Wednesday, July 22, 2015

St Mary Magdalene

Repentance of St Mary Magdalene by Pompeo Batoni
Mary Magdalene, whose liturgical feast we celebrate today, is mentioned as one of the women who ministered to Jesus. The same passage also refers briefly to an act of exorcism performed on her, on an occasion when seven demons were cast out. These women, who earlier "had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities", later accompanied Jesus on his last journey to, and were witnesses to the Crucifixion. She was also the privileged first person to see Jesus risen from the tomb, an honor that was not given to any of the 12 apostles, but only to Mary Magdalene, probably in a way of thanking her for staying with Jesus till the end at the foot of the cross. This is the last mention in the Gospels of Mary of Magdala, who now returned to Jerusalem. She is probably included in the group of women who joined the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem after Jesus' Ascension and may have also been with the Blessed Mother at Pentecost.
Tradition as early as the third century identifies Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and with the woman sinner who anointed Jesus' feet, even though she remains unnamed. The identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and "the woman who was a sinner" is reflected in an influential sermon Pope Gregory I gave in 591, which said: "She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary of Bethany, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark."

St Mary Magdalene on seeing the Risen Christ
Mary had been looked upon as a great sinner, but Christ knew the circumstances that had shaped her life. It was He who had lifted her from despair and ruin. Seven times she had heard His rebuke of the demons that controlled her heart and mind. It was Mary who sat at His feet and learned of Him. It was Mary who poured upon His head the precious anointing oil, and bathed His feet with her tears. Mary stood beside the cross, and was first at the tomb after His resurrection. It was Mary who first proclaimed a risen Savior.
According to Eastern traditions, she retired to Ephesus and there she died. Her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are there preserved.  Most importantly we honor today a woman who remained faithful to Jesus until the very end of her life.

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