Greetings, Beloved St. John’s Community.
Today on the feast of Mary Magdalene, I remember the 17th anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate. As is my custom on this day, I read and reflect on Mary and her unique role as apostle to the apostles, as she is often referred to. This day I am reflecting on the following passage from Cynthia Bourgeault’s book on Mary.
First and paramount, we see that all four gospels witness to Mary Magdalene as the premiere witness to the resurrection—alone or in a group, but in all cases named by name. Given the shifting sands of oral history, the unanimity of this testimony is astounding. It suggests that among the earliest Christians the stature of Mary Magdalene is of the highest order of magnitude—more so than even the Virgin Mother (mentioned as present at the crucifixion in only one gospel and in none at the resurrection). Mary Magdalene’s place of honor is so strong that even the heavy hand of a later, male-dominated ecclesiology cannot entirely dislodge it.
Second, all four gospels insist that when all the other disciples are fleeing, Mary Magdalene stands firm. She does not run; she does not betray or lie about her commitment; she witnesses. Hers is clearly a demonstration of either the deepest human love or the highest spiritual understanding of what Jesus was teaching, perhaps both. But why, one wonders, do the Holy Week liturgies tell and re-tell the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus, while the steady, unwavering witness of Magdalene is not even noticed?
What if, instead of emphasizing that Jesus died alone and rejected, we reinforced that one stood by him and did not leave?—for surely this other story is as deeply and truly there in the scripture as is the first. How would this change the emotional timbre of the day? How would it affect our feelings about ourselves? About the place of women in the church? About the nature of redemptive love?
Bourgeault, Cynthia. The Meaning of Mary Magdalene (pp. 15-16). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.
I have been and continue to be blessed by the community of Saint John’s, in my discernment and formation, and now my call to be your deacon. We are all blessed to have the courage to ask the same questions that Cynthia suggests in this quote. May we all have Mary’s courage to stand with and by Jesus.
May the unbridled passion and commitment of Mary rest upon you.
Blessings and Peace,