Saturday, July 21, 2007

In Defense of the Magdalen

On tomorrow's feast of St. Mary Magdalen, I am pained when I think of the numerous blasphemies which have recently circulated in her regard. Such flagrant absurdities are easily refuted from an historical point of view; a number of books have recently done so.

Not that it is anything new. The lies about St. Mary Magdalen were previously spread by the medieval Cathars, a Manichean sect who held the gnostic belief in two gods, a good one and a bad one, denying the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. They could hardly be regarded as Christians in any sense of the word. But I do not intend to go into any of that here; I merely want to share a personal reflection about the great and holy Magdalen.

Penitent Magdalen kissing the feet of Christ; detail of 14th century panel, Siena Pinacoteca

In the materialistic, oversexualized society in which we must work out our salvation, we have forgotten, if we ever knew at all, what it is to really fall in love with God. The woman of Magdala, the courtesan of the Roman resort, knew the unhappiness and degradation of being exploited and used. The love of the Son of God, restoring her human dignity with His words and glance, caused her to throw herself at His feet, even as she shattered the jar of alabaster. With the precious ointment she gave her entire self in a complete oblation.

...And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. (John 12:4) The fragrance of her repentant love continues to emanate throughout the entire Church, the house of God, especially in the person of the consecrated religious, and all those who kneel in awe before the Blessed Sacrament.

The ancient tradition of the church tells of how the Magdalen, after Our Lord's Ascension into Heaven, went to the South of France and lived in solitude and contemplation in a cave on a mountain. It is that region in which was born the culture of chivalry and courtly love. St. Mary Magdalen was named the patroness of lovers, not of unsanctified love but of chaste love, of the love that requires sacrifice, unselfishness and renunciation in which to thrive. She represents the spiritual love which enhances the beauty of the union of bride and groom, that union which foreshadows nothing less than the union of Christ with His Bride the Church in the Paradise of eternity.

Mary Magdalen at the foot of the cross

Mary Magdalen
at the foot of the cross

In the Litany of the Saints, the Magdalen's name appears before the list of all the virgins, so highly prized is her humility and repentance by the Church. May she pray for all woman and girls who are being exploited and for our society, enslaved by its worship of license, a license which is opposed to true freedom. May she pray for my ongoing conversion, and accept this small virtual votive light for all the intentions we offer her on today.



Sylvia said...

Wonderful reflection, God bless!

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks h.s. and God bless you on this feast of the Apostle to the Apostles!!

Anonymous said...

This is truly a wonderful posting. The Magdalen broght the faith to France and it is through her most humble heart that France found conversion from paganism. Here is a film which describes her unique mission to the Eldest Daughter. Thanks for posting.

de Brantigny

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Monsieur de Brantigny! John Bird's film is indeed wonderful! Thanks for recommending it!