Friday, July 22, 2016

The silence of the Magdalene

St Mary Magdalene is a wonderful supply of arguments from silence. She is regarded by too many as the wife of Our Lord, the first woman apostle and thus bishop, and an authoress of a Gospel. The trouble is that scriptural evidence for who she really was is very sketchy. Was she the prostitute who wept over the Lord’s feet? Was she the Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus? It’s all a little bit vague. One really can’t base any doctrine on the aspects of her life. Yes, she was the apostle to the apostles, but the apostles were the apostles to the whole world. Yes, she loved Jesus very much, but there is no evidence that they were romantically entwined. Yes, it’s possible that some of the facts collated in the four gospels were taken from the words of St Mary Magdalene herself; after all, how else did we get to know about the details of her story of meeting with the Risen Lord? But no reliable Gospel of hers can be found dating from her lifetime.

Yet, St Mary Magdalene has done something that St John the Baptist didn’t quite do. She has decreased so much that we know so little of her life so that Our Lord might increase. She is buried in the dusty tomes of History, but what lives on about her are the ways that she devoted herself to the Lord. She has preferred obscurity and myth to exact biography just so that the message of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, His power to heal and redeem, His power to exorcise and to cleanse might be known to us who, like her, will probably fade in the memory of History but live on in Christ Our God.

Of course, many people will look to the details and miss the real point. Of them, Our Lord quotes Isaiah and explains: “By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

If we truly want to honour St Mary Magdalene, then we should stop speculating about her and listen to her testimony about Our Lord. We are not permitted to know her life, yet, if we continue faithful to the One to who she was faithful, then we will know her in Him.

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