AM Psalm 116;
PM Psalm 30, 149;
Preface for All Saints
PRAYER (traditional language)
Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health
of body and mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection:
Mercifully grant that by thy grace we may be healed of all our infirmities
and know thee in the power of his endless life; who with thee and the
Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.
PRAYER (contemporary language)
Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body
and mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully
grant that by your grace we may be healed of all our infirmities and know
you in the power of his endless life; who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
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FIRST WITNESS OF THE RESURRECTION
(22 JULY NT)
Magdalene is mentioned in the Gospels as being among the women of Galilee
who followed Jesus and His disciples, and who was present at His Crucifixion
and Burial, and who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday to annoint His body.
She was the first to see the Risen Lord, and to announce His Resurrection
to the apostles. Accordingly, she is referred to in early Christian writings
as "the apostle to the apostles."
Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus), and the
unnamed penitent woman who annointed Jesus's feet (Luke 7:36-48) are sometimes
supposed to be the same woman. From this, plus the statement that Jesus
had cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2), has risen the tradition that
she had been a prostitute before she met Jesus.
of the assumption that Mary Magdalene had been a spectacular sinner, and
also perhaps because she is described as weeping at the tomb of Jesus
on the Resurrection morning, she is often portrayed in art as weeping,
or with eyes red from having wept. From this appearance we derive the
English word "maudlin", meaning "effusively or tearfully
sentimental." There is a Magdalen College at Oxford, and a Magdalene
College at Cambridge (different spelling), both pronounced "Maudlin."
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A reader has asked about
... the idea that the woman caught in adultery, the woman who was
forgiven much because she loved much, the woman with the expensive perfume
who bathed Jesus' feet with her tears and hair, were all Mary Magdalene.
I don't know whether there is any firm evidence that this is true or
whether this was spoken of in early writings.
From THE PENGUIN DICTIONARY OF SAINTS, by Donald Attwater
(Penguin Books, London, 2nd ed, 1983) under "Mary Magdalene":
among other women [besides Mary Magdalene] mentioned in the gospels
are the unnamed woman "who was a sinner" (Luke 7:37-50), and
Mary of Bethany, Martha's sister (Luke 10:38-42). These are not further
identified, and in Eastern tradition they are usually treated as three
different persons. But the West, following St. Gregory the Great [540?-604],
regarded them as one and the same, though weighty voices from St Ambrose
[337?-397] onwards preferred to leave the question undecided. This western
tradition resulted in St. Mary Magdalene's being looked on as an outstanding
type of the penitent and the contemplative. The eastern tradition has
now been adopted in the new Roman calendar (1969).
We have here the following:
(1) Mary of Magdala,
Jesus had cast out "seven demons" from her (P 16:9; L 8:2f)
She and other women of Galilee followed Jesus and His disciples and ministered
to them (M 27:55f; P 15:40f; L 8:2f)
She was present at the crucifixion (M 27:55f; P 15:40f; J 19:25)
She was present at the burial (M 27:61; P 15:47)
She and others went to the tomb on Easter morning, and she saw the risen
Christ (M 28:1-10; P 16:1,9; L 24:1-10; J 20:1-2,11-18)
(2) Mary of Bethany,
She listened to Jesus, while her sister Martha worked (L 10:38-42)
Jesus raised her brother Lazarus from the dead (J 11:1-46)
She annointed Jesus with costly ointment (M 26:7-13; P 14:3-9; J 11:2;
(3) the "sinner"
She annointed Jesus feet with her tears, and He pronounced her sins forgiven
(4) the woman taken in adultery
Jesus said to her: "I do not condemn you; go and sin no more."
Are (1) and (2) the same? Yes, for they have the same name and are both
followers of Jesus. No, for (1) is from Galilee and (2) from Judea. Besides,
Mary=Miriam was an extremely popular name. Perhaps, for she might have
left her family and gone to Magdala, and later returned to Bethany.
Are (2) and (3) the same? Yes, for each annointed Jesus' feet as He reclined
at dinner, and wiped them with her hair, to the scandal of the beholders.
No, for the circumstances were quite different, so that it would have
to be two different annointings. Perhaps, since Mary might at the close
of His ministry have seen fit to annoint Him a second time, and to do
so in a way that would suggest to them both the former annointing, when
He had declared her sins forgiven.
Are (1) and (3) the same? Yes, for they are both women
who were living in unchastity until Jesus transformed their lives. No,
for there is no reason to suppose that the sins of (3) included unchastity,
and no reason to suppose that that the "seven demons" driven
out of Mary Magdalene were sins of unchastity, or indeed sins at all.
The Bible does not speak of the demon-possessed as more sinful than anyone
else. Perhaps, for there was then, as now, a regretable tendency to use
the terms "immoral" and "unchaste", or "living
in sin" and "living in unchastity", interchangeably.
Are (3) and (4) the same? Yes, for they are both adulteresses
whom Jesus forgives. No, for the circumstances under which they were forgiven
are not at all the same. (Besides, we have no reason to suppose
that (3) was an adulteress at all.) Perhaps, for the following scenario
is perfectly possible. Jesus meets the woman for the first time when asked
whether she is to be stoned. He sends her away uncondemned. At the moment
she is too stunned to react, but a few days later, realizing that He has
given her both acceptance as she is and also the power to change, she
seeks Him out to express her gratitude. He points out to His host that
her gratitude is a response to the forgiveness she has received, and sends
her away with His blessing.
A great many minor characters appear briefly in the gospel narratives,
"unheralded and unpursued." There is a natural tendency for
the imagination to try to tidy things up by identifying some of them,
so that (for example) the centurion who at the crucifixion said, "Truly
this was the Son of God," is suggested to be the same centurion whose
servant was healed at Capernaum. But real life is not always tidy, and
these suggestions remain only suggestions.
The story of the "woman who was a sinner" (Luke 7:36-50) has
been misunderstood by some readers. When Jesus was a dinner guest, a woman
who was a "sinner" (sins not specified) came into the room and
wept, and kissed and annointed his feet, and the host was shocked. Jesus
told a parable: "A man had two debtors, one who owed him 500 denarii,
and the other 50. Since they could not pay, he forgave them both. Which
will love him more?" The host said: "I suppose, the one whom
he forgave more." Jesus said: "Good answer. This woman has been
forgiven much, and you see that she loves me much. You have been forgiven
little, and you love little."
One verse reads: "Her sins, which were many, are forgiven, for she
loved much." Some readers take this to mean that her love for Jesus
was the cause of his decision to forgive her. Some assume that she was
an adulteress, and understand the verse to mean that adultery is okay
if you are truly in love. But there is a language problem here. If someone
says, "It has been raining, for (or because) the pavement is wet,"
he does not mean that the wetness of the pavement is the cause of the
recent rain. He means that it is evidence of the recent rain. It is the
cause of our knowledge of the recent rain. His statement, "It
has rained, because the pavement is wet," is shorthand for, "I
know that it has rained, because I see that the pavement is wet."
So here, as far as our knowledge goes, we see that the woman is grateful
to Jesus, and as a result we believe that he has done something great
for her (such as forgiving her sins and restoring her to life and joy).
But as far as the events are concerned, the restoration comes first and
the gratitude follows as a result.
A point often overlooked is the claim that Jesus here makes about his
own status. His story casually assumes that all sin is a debt owed to
him, and that those who have been forgiven ought to be grateful to him.
This does not fit well with the notion that Jesus thought of himself only
as a moral teacher, and that his Deity was a later invention of over-enthusiastic
by James Kiefer