proud of. It is nice to know where the colored eggs come from, though. Now could someone please tell me about the Bunny!!

  2. Mike Fox permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:58 pm

    I feel a special devotion to Mary Magdalene. Even though I don’t buy the DaVince Code/Margaret Starbird/Holy Blood Holy Grail story about her being married to Jesus, I was glad that the story made it to pop culture because it gave MM some well needed attention – and finally put to rest the misconception about her being a prostitute. I’ve always thought that she didn’t get a fair shake – that she was every bit as much of a disciple as The Twelve, and possibly the one who understood Jesus’ teachings the most thoroughly (this can be seen in several of the Nag Hammadi gospels).

    More generally, I am trying to bring the Feminine side of God into my Christian faith and worship. That’s why I read books about Mary Magdalene (even the far-out ones!) and Mary the Mother of God. I’m also trying to worship the Holy Spirit as a life-giving, nurturing force – sort of the Yin of the Trinity.

    Just tryna get beyond Two Guys and a Bird !!!

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