Friday, July 22, 2011

Apostle To The Apostles

According to Harvard theologian Karen King, Mary Magdalene was a prominent disciple and leader of one wing of the early Christian movement that promoted women's leadership. Pope Gregory the Great made a speech in 591 A.D. where he seemed to combine the actions of the three women mentioned in the New Testament, and also identified an unnamed woman as Mary Magdalene. He stated that she was a prostitute. This erroneous view was not corrected until 1969 when the Vatican issued a quiet retraction.

What is very clear from the Gospels is that Mary Magdalen was a central figure in the life of Jesus—far more central than the Church has been willing to accept in past years. Luke tells us that she was among the women who followed Jesus and “provided for [him] out of their own resources”. The original Greek is more direct: it says these women 'supported him out of their own possessions.' These women apparently literally paid Jesus’s way and provided financial backing for him during his public ministry!" (Fr. John Julian, Stars In A Dark World)

Mary's name of "Apostle to the Apostles" comes from her ascription as the first witness to the empty tomb who then shared the good news with Jesus' other close disciples. In the earliest extant Biblical accounts now available, Mary of Magdala is described as a Galilean disciple, a witness to both the crucifixion and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth's resurrected body. Luke 8:2-3 adds to Mary's persona by alluding to her having had seven demons cast out of her, which some have taken to signify a perfected status within the movement. Together with other female followers, Mary accompanied Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem, and witnessed the Crucifixion. Mary remained at the cross until the body was taken down and laid in a tomb. In the early dawn, when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene (with other women) came to the sepulchre with spices to anoint the body. They found the sepulchre empty and were informed of Jesus' resurrection.

According to the Gospel of John, she was the first witness of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus. At first she did not recognize him. When he said her name, "Mary!", she recognised him and cried, "Rabboni!" She wanted to embrace him, but he forbade her: "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God'". This is the last mention in the canonical Gospels of Mary Magdalene, who now returned to Jerusalem. She is probably included in the group of women who joined the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem after Jesus' ascension.

She is celebrated as a saint by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican/Episcopal churches, and is commemorated by the Lutheran Church, on July 22.   The Orthodox Church commemorates her on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers which is the second Sunday after Pascha (Easter).

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