St. Mary Magdalene

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Mary Magdalene was one of the original Galilean disciples of Jesus and one of the many women who followed him in his itinerant ministry. Little can be said of her origins; she is characterized simply as a “woman from whom seven demons had gone out.” There is no scriptural basis for the later tradition that depicted her as a penitent prostitute. All four Gospels name her among the women who followed Jesus to Golgotha and there witnessed his passion and death. While (according to the Synoptic Gospels) all the male disciples fled, it was these women who remained faithful to the end, and who went to his tomb on the third day, hoping to anoint his body. 

They found, instead, an empty tomb, guarded by an angel who revealed that Jesus was raised from death. The women were charged to tell the disciples to meet the Lord back in Galilee. In the Gospels of John and Matthew (as well as the longer ending of Mark), Mary actually sees the Risen Lord. According to John, Mary was weeping outside the tomb when she saw Jesus. She failed at first to recognize him, until he addressed her with a single word: “Mary.” “Rabbouni! Teacher,” she cried. He instructed her to go to the disciples and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” It was Mary Magdalene, the faithful disciple, who first proclaimed this good news to the Twelve. Thus she has often been called the “Apostle to the Apostles.” In 2016 Pope Francis elevated her memorial to a feast day on the Roman calendar, giving her the same level of celebration as the male apostles. 

“I have seen the Lord.” —St. Mary Magdalene 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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