Today is the Feast of Mary Magdalene. It is a day that has been celebrated since the earliest centuries of the Christian calendar, commemorating the woman who was the most faithful of Jesus's disciples, a woman capable of holding enormous suffering and sorrow and still able to open her heart to joy. She was a woman of phenomenal courage, willing to risk her life to accompany her teacher to his own death and yet proclaim a message of hope and the possibility of new life.
Mary Magdalene has been in the news in the past few weeks as Pope Francis re-established her celebration at the highest level of liturgical honor. In the proclamation from the Vatican, she was held up as " a model and example for all women", and her ancient title of Apostle to the Apostles (a phrase which could be translated as "the Teacher of Teachers") was affirmed. (Read the article here).
Especially in light of the recent tragedies in France and Florida, Mary Magdalene is now, more than ever, a beacon of inspiration and hope. The ancient texts from Nag Hammadi, Egypt and southern France that have been rediscovered and translated in our time have linked Mary Magdalene to teachings that feel both universal and particularly timely, calling us to heal ourselves- and through our own awakening, the world. Through courageous self-examination, deep attention and heart-felt compassion, she points the way to a spiritual pathway of awareness, reuniting us with "The Good", and reminding us of who we are at our essence.
Since learning that my birthday falls on her feastday, I become keenly aware of how deeply Mary Magdalene is connected to just about everything I love. Magdalene was a role model for St. Francis, Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Sienna, all of whom had deep devotional practices to her. The most beautiful college at Oxford University bears her name. Beethoven's mother and Rodin's beloved sister were both named after her. Rilke and Khalil Gibran wrote moving- if controversial- stories about her relationship with Jesus. Can you think of another woman in history who has inspired some of the most beautiful songs from the musical pens of J.S. Bach, Arvo Part, John Adams and Andrew Lloyd Weber? What other woman has held all of the polarities of the feminine in painted history: chaste virgin, mature woman, aged crone? Who else has been nakedly vulnerable, a tower of strength, overcome by despair, and radiantly born up by angel?
The recent events of the world have been filled with sorrow. But Mary Magdalene stands as an icon that we, too, can find a way through the most devastating tragedy to find a garden of new beginnings, that there can be beauty, and joy and wonder on the other side of suffering. She is a model of healing and wholeness.
I want to offer you ways to honor Mary Magdalene and explore her legacy. Dive deeply into the Myths of Mary Magdalene; through a seven part lecture series, available on a pay-want-you-can basis or explore the pivotal role Mary Magdalene and other women disciples play in the Nag Hammadi Library (available either in person or online).