Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Mary Magdalane

I recently had a Facebook exchange with a former parishioner who is a 1970's-style feminist (I'm the new kind) about Mary Magdalene. Her position was that the Catholic church conspired to label Mary as prostitute. I'm not clear on the perceived motivation. The topic came up because I played Mary at a recent All Saints festival. Here is my response to her query of whether or not I had fallen for the lie:

The Mary I portrayed is one compiled from scattered gospel accounts. She was:

Sister of Martha and Lazarus. Delivered from seven demons. Forgiven sinful woman. The one who sat at His feet rather than wash dishes. The one who had the most intimate exchange with Jesus of any person in the accounts; being allowed to wash, kiss, and anoint His dusty feet. The one who watched His blood pour out, and the one to whom He first showed Himself after resurrection.

She holds a place of great honor within the church, and within my heart.

The Biblical accounts don't say that she is a prostitute, only that she was sinful. But the idea of prostitution does not raise red flags for me, given it's importance in explaining God's relationship with us. Throughout the Hebrew scriptures we are likened as unfaithful wives or worse; sometimes even as prostitutes (as in Hosea). Jewish and Christian history is the story of the Bridegroom and the tarnished bride to be who becomes spotless.

Mary Magdalene is the culmination of this pattern, distilled into a beautiful woman. She demonstrated the most love of anyone in the gospels, and that love came in part out of her past brokenness, her sinfulness.

I relate all to closely to this to find it objectionable. It is too beautiful.


Pranayama mama said...

i saw a a bit of that FB exchange. i think what you captured here is a beautiful response.

Diane Marie Hall said...

looks like many are aware

Ike said...

"And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Revelation 21:2

This is the gospel's answer to our shame. Every one of us knows the shame of guilty self-awareness and the fear of exposure. But we don't want to live in the isolation of that darkness. We long for freeing relationships with others, especially God. But without the gospel, we hide, conceal, falsify ourselves, in order to appear better than we are. Or, conversely, we may trot out our failings with assertive self-display, demanding acceptance -- a more modern response.

The gospel says, "Your shame is real, even more real than you know. But this is what God has done. He put it all onto Christ at the cross, where your Substitute was utterly shamed and exposed and condemned for you. Now your shame no longer defines you. What defines you, what reveals your future forever, is this word: '. . . adorned . . . .' Not shamed. Adorned. Lovely. Attractive. And the moment is coming when he will look into your eyes with glad adoration, and you will look into his eyes with confident surrender. And nothing will ever, ever spoil it again."

Suzanne Marie DeWitt said...

Ah, lovely Ike. Thank you for this reminder of what we can anticipate.

Ike said...

John 12....

The incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ marks the zenith of history. His life not only divides the calander but also human destiny. Like no one else....Jesus Christ evokes the antithetical extremes of love and hate....devotion and rejection...worship and blasphemy...and faith and unbelief.

In the passage which relates the story of Mary's annointing of Jesus...these extremes are particularly clear. The worshipful act of Mary epitomizes faith and love....the cold, calculated, cynical response of Judas epitomizes unbelief and hatred. It is the climax of love and hatred. The perfume likely made up a sizeable portion of Mary's net worth....she refused to offer the Lord something that cost her nothing....she acted in unrestrained love. The measure of her love was her total abandonment to Jesus Christ. Consequently...Mary's noble act would...as the Lord declared...be spoken of as a memorial of her love wherever the gospel is preached (Mark 14:9)!! Just like it is here at "A Theology of Desire":)