Apostle to the Apostles
Mary Magdalen by Bernadino Luini, 1525
The feast day of Mary Magdalene is a time to commemorate the greatest teacher in the first generation of the church: Mary of Magdala.
Though she is reduced in the canonical gospels to a few, select, cameo appearances (and it’s hard to tell how many, since most women in the gospels are called “Mary”), in the Gnostic sources (notably the Gospel of Philip, the Dialogue of the Saviour and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene) her role is clarified as the disciple who really gets it. Mary is a lady of position and considerable means who is with Jesus at all times.
Not all of the other disciples are as thick as Peter, of course, they often grasp some of what Jesus is saying, but he makes it clear that among them Mary is first in her ability to understand. From a Johannite perspective, I feel it’s important to note that this understanding she had developed hadn’t come from any great feat of study – as far as we can tell Mary developed her understanding through devoted listening. She had an intimate and gentle relationship with the teacher and she opened herself to love of him and to listening attentively, contemplatively.
At an allegorical level, Mary can symbolise Divine Wisdom having descended to humankind in order to create the possibility of our liberation. Initially innocent, she becomes lost in the world and unable to find her way out. Finally she encounters the Logos, the Word, who follows her into the world to assist her in returning to Union. United in the bridal chamber they are both liberated and return to the Light.
On a literal level, Mary’s took longer to return than Jesus. The tradition speaks of her continuing to teach for decades after The Crucifixion. One delightful tale tells of her attending a dinner held by Tiberius Caesar and on meeting him, producing a plain egg and proclaiming, “Christ is risen”. The Caesar retorted that this was about as likely as the egg turning red, and as he watched – it did.
The egg is Mary’s symbol: an ikon of new life, of the hidden waiting to be revealed.
So, join us this Sunday for a service to celebrate the feast of Holy Mary of Magdala and stay afterwards for a simple dinner in the hall. If you’re inclined, bring along a dish, or a cake or some fruit to help out.
The service this Sunday will be a “Sophianic Eucharist”. The service praises Sophia or Holy Wisdom as the immanent, feminine face of the Divine and celebrates the sacred marriage between the immanent and transcendent aspects of Spirit. The service features prayer and chant and the sharing of the Body and the Blood in the form of bread and wine.
Shared Dinner – 7pm
A potluck dinner follows the service. Please stay and join us.
This week, the AJC celebrates the sixth anniversary of our patriarch, Mar Ioannes IV, taking his seat on the throne of St John. Long may he watch over us.