St. Mary Magdalene (First Century)
Mary Magdalene, often remembered as a former prostitute, was a disciple of Jesus. She was one of several women who believed in him and followed him as he preached. The women did not get as much “press” as the twelve apostles, but they were just as faithful and supportive. The other women remain nameless, but Mary Magdalene is prominent in this gathering.
All four gospels name Mary Magdalene as being among the women who followed Jesus to Calvary, where he was crucified. Then they went to his tomb, hoping to anoint his body, and found it empty. An angel guarding the tomb announced that Jesus had been resurrected.
The angel instructed the women to tell the apostles to meet Jesus back in Galilee and mentioned Peter by name. The Gospels tell of Mary Magdalene's vivid encounter with the risen Jesus. Mary was weeping outside the tomb when suddenly she saw Jesus, but she did not recognize him.
Figure 2-2: St. Mary Magdalene
Mary then said to the strange man, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus answered her with one word: “Mary.” She recognized him and cried “Rabboni!” (Rabboni means “teacher”). He instructed her, “Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary went to the apostles and told them she had seen Jesus.
After Mary washed Jesus's feet with her tears, he said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” (Luke 7:47) Through the years the image of Mary Magdalene as a repentent sinner has persisted.
Some religious historians believe that Mary Magdalene is the “Mary” of the two women in the book of Luke: Martha and Mary. Martha tended to household tasks while Jesus preached. Mary, on the other hand, set work aside to sit at his feet and listen to his words. Jesus said, “She has chosen the good part and it will not be taken from her.” There is no proof that this Mary and Mary Magdalene are the same person.
Because Mary proclaimed the good news of the Resurrection to the other disciples, Mary Magdalene has been called “Apostle to the Apostles.” Her feast day is July 22. She is a patron saint of hair stylists, repentant sinners, and repentant prostitutes.
Mary Magdalene was characterized in the early church as “a woman from whom seven demons had gone out,” but scholars in later years debate whether this statement referred to prostitution. She is, however, thought to have been the unnamed repentant “sinner” in the New Testament, who washed Jesus's feet with her tears during the early days of his ministry.