El blog de X. Pikaza

Apostle to the Apostols (María Magdalena, Apóstol de los Apóstoles)


Traducción inglesa de un texto de Religión digital, publicado en Worldwide (de Sud-África: file:///C:/Users/Equipo/Downloads/Worldwide%20Dec-Jan%20-%20FINAL%20(Readers).pdf )

Mary Magdalene, the lover, the friend of Jesus, was and remains for the Church the first who gave testimony of the resurrection
Mary Magdalene was the initiator of the Christian mission, performing a task superior to that of the Apostles themselves. She is a role model for women in the Church and indeed for every Christian by Xabier Pikaza Ibarrondo | Theologian

The celebration of St Mary Magdalene was elevated to the rank of Feast in the Roman Calendar by Pope Francis and was enriched by a proper Mass Preface which puts her above priests, bishops and the Apostles. It reads: “He (the Lord) honoured her with the task of being Apostle to the Apostles, so that the good news of new life might reach the ends of the earth.” According to the famous motto “lex orandi lex credenda” (the law of praying [is] the law of believing) such a Preface has large consequences in the vision of women in the Church and community ministries.

Mary Magdalene was so called because she was from Magdala, a fishing town on the coast of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Tiberias, with over two hundred boats and famous for its salted fish. She was part of the inner circle of the disciples of Jesus, who walked with twelve men, who symbolized the tribes of Israel, but who had other friends, men and women, perhaps more important than the twelve. All His followers—itinerant people, men and women—were intimates of Jesus: they walked with Him, ate and slept in the fields and villages with Him, and among them was Mary of Magdala.
The Gospel of Luke (Lk 8: 2–3; cf. also Mk 15: 40–41) assumes that she and other women, financially supported Jesus and His group—but this assumption came later and is, at the least, ambiguous. Magdalene was not a rich sedentary patron but a travelling disciple of Jesus and thus went with Him to Jerusalem, sharing everything she had with the disciples.

The later tradition

A later tradition thought that she had been a prostitute and the evils of prostitution were the evils from which Jesus had liberated her. The Gospels, however, say nothing of that, unless we identify her with the woman of Luke 7: 37–39.
Anyway, even if she were a prostitute, it wouldn’t have been a dishonour in a Christian sense, as Jesus Himself said to the priests and elders of Jerusalem: “Prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (cf. Mt 21: 31–32). Actually, she was identified with that prostitute only in the 2nd century, to highlight the mercy of Jesus towards her and to reduce her importance. It has also been said that she was possessed by demons (Lk 8: 2–3), but this aspect has a symbolic meaning: Magdalene would be an example of women cured by Jesus—but the first tradition does not say anything about it.
Not to multiply the number of Marys, starting with the Gospel of John, tradition said that Mary Magdalene was the sister of Lazarus and Martha. However, Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha (cf. Lk 10: 39 and Jn 11–12), belongs to a different social and family context. It would make more sense to identify Magdalene with the woman who anointed Jesus (Mk 14: 3–9), because both are linked to the death and resurrection of Jesus, but this is also unlikely.
We can say that Magdalene was at the Last Supper, although we do not know how it happened, because the synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) have interpreted it in a symbolic way—highlighting the completion of the mission of Jesus and the failure of the twelve.
Anyway, the importance of Mary Magdalene doesn’t derive from her presence or not at the Supper, but from the fact that she (with other women), saw Jesus die, although she couldn’t “bury Him” (because she didn’t have the authority to do so (cf. Mk 15: 40. 47; 16: 1–8).

The initiator of the Church

She was the first who discovered, due to her personal love, that Jesus was alive, and that one should not search for Him in the grave. Her feminine love played an essential role in the birth of the Christian Church, as the texts of the passion of the four Gospels, and in a special way the ‘canonical’ ending of Mark (Mk 16: 9) and Jn 20: 1–18 show. The same is supposed in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1: 13–14), although it doesn’t speak about her again.

Celsus, the most lucid of the antiChristian critics of the 2nd century, understood well the Gospels when he said that Magdalene (whom he presented as a hysterical woman!) was the founder of Christianity: “She certainly was, not for being hysterical, but for being a clairvoyant woman, able to interpret from the luminous love, the life story and the mystery of the person of Jesus. This is much more challenging and profound than what some critics claim when they say that she was a lover and even the spouse of Jesus. She was at the beginning of the paschal experience and was the initiator of the Church.”
The synoptic Gospels present her among the disciples who followed and served Jesus in Galilee, accompanying Him to Jerusalem, where they remained at His side up to the Cross, unlike most of the male disciples who escaped (cf. Mk 15: 50–51; Mt 27: 56. 61; 28: 1). She discovered the empty tomb and conveyed the news of Easter (Mk 15: 47; 16: 1). This is according to the ‘canonical’ ending of Mark that explicitly says that the risen Jesus appeared first to her (against Paul who says that He appeared first to Peter: 1 Cor 15: 5). She is, according to that, the first carrier of the Christian message and it is logical that, in a symbolic sense, she has been identified with the anointing woman, who I mentioned before. The Gospel of John kept the tradition of the presence of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb (Jn 20: 1), but afterwards it developed, in an exemplary way, her paschal experience, presenting her as the first witness of the resurrection, in the perspective of love.
The disciples’ representative
She was by the Cross of Jesus, although her role was eclipsed by Jesus’ mother and the beloved disciple (Jn 19: 25–27), and then, against the synoptic tradition (cf. Mk 15: 47 and par), she does not appear as a witness of the burial (Jn 19: 38–42). However, she goes to the tomb on Easter Sunday (without carrying the perfume to anoint Jesus, against Mk 16: 1).
According to the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene went twice to the tomb of Jesus. First, alone; she no longer needed the companions who, according to tradition, were with her. She went by herself but acts as a representative of all the disciples, so that, when she found the tomb empty (Jn 20: 1), she returned to tell Peter and the beloved disciple, official representatives of the community. Then, she went with the two disciples, who found the tomb empty.
They left but she remained in the garden with the intention of picking up a dead man (a corpse) and taking it to her home (to live, forever, with death). But Jesus showed her He was alive, gardener of the new garden of life. He called her by name and told her: “Mary, go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ and she told them that He had said these things to her” (Jn 20: 16–18).
Certainly, in its current form, this story came later and responds to the theology of the Gospel of John—but conveys a key element of the beginning of Christianity: the Easter experience (i.e. the origin of the Church) is a memoir and an encounter of love.

The paschal experience

At first, Mary went to the tomb to honour a corpse, as women (and men) have done for centuries. However, her search for a ‘body’ became a meeting with a person, a friend who welcomed her (and let Himself be touched) to give her a task: “Go!” In this way, the paschal experience is not a feeling or pure evasion, but the discovery of a living brotherhood: “Go and tell my brothers...” And Mary went...”

The seeker of a dead man became a partner and animator of living people, a founder of the Church. From ancient times (at least since Celsus, 2nd century A.D.), the Church has been criticised by saying that Christianity is a visionary experience of a group of Jesus’ friends and that the testimony they have given of having seen Him, is biased, since friends see things that are not objective, distorting reality. Consequently, the witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus (the founders of the Church) should have been ‘neutral’ people, politicians such as Herod or Pilate, economists, philosophers. Those who argue thus do not know what they say, because the Easter experience is a testimony of creative friendship.

There are realities which only friends manage to discover and convey. The paschal reality is one of them, or rather, “a love reality” in its most profound sense. Only those who love can truly live and generate life. Such was the experience of Mary Magdalene, woman open to love, in the garden of death, which changed into a new paradise, a place where life begins. Logically, Mary Magdalene, the lover, the friend of Jesus, was and remains for the Church the first who gave testimony of the resurrection. {The whole text in Spanish can be read in: http://blogs.periodistadigital.com}


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