Tuesday, 22 July 2008

St Mary Magdalen's Day.

I will ignore the 810th anniversary of the 1st Battle of Falkirk and share with you a bit of a sermon from the late, great Dom Gregory Dix, preached at the patronal Festival of St Mary Magdalen's Paddington, on this Festival.

"One old translation of the Gospel into Syriac made in Palestine which very often carries over the ideas of the 1st Jewish-Christian disciples uses instead a very significant word: "There comes Mary Magdalen evangelising the disciples that she had seen the Lord". Her message on that 1st Easter day was in very fact the heart & core of the good news, the 1st tremendous piercing flash of the explosion of the primitive Christian gospel.

No one could ever forget the loveliness or the significance of the story, told so exquisitely by St John, of the brief dialogue in the garden at dawn...it is the perfect recognition scene, the ultimate art of writing in its simplicity...it forces from the most casual reader the instinctive recognition of his own accord: "This is true! It must have happened like that; it could only have happened like that".

Men think first of all of the more flamboyant, perhaps more humanly interesting, figure of the splendid beautiful sinner who became the broken weeping penitent...And one sees and remembers too, the fittingness that Mary the Penitent should have stood beside Mary Immaculate at the foot of the cross. It is of these things...that one thinks instinctively... rather than of Mary Magdalen in her greatness of Easter morning, as the Apostle to the Apostles and the Evangelist to Evangelists. Yet that is undoubtedly how St John represents her here. And this is the last mention of her in the New Testament. From henceforward all is silence about her in authentic history, and it is only long afterwards and in very dubious legends that the attempt is made to carry on the story.

Here the scriptures leave her, a woman with a privilege not so superhuman as unique in its own very different way as that of sinless Mary of Nazareth herself...not as what she made herself as what, in the end, she became and was made by the grace and person of Jesus, the herald to the heralds of the world's redemption. The scriptures tell us very little of her sins except the fact of them, and only a little more about her penitence, because that is chiefly her affair. The scriptures never gossip, are never sentimental and never morbid. But they do tell us every detail of that minute other glory in the garden, because that is what God made of her, and the scriptures are the story of the mighty works of God with the children of men. and with that glory they leave her and fall silent, to speak of other mighty words of God with other sinners - Peter and Thomas and Paul and many others."

Good stuff, well written and breathing the sober passion of Anglican divinity at its very best. Mary of Magdala, Apostle of the Apostles, Ora pro nobis.

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