Wednesday, 22 July 2009

St Mary Magdalene's Day

I've had a soft spot for Mary Magdalene ever since I did a placement in Sunderland and ended up carrying her statue rounds the back streets of Millfield at the Matronal Festival of the spikiest church in the town. Fallen woman, original holy hooker, possible psychiatric patient, alleged ginger bird, Mrs Jesus of Nazareth: all titles applied to MM (and I am not referring to Marilyn Monroe here) over the millenia. But the title I love for her best and the one one that makes most sense to me is "Apostle to the apostles".

Rather like the only Papal title I think worth preserving - "Servant of the Servants of God", it doesn't deal in fevered speculation and theory about role and function or historic dignity and power (and the abuse thereof), but in the biblical and actual reality of the ministry she was given. "Go and tell those thick scared blokes I told to build the Church to get off their jacksies and up into Galilee where I'll link up with them again and point them along the next bit of their and my way". Which rather meets me where I am presently. Not too bright at listening to where God's been pointing or to do what I know in my head I need to do. Scared silly and good at using that as an excuse to hide in an upper room with friends. Mary Mag prods me rather to action this year.

I also came across this reflection on the John 20 account of her meeting the Risen Christ in Gethsemane on Easter Day.

"This premier Resurrection appearance has a special quality. It is of the rarest beauty and in its simplicity ever fresh.... She had been looking for a missing body in the form she had previously known that could be touched and seen and clung to humanly. His presence, when it was revealed to her, was in a different way; it was a dawning of absolute light out of absolute darkness, a presence that could be taken into her deepest self to become irremovably a part of her own being.

Every celebration of Easter sends us an open invitation to experience anew the light of the Risen Christ. That light is the same light that confirmed the faith of the first disciples and sent them out active into the world. It is the dismissive light, from which all shadows in ourselves will flee; it is the refining light, in which our spiritual perceptions will grow; it is the inextinguishable light, the light that we, as present day disciples, are called to carry into a 1001 dark tombs that disfigure God's world, even if we often recoil from the suffering and sadness we find in such disfigurement.

Where does the darkness of the tomb exist? Where have we buried Jesus? Wherever the blindness to the will of God has led us: to a tolerance of poverty, to the waste of God's gifts, to greed, to violence, to the misuse of power, to cruelty, to mindless bigotry, to the heart's perversion in ways without number; those and many another are the tombs that will forever be dark till light is brought. It is there, in all the conditions that deaden human life, that we must be witness to the light of the Jesus who is risen, is alive and is the overcomer of every darkness."

(from "The Stations of the Resurrection" by Ronald Gibbins)


  1. I'm preaching about MM on Sunday. I asked if we could use her readings then because they're so gorgeous and because she's my favourite NT person. And the fist part of what I'm saying is what you say - about the speculation being unimportant. But the rest is more of a woman's take on her ...

  2. A woman's take on MM is always worth having as she is one of the most misused women in Scripture. Just don't say she's buried under the Louvre!

  3. YOu can find the heart of what I have to say here