St. Mary Magdalene
“Apostle to the Apostles”
Feast Day: July 22nd
St. Luke writes in Chapter 8: 1 Soon afterward (Jesus) went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Including the passage above, St. Mary Magdalene is mentioned, by my count, 13 times in the Gospels. Significantly, she was at the foot of the cross, at Jesus’ burial, and the first one to whom Jesus appeared on the morning of his Resurrection. As the first witness of the Risen Lord she proclaimed his Resurrection on that first Easter morning to the Apostles; for this reason she is sometimes called, “the Apostle to the Apostles.” (The word “apostle” means “one who is sent forth” as a messenger.)
Immediately preceding the description of St. Mary in Luke 8 as quoted above, there is the episode of an unnamed sinful woman in Luke 7 who enters a Pharisee’s house in Galilee and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears of repentance, wipes his feet with her hair, kisses his feet, and then anoints them with oil. The woman came to be identified as St. Mary Magdalene (which is possible) and her sin as that of a prostitute (maybe, but that is pure conjecture).
At a separate location outside of Galilee, and at a later time, St. Mary of Bethany is described in John 12 as anointing Jesus’ feet. Since some had identified the woman in Luke 7 with St. Mary Magdalene, some went on to conclude that the anointing stories were describing the same incident and the same Mary – St. Mary Magdalene – while ignoring the difference of time and location. We now recognize that mistake and acknowledge St. Mary of Bethany as having her own identity.
What we can be certain of is that St. Mary Magdalene was eternally grateful to our Lord for being delivered from “seven demons” – possibly possession, physical affliction, and serious sin in some combination – whatever she was afflicted with, it was profoundly evil and serious.
And even if she is not the woman described in Luke 7 as anointing Jesus’ feet, we do know that on the morning of the Resurrection she came to the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus. Therefore, when we see her depicted with a jar of ointment, we can associate it with that first Easter morning. (More to come on St. Mary Magdalene.)