July 22

St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene

A Subject of Theories

The Sacred Scriptures have mentioned plenty of women who played important roles in the whole history of salvation. Of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary is exalted among all women for being chosen as the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of humanity. Another one of the most prominent women mentioned in the New Testament was Mary Magdalene.

As her name implies, Mary lived in the town of Magdala, a prosperous fishing village at the time Jesus was active in this region. It was also a place where Jesus spent much of His time preaching. This was the place where Mary probably first encountered Jesus.

Mary Magdalene has become a subject of many theories in the New Testament. Some think that she might be the unnamed woman who entered Simon the Pharisee’s house, bringing an alabaster jar of costly perfume, “stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.” (Luke 7:38). Some say that she was the sister of Martha and Lazarus of Bethany (see John 11:1-44). Others say, and this is most probably what Mary Magdalene was known for until today, that she was the unknown woman who was caught in adultery (see John 8:2-11).

What the Gospels Say

But what is clear in the Gospel was that Mary Magdalene was one of the Galilean women who followed Jesus. To be more precise, she was the woman who “had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities… from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:2). Nothing is sure what these “demons” were, but over the centuries many scholars guessed that she was an immoral woman. The Church has said this is not so, while many Scripture experts believe that the reference means she was cured of illness by Christ.

What seemed to be ironic was that Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles. In the face of His suffering and death, they all left Him, except John. The Gospels speak of women who were present during Jesus’ passion. Matthew recounts that there were “many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.” (27:55). Mark provided details of who these women were: “There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.” (15:40)

But the Gospel according to John even mentioned that she was at the foot of Jesus’ cross: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.” (John 19:25). And to complete the details, according to Mark, Mary Magdalene was present when Jesus was laid in the tomb: “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.” (Mark 15:47).

The First to See the Risen Christ

The Gospels all agree that Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the Resurrected Christ (see Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:10; John 20:1). The Gospel according to John provided more details about Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the Risen Jesus than the other three Gospels.

Nothing is known where Mary Magdalene went after Jesus ascended into heaven. Tradition says that she went with the Apostle John to Ephesus. Others say she went to southern France where she lived in solitude in a cave and prayed. Her feast day is celebrated on July 22.

Five Interesting Facts About St. Mary Magdalene

  1. St. Mary Magdalene is known as “Apostola Apostolorum” or the “Apostle to the Apostles”. According to John 20:17, the Risen Jesus instructed and sent her to tell the Apostles that He was ascending to God.
  2. St. Mary Magdalene’s name is mentioned twelve different times in the Bible.
  3. Pope Gregory the Great referred to Mary Magdalene’s deliverance from the seven demons, inferring them to be the seven deadly sins talked about in the Bible which include lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.
  4. St. Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of converts, women, penitents, contemplation and against sexual temptation.
  5. According to French legend, St. Mary Magdalene is alleged to have converted the king and queen of Gaul and evangelized the Franks, thus becoming the Apostle of France.

Prayer to St. Mary Magdalene

O God, whose Only Begotten Sonentrusted Mary Magdalene before all otherswith announcing the great joy of the Resurrection,grant, we pray,that through her intercession and examplewe may proclaim the living Christand come to see him reigning in your glory.Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.