What would it shift in the collective psyche if rather than the image of a man dying completely forsaken, utterly abandoned and betrayed by all those dear to him, Holy Week would be told and shown for what is actually in the Bible and Nag Hammadi scriptures? First, Jesus is anointed and prepared for his death by the woman who is his most devoted and insightful disciple. He is companioned every step of the way on his journey to the cross by a woman of courage who remains steadfast in compassion and love until his dying breath. While the male disciples have fled and hid, she cradles his broken body in his arms when he is taken down from the cross. She arrives on Easter to anoint his body at the tomb. And then, she is the first to see a new vision through her eyes of love-- whereby she is commissioned to go and preach a message of hope to her brothers: to become the Teacher of Teachers, the Apostle to the Apostles, the First Witness, the First Christian.
Why does it matter so much to reclaim this story?
Most have us have been imprinted with the image of a man who was tortured to atone for a woman's (Eve's) sin. Women have been barred from leadership for centuries, their rightful places as Apostles erased, cut out, excluded. By reclaiming the earliest traditions and scriptures of Easter, we rewrite the story of all women.
At an archetypal level, it makes all the difference in the world how we face the pain and suffering that is daily before our eyes. Do we choose the path of fear that leads to denial, abandonment and betrayal or do we choose the path of the Magdalene, imagining ourselves standing steadfast in courage and compassion and standing as a witness to the possibilties of new life?
Inspired by the Gospel of John, Medieval mystery plans and early Christian texts rediscovered in Nag Hammadi and elsewhere (The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary and The Round Dance of Jesus), The Passion of Mary Magdalene by Kayleen Asbo, Ph.D, is a participatory drama weaving together accounts of Christ's passion and resurrection with heart-opening images of art and music to be chanted together. It offers a message of hope, awakening, empowerment and love.
The Passion of Mary Magdalene will be available to stream as a video event in 2023. If you are a church that would like to host or produce a live performance for Good Friday or Holy Saturday Easter vigils for 2024, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
" Words are not sufficient to hold the heart opening journey that we were taken on to the depths of love and despair. We wept-- and rejoiced. We held the darkness in our hearts and felt the joy of the light. Your play touched a deep chord that has changed me, and maybe even healed my wounded relationship with the church" - Audience member, 2019
Magdalene Speaks: (From the Prologue of the Passion of Mary Magdalene, by Kayleen Asbo)
I am the first and last. I am the scorned one. I am the holy saint they’ll call the whore In the first years, they called me the Apostle to the Apostles. In the early scriptures, the ones hidden for sixteen hundred years, they called me the Woman Who Knew All, the Embodiment of Sophia, Koinonos, the Companion of the Savior. But as for Jesus, my teacher, my rabbi- what did he call me? Jesus called me anthropos, meaning: fully human. I sat at his feet to drink of his wisdom. Through his words, this is what he taught me: The kingdom of Heaven is within. And so is the kingdom of hell. Healing is possible for the least of us, for Each one of us possesses an unquenchable spark of divinity. We lose our way when we forget the good that is in us- and the good that is in our midst. If we bring forth what is inside us- it will save us. And if we don’t, it will destroy us. In the end, his message was simple, just one four letter word: Love. I sat at his feet again after all the men had fled and hid I watched him weep, and moan and bleed. I held him in my unwavering gaze as he cried out in pain and then surrendered, his arms stretched out Wide enough to hold the whole world with the love that was in him. With his grieving mother, I cradled his tortured body after his last sigh had left his lips. I kept vigil that night And in the darkness before dawn, I journeyed alone to the tomb to hold his feet once again, To wrap him in clean linen To anoint him in death as I had in life. And then the Mystery came. Through his broken and remade body, this is what he taught me: The darkness and the light, life and death are inseparable companions of one another. And yet even when all seems lost, God finds a way. To heal, to hold, to rewrite the end of the story in a way we could never have imagined. Remember, Jesus said, Remember. We must return, again and again, to who we really are and what we were really made for: Begotten out of love, begotten for love, begotten to love. What I come to tell you is this: Behold the pain But open to joy Gaze upon death But never lose hope For Love is as strong Love is as strong as death,
" Words are not sufficient to hold the heart opening journey that we were taken on to the depths of love...and despair. We wept...and rejoiced. We held the darkness in our hearts and felt the joy of the light. Your play touched a deep chord that has changed me" - Audience member, 2019