Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Mary Magdalene evokes passionate as well as diverse response to those who read the Bible or follow Christianity. Either She is loved and revered or scorned and as Her name does appear a number of times in The Bible, those not in favour of Her, try to wiggle Her presence into the larger scenario as a much needed prop to The Story.
Many know Mary Magdalene as a prostitute who is saved by Lord Jesus. The fallen woman. The one who washed His feet with ointment. A whore who needs to be saved from an angry mob or Her own destiny.
Most of those who do not think much of Mary Magdalene would like to confine Her to being a woman who led a life selling Her body and was saved by Jesus and then followed the right path and that’s that.
There is a section of followers who would like to follow the middle path and not deem Her as a prostitute but One who was graced by the Lord and through His grace became pure and eventually became His disciple.
The ones leaning more towards the right side of the barometer insist that She was not just a disciple but the foremost disciple of Christ. The One who Jesus trusted implicitly and who could understand the depth of the Son of God.
Then those who leant more towards the divinity of Mary Magdalene not only thought Her as the most devout disciple of Jesus Christ but virtually yang to Jesus’s Ying. Shiv Shakti energy with Jesus being Shiv and Mary Magdalene being the Goddess Energy or Shakti.
A large group of followers, the romantics, are certain that She and Jesus thus were lovers.
And then there is an audience who not only believe that She was married to The Lord but also bore His child.
Of course, we have a large following, for whom there is a Church devoted to Her and She is considered as the Apostle of Apostles.
So you have one Mary Magdalene and She could either be a prostitute, disciple, lover, wife, apostle or all.
So who was She in reality?
There are research papers and books, each one insisting She was this or that or none or Lord on a tricycle something totally different.
I have no answers just questions.
I do not write this article as somebody who knows but somebody who seeks.
So bear with my ramblings.
What is it that everybody from the Pope to Santa Claus agree about Mary Magdalene?
First and foremost that there was a woman by the name of Mary Magdalene. She was His disciple. She was close to Jesus. She was present throughout the trial and the verdict, which eventually led to Jesus being violated, spat on, ridiculed, abused, humiliated, thrashed, whipped, nailed, and eventually crucified. All agree that Mary Magdalene was present throughout this violent journey of the Son of God which led His soul to sear heaven bound after leaving His battered body.
All agree that Mary Magdalene along with Mother Mary, never left His side. She was present throughout. Never scared of the consequences of Her proximity to Jesus, while the other members of the Inner Circle or The Mandali fled.
This has been agreed upon by those who favour Mary Magdalene and those who do not think much of Her divinity.
Then, She was present through the bringing down of The Son of God from the Cross, bathing His battered, bloodied, torn, nailed body and putting His body to rest.
This too is agreed upon.
Most importantly, what all agree upon, is that Mary Magdalene was the first one who Jesus showed Himself to, after His Resurrection.
This too is unanimously agreed upon by those who eulogise Mary Magdalene and those who do not think much of Her place in Jesus’s life or Her divinity.
But keeping all this is mind, I would like to believe that Mary Magdalene held a special place in the heart and life of Lord Jesus, as why would Mary Magdalene be the most fortunate One, to witness first the Resurrection of Lord Christ and be spoken to and be given the task of spreading the word of His Resurrection?
There has to be something special about Mary for Her to be present throughout the final hours of Jesus, when He needed His inner circle with Him through the humiliation, violence, struggle of faith through the horrifying pain, passing over, up to His Resurrection. There has to be depth in Their relationship. It cannot be just that of either a prostitute or even a disciple. There has to be something far more special in Their connection. May be Jesus and Mary Magdalene shared a most intimate bond, that of Master and foremost disciple or or dare I say, without being lynched with holy than thou buffoonery, a physical relationship.
So you have Mary Magdalene, the last to leave Jesus’s battered but washed body, when His physical shell was laid to rest. Then on the dawn of the first Sunday after the crucifixion, now known as Easter, She peered into the cave where the Lord’s body was supposedly laid to rest, and to Her disbelief, Her Lord’s body was not in the cave. So Mary Magdalene ran to John and Peter and informed the Inner Circle that Lord Christ’s body was no longer there in the sepulcher. After the cave was searched and Jesus’ body nowhere to be found, it has been written that all left for Their homes, but Mary Magdalene. She stayed and wept and it was then two Angels appeared. One Angel stood at the front while the Other stood where the Lord’s feet were placed, when His body was laid to rest, the same body, which now seemed to have disappeared.
One of the Angels, who saw Mary Magdalene weeping, asked in the most tender of voices, but clearly now in hind sight I would like to believe The Angel needed a crash course in etiquette while speaking to a lady obviously in grief and the words were..“Woman, why weepest thou?”
And She said because Her Lord was taken away and it is written that She turned away to see a Man, who She thought was the gardener though I find it hard to believe, She would turn Her back to Angels but I would like to believe, in moments The Angels disappeared and She turned to see a Man standing near the entrance who She thought to be the gardener and He inquired of Her, “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?”
I know this is recorded in the Bible but I truly believe that the Son of God, who knew the past, present and the future and the beyond the beyond, would hardly ask Mary, woman why weepest thou, whom seekest thou?
I mean, Lord Christ would hardly call Mary, woman, then ask Her why She wept and worse, whom She sought.
And Mary Magadalene asked as to where Her Lord had been laid as She would take Him away.
It was then Lord Christ uttered Her name “Mary” and She realised that it was Him, Her Lord and Master and She cried out “Rabboni”, which means, “Master or Teacher” and then after a few seconds Lord Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, “Do not touch Me”. In some texts it is written that Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to Me”. If the latter is true then obviously it would only mean that Lord Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a relationship that was intimate. It could be intimacy of Master and Disciple, where touch was purely platonic or then it could have been that of Man and Woman as well as Master and Disciple, which would mean a relationship of purity but which involved physical intimacy. That They were more than Master and Disciple, and touch would be an inevitable follow up to complete the troika of body, mind, soul.
What ever takes your fancy, the fact is that She was close to The Christ, and thus She had to be more than what many in Christianity would like to believe. This description of how Mary saw and encountered The Lord is mentioned in John 20:25-29.
And I continue from John’s take. “Then Jesus commissioned Mary to become the first herald of His Resurrection. She had to go and announce the greatest good news ever proclaimed, ‘Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God.’ “(John 20:18).
The name Mary seemed to play an important role in The Lord’s life. First His Mother, Mother Mary, The Queen of Angels and the saviour of the damned, the sinner, and the lost. Then there is Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus. Then Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and also, Mary the wife of Clopas. But strangely the three women to have succumbed to sexual urges are all unnamed so it is a blasted mystery how and why anybody with their working gall bladder should think either of the three is Mary Magdalene.
Another important point to note is that there is a paragraph in which Mary Magdalene is mentioned which only points to the fact that She came from an affluent and prominent family who had dedicated Her life to Jesus.
Now after this [Jesus] made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.
This paragraph also makes it clear that Mary Magdalene suffered from what was known as the
‘seven demons’, which could either refer to the seven cardinal sins, but each human suffers from these sins, or it could even mean She was possessed of some spirit, maybe seven fallen spirits and healed by Jesus and to show Her gratitude and Her love had decided to dedicate Her life to Lord Jesus and also importantly She came from an affluent family.
Jesus was known as the saviour of the damned and the fallen women. He treated women with respect and did not care much about what the world thought about Him or His relationship with them.
There are various passages where it is clear that Mary Magdalene was extremely close to Jesus The Christ.
Peter said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than all other women. Tell us the words of the Savior that you remember, the things which you know that we don’t because we haven’t heard them.”
Mary responded, “I will teach you about what is hidden from you.” And she began to speak these words to them.
In the 9th century, the martyrologist of King Alfred the Great of England in his work says:
“July 22 is the Feast day of Mary of Magdala, who had previously been a sinner plagued by seven demons. She came to see our Lord whilst he was at table in the house of a Jewish Pharisee, carrying a vase of precious perfumed ointment. And the Lord said to her: ‘Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.’
Later she was chosen by Christ to witness his apparition at the Resurrection, the first of all mortals, and to announce his Resurrection to the Apostles.
After the Ascension, being torn with such terrible grief at his absence, she withdrew to a barren land where she remained for thirty years. Never in need of nourishment, God’s angels came down seven times a day and transported her up to where she could hear the celestial music of heaven, and then carried her back to her grotto carved in the rock. It is for this reason that she was never hungry or thirsty.
And so it came to pass that after thirty years, a priest went to meet her in the desert and led her to his church. He gave her holy communion, whereafter she rendered her spirit to God, and the priest buried her. And many miracles took place at her tomb.”
The reason why Mary Magdalene has been reduced to a state of everlasting conjecture is because those who were responsible in the spreading of Christianity, those who sages in deep meditative trance refer to as ‘ the old farts’, decided that the best way to keep women in ‘their place’, was to relegate all women in the Bible to obscurity. They tried to with Mother Mary. They did so with Mary Magdalene.
Both Mother and Disciple-lover-wife, were two pillars of Lord Jesus. It is obvious that Lord Jesus shared a bond with both of Them, that He shared with none. To glorify Their relationship with the Son of God, would only necessitate women to be given more importance.
Once again, I write this as a seeker. The fact that Mary Magdalene was given the responsibility to spread the news of The Lord’s Resurrection reveals the tremendous faith Jesus had in Her and also that Her words would carry weight amongst the disciples and believers, should point out the wisdom and grace and class with which Mary Magdalene had lived Her life.
It says a lot. I do not know or care whether Jesus and Mary were lovers or whether They married or had a child with Their union. How does all that matter. Whether Mary Magdalene was earlier a prostitute or possessed with seven demons, should in fact make it clear, how little Jesus too thought about all this nonsense. The fact that She was with Him till the end and from the very beginning of His Resurrection, is what matters.
Little wonder that Mary Magdalene is known as The Apostle of Apostles. Pray to Her if you are damned, lost or caught up in the by lanes of darkness. She has gone through that lot and thus Her compassion and empathy will light your path with Her Radiance and love.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha