Posted by: dacalu | 22 April 2019

A Poem for Magdalene

Mary Magdalene has been called the “apostle to the apostles.” The Gospels mention her frequently and, in all four, she discovers the resurrection first. Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ most influential disciples. Some have suggested a romantic or sexual relationship between the two, even marriage. And yet, she was rarely mentioned by early Christian authors. She was regularly conflated with Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus) and the sinful woman of Luke 7.

By at least the 7th century, Christians spoke of her as a reformed prostitute. There is no support for this in scripture or other early writings. I don’t know why it inspires the strong emotion that it does. No-one bats an eye at reformed murderers (Moses and Paul), collaborators (Matthew), and terrorists (Simon). I suspect it has to do with discomfort around physicality, particularly women’s sexuality. I suspect it has to do with distrusting male/female intimacy. And, I suspect it has to do with discomfort around women in power.

Many see prostitutes as beyond redemption; incurably corrupted by their acts; savable in soul, but never in body. They are wrong. (To be clear, this position is erroneous, hateful, and harmful. It offends against the gospel.) It may be inaccurate to call Mary Magdalene a reformed prostitute. (I believe it is. It helped many dismiss her discipleship.) And yet, she would be no less saintly, no less a disciple, for having such a past.

God takes all sorts, including sex-workers. Sex-workers (willing and unwilling, male and female, reformed and reforming) should have a patron. They can find redemption in body as well as soul, redemption as complete as for any other (“all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”). Why should a sex-worker not aspire to be an apostle to apostles? And why should Mary not have special care for them, who have been given, by man’s inhumanity, into her care?

How would Saint Mary respond to rumors about her past and about her relationship with Jesus? I don’t know, but I imagine something like this.

 

 

Magdalene

 

You think you know me

who call me fallen;

it was not I who stumbled

over sex.

 

You think you know me

who proclaim my innocence;

it was not I who feared

to know too much.

 

Before all, I listened and heard.

I reached out and touched.

Before all, I spoke.

 

He was at my fingertips.

He is on the tip of my tongue.

You do not know me,

but listen,

and you may know him.

 

Before the fallen I,

before the redeemed I,

in God’s eyes

we are in love.

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Brilliant and astute, thank you Lucas+!


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