11 Jun 2016

The Apostle to the Apostles gets a liturgical feast!

St. Mary Magdalen's day on the liturgical calendar has now been elevated from memorial to feast.

The reason, according to Archbishop Arthur Roche, is that she “has the honor to be the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection.”

“She is the witness to the risen Christ and announces the message of the Lord’s resurrection just like the rest of the Apostles,” he said, explaining that for this reason “it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same rank of Feast as that given to the celebration of the Apostles in the General Roman Calendar.”

Some commentators have also made the point that this is a restoration of the respect given to Mary Magdalene on the liturgical calendar which was changed in 1960 prior to the Vatican Council.

The icon above depicts Mary Magdalene, a complex and thought-provoking woman. The artist, Robert Lentz, ofm, is a Franciscan friar currently stationed in Houston, TX.  His work is known around the world and reflects his experience among the poor in this country and in the Third World. The tradition of associating eggs in the icons of the saint come from the story that following the death and resurrection of Jesus, she used her position to gain an invitation to a banquet given by the Roman Emperor Tiberius. When she met him, she held a plain egg in her hand and exclaimed, "Christ is risen!" The Emperor laughed, and said that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red while she held it. Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand turned a bright red and she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial house
Mary's support of Jesus' ministry, her presence at the cross, and her witness to His resurrection has led many to call her "equal to the apostles".  However, there is a lot of discussion about the way that Mary has been described as a prostitute and this Sunday's gospel from Luke helps to confuse the situation as it recounts the story of the woman who comes to bath the feet of Jesus with her tears and then anoints them.
"The Church’s tradition, particularly Gregory the Great, mostly identified as the same person, Mary Magdalene, the woman with the jar of nard, and the sister of Lazzarus and Martha.  Certainly she was at the foot of the Cross and at the tomb on the morning after the Resurrection.  There’s no evidence that she was a prostitute or the adulteress brought to the Lord in John 7.  In Mark 16:9 we read that the Lord had performed an exorcism for her: “But he rising early the first day of the week, appeared first to Mary Magdalen, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”  This is also in Luke 8:2: “Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth”.Augustine thought these were perhaps the seven deadly sins or vices.  It may have been on this foundation, along with some ambiguity about various Marys in the Gospels, that she was conglomerated into also being a fallen woman who then repented........"

Reliquary of the skull of St Mary Magdalene
St Mary Magdalene, one of the patron saints of the Dominican Order who celebrate their 800th anniversary this year has her feast day on 22nd July. Her relics are in the small church in St. Maximin in Provence, France. You can also read about them here at EWTN.

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