St. Mary Magdelene, "the Penitent" (July 22nd)

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She is called "the Penitent". St. Mary was given the name 'Magdalen' because, though a Jewish girl, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdale, in northern Galilee, and her culture and manners were those of a Gentile. St. Luke records that she was a notorious sinner, and had seven devils removed from her. She was present at Our Lords' Crucifixion, and with Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, at Jesus' empty tomb. Fourteen years after Our Lord's death, St. Mary was put in a boat by the Jews without sails or oars - along with Sts. Lazarus and Martha, St. Maximin (who baptized her), St. Sidonius ("the man born blind"), her maid Sera, and the body of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. They were sent drifting out to sea and landed on the shores of Southern France, where St. Mary spent the rest of her life as a contemplative in a cave known as Sainte-Baume. She was given the Holy Eucharist daily by angels as her only food, and died when she was 72. St. Mary was transported miraculously, just before she died, to the chapel of St. Maximin, where she received the last sacraments.

More about this saint: St. Mary Magdalen (Feast day - July 22) Mary Magdalen was well known as a sinner when she first saw Our Lord. She was very beautiful and very proud, but after she met Jesus, she felt great sorrow for her evil life. When Jesus went to supper at the home of a rich man named Simon, Mary came to weep at His feet. Then with her long beautiful hair, she wiped His feet dry and anointed them with expensive perfume. Some people were surprised that Jesus let such a sinner touch Him, but Our Lord could see into Mary's heart, and He said: "Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved very much." Then to Mary He said kindly, "Your faith has made you safe; go in peace." From then on, with the other holy women, Mary humbly served Jesus and His Apostles. When Our Lord was crucified, she was there at the foot of His cross, unafraid for herself, and thinking only of His sufferings. No wonder Jesus said of her: "She has loved much." After Jesus' body had been placed in the tomb, Mary went to anoint it with spices early Easter Sunday morning. Not finding the Sacred Body, she began to weep, and seeing someone whom she thought was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the Body of her beloved Master had been taken. But then the person spoke in a voice she knew so well: "Mary!" It was Jesus, risen from the dead! He had chosen to show Himself first to Mary Magdalen, the repentent sinner.

from Wikipedia
Mary Magdalene (original Greek Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή),[2] or Mary of Magdala and sometimes The Magdalene, is a religious figure in Christianity. She has been called the second-most important woman in the New Testament after Mary the mother of Jesus.[3] Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. She was present at Jesus' two most important moments: the crucifixion and the resurrection.[4] Within the four Gospels, the oldest historical record mentioning her name, she is named at least 12 times,[5] more than most of the apostles. The Gospel references describe her as courageous, brave enough to stand by Jesus in his hours of suffering, death and beyond.[3]


In the New Testament, Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons",[Lk. 8:2] [Mk. 16:9] sometimes interpreted as referring to complex illnesses.[6] Mary was most prominent during Jesus' last days. When Jesus was crucified by the Romans, Mary Magdalene was there supporting him in his final terrifying moments and mourning his death.[4] She stayed with him at the cross after the male disciples (except John the Beloved) had fled. She was at his burial, and she is the only person to be listed in all four Gospels as first to realize that Jesus had risen and to testify to that central teaching of faith.[7][8] John 20 and Mark 16:9 specifically name her as the first person to see Jesus after his Resurrection. She was there at the "beginning of a movement that was going to transform the West".[4] She was the "Apostle to the Apostles", an honorific that fourth-century orthodox theologian Augustine gave her[9] and that others earlier had possibly conferred on her.


Throughout the centuries there have been many extra-biblical speculations about her role before and after she met Jesus. These have included harlot, wife, mother, and secret lover.[4][5][9]


St. Mary Magdalene is considered by the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches to be a saint, with a feast day of July 22. Other Protestant churches honor her as a heroine in the faith. The Eastern Orthodox churches also commemorate her on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, the Orthodox equivalent of the Western Three Marys.

Four Prominent Marys
Historically, the Greek Orthodox church Fathers, as a whole, distinguished among what they believed to be four Marys:


  • the mother of Christ
  • the "sinner" of Luke 7:36–50;
  • the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Luke 10:38-42 and John 11; and
  • Mary Magdalene.[10]


In the four Gospels, St. Mary Magdalene is nearly always distinguished from other women named Mary by adding "Magdalene" (η Μαγδαληνή) to her name.[2] Traditionally, this has been interpreted to mean that she was from Magdala, a town thought to have been on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Luke 8:2 says that she was actually "called Magdalene". In Hebrew מגדל Migdal means "tower", "fortress"; in Aramaic, "Magdala" means "tower" or "elevated, great, magnificent".[11] Talmudic passages speak of a Miriam "hamegadela se’ar nasha", "Miriam, the plaiter of women’s hair" (Hagigah 4b; cf. Shabbat 104b), which could be a reference to Mary Magdalene serving as a hairdresser.[12]


In the Gospel of John, St. Mary Magdalene is also referred to simply as "Mary" at least twice.[13] Gnostic writings use Mary, Mary Magdalene, or Magdalene.


St. Mary Magdalene's given name Μαρία (Maria) is usually regarded as a Latin form of Μαριὰμ (Mariam), which is the Greek variant used in the Septuagint for Miriam, the Hebrew name for Moses' sister. The name had become very popular during Jesus' time due to its connections to the ruling Hasmonean and Herodian dynasties.[14]

Misnamed a repentant prostitute

Mary Magdalene, shown in a painting by Guido Reni, repenting of her former sinful ways.[15] The Walters Art Museum.

It is almost universally agreed today that characterizations of her as a repentant prostitute are completely unfounded.[3][4][9] However, Mary Magdalene has long been confused with other women also named Mary and some anonymous women whose stories were mistakenly fused into one sensual young sinner. This conflation merging several women into one composite has incorrectly linked the Magdalene with the unnamed sinner (commonly thought to have been a prostitute) in Luke 7:36-50.[3] Though St. Mary Magdalene is named in each of the four gospels in the New Testament, not once does it say that she was a prostitute or a sinner.[4] Nothing in the New Testament even hints of her as a prostitute or a morally loose woman.[9] Contemporary scholarship is said to have restored the understanding of Mary of Magdala as an important early Christian leader.[16][17]


Yet, for many centuries the Western (Catholic) church taught that St. Mary Magdalene was the person mentioned in the Gospels as being both Mary of Bethany and the "sinful woman" who anoints Jesus in Luke.[Lk 7:36–50] The notion of Mary Magdalene being a repentant prostitute has been prevalent over the centuries at least from Ephraim the Syrian in the fourth century, Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century, and many artists, writers and Scripture commentators who followed their lead. From the 12th century Abbot Hugh of Semur (died 1109), Peter Abelard (died 1142), and Geoffrey of Vendome (died 1132) all referred to Mary Magdalene as the sinner who merited the title apostolarum apostola (Apostle to the Apostles), with the title becoming commonplace during the 12th and 13th centuries.[18] Therefore, the repentant prostitute became the dominant persona in St. Mary Magdalene's reputation depiction in Western art and religious literature. In art, she is "often semi-naked, or an isolated hermit repenting for her sins in the wilderness: an outcast. Her primary link with Jesus is as the woman washing and anointing his feet. But we know her best as a prostitute".[4]

This identification was made official by the Western (Catholic) church in a homily given by Pope Gregory I around the year 591. He is described as one of the most influential figures ever to serve as pope. In a famous series of sermons on Mary Magdalene, given in Rome,[19] he identified Magdalene not only with the anonymous sinner in Luke's gospel, but also with Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The seven devils removed from her by Jesus "morphed into the seven capital sins, and Mary Magdalene began to be condemned not only for lust but for pride and covetousness as well".[3] Pope Gregory's homily on Luke's gospel made it an official interpretation of the church that Mary Magdalene was the woman of the “alabaster jar”—a prostitute:

She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously, she was now offering to God in a more praiseworthy manner. She had coveted with earthly eyes, but now through penitence these are consumed with tears. She displayed her hair to set off her face, but now her hair dries her tears. She had spoken proud things with her mouth, but in kissing the Lord’s feet, she now planted her mouth on the Redeemer’s feet. For every delight, therefore, she had had in herself, she now immolated herself. She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance.

— Pope Gregory the Great (homily XXXIII)[19]

With that, St. Mary’s conflicted image was, in the words of Susan Haskins, author of Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor, “finally settled...for nearly fourteen hundred years.”[20]

In 1969, during the papacy of Paul VI, the Vatican, without commenting on Pope Gregory's reasoning,[21] implicitly rejected it by separating Luke's sinful woman, Mary of Bethany, and Mary Magdala via the Roman Missal.[22]

Nevertheless, the reputation still lingers.[4] After being held for so long, the belief became dominant not only in the Western church, but also in some Protestant churches having once been part of the Roman Catholic tradition. The misidentification of St. Mary Magdalene as a repentant prostitute was followed by many writers and artists into the 1990s. Even today it is promulgated by some secular groups. It is reflected in Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis's novel The Last Temptation of Christ, in José Saramago's The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Jesus Christ Superstar, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Jean-Claude La Marre's Color of the Cross and Hal Hartley's The Book of Life.

It was because of this association of St. Mary Magdalene having been a prostitute that she became the patroness of "wayward women", and Magdalene asylums became established to help "save" women from prostitution.[23]