Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the most prominent disciples
of Jesus. Eastern Christianity recognizes her as equal to the apostles. Unfortunately the Western churches often downplay her significance. While
she is sometimes depicted in art as a penitent prostitute, there is no basis for identifying her with the “sinful woman” of Luke 7:37.
In her fine book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault asserts “that we see all four gospels witness to Mary Magdalene as the premiere witness to the resurrection—alone or in a group, but in all cases by name. Given the shifting sands of oral history, the unanimity of this testimony is astounding.” She is the first witness to Christ’s resurrection and the first to announce it publicly.
As Bourgeault observes, “when all the other disciples are fleeing, Mary Magdalene stands firm. She does not run; she does not betray or lie about her commitment; she witnesses. Hers is clearly a demonstration of either the deepest human love or the highest spiritual understanding of what Jesus was teaching, perhaps both.”
How can we stand firm as witnesses to the resurrection?
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington