This year, as we journey toward the cross, and later, the empty tomb, we not only prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, who became Christ; we work together to resurrect the Magdalene from 2000 years of dismissal. Together we invite Mary Magdalene to rise from the dead – the death that was accomplished at the hands of a patriarchal and hierarchical world that could not imagine a woman as equal to the man they made into a god.
Through a re-reading of scripture, input, discussion and prayerful contemplation, we will take Mary off the cross upon which she suffered her death and restore her to her rightful place as co-equal with Christ. Like Jesus, Mary became fully self-actualized, living by and for the purpose of Love, and is now showing us how to do the same.
In the Catholic tradition in which I was raised, there are two separate masses that are offered on Holy Thursday during Lent – The Chrism Mass and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The Chrism Mass is celebrated by the bishop of the local diocese, in the company of other bishops, priests, deacons and a few lay people.
The Chrism Mass is the occasion on which the bishop blesses the holy oils that will be used across the diocese: oil of the sick, chrism oil and oil of the catechumens. These are the oils used wherever there is a sacramental anointing, such as the anointing of the sick, the anointing of those about to be or newly baptized, and the anointing of priests and confirmandi. After blessing the oils, they are then distributed to the clergy in attendance, who then use these oils in the aforementioned sacramental rites.
It is also during the Chrism mass when the attending priests and deacons renew their promises to serve. As such, I thought it appropriate, during our week dedicated to resurrecting the Magdalene that we restore Mary Magdalene (and all women with her) to her place as deacon, priest and bishop. Not priest in the clerical sense that we have come to know, but priest in the way that Jesus was priest – as one called to serve in the midst of and among the people, humble, not set apart, willing to stoop down and wash the feet of those she lovingly served.
Scripture/Meditation Exercise I
Read the following scripture passage as if it is Mary Magdalene speaking these words. As you are reading, look for a word or phrase that jumps out at you. Allow yourself to receive this word/phrase as the Divine’s nourishment, guidance, instruction or comfort. Repeat that word or phrase in your mind over and over and over as a mantra, allowing the word/phrase to lead you into a deep and peaceful state. Reflect on what that word/phrase is saying to you. After spending 10-20 minutes with that word/phrase, record your thoughts and reflections in your notebook or journal. After writing, enjoy a few minutes of silence, simply allowing your meditation to take deeper root in you.
The Spirit of the The Mother is upon me, because Our Queen has anointed me; She has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor and a day of vindication, to comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit. You yourselves shall be named priests of the Mother, ministers of our Divine Lady shall you be called. I will give them their recompense faithfully, a lasting covenant I will make with them. Their descendants shall be renowned among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; All who see them shall acknowledge them as a race the Mother has blessed.
IS 61: 1-3a, 6a, 8b-9
Scripture/Meditation Exercise II
“Magdalene,” is not a surname, neither does it designate a place of birth. Instead, Magdalene is a title meaning “great tower” or “great beacon” of faith. Mary, called Magdalene, is the only one in scripture upon whom this title was bestowed.
Margaret Starbird, in her great work, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, suggests that the scripture passage below prefigures the Magdalene as the tower of the flock, and that in her coming, those who have been in exile would be restored to wholeness.
Every single human being who suffers the false perception of separation from their Divine Source is in exile. Having been healed of this separation herself, Mary comes to support our healing. Mary’s task is Universal as Divine Love is universal.
For some, the reconciliation the Magdalene provides is more specific and personal – it is the reconciliation of all those who have been exiled by the patriarchal/hierarchical institution – women, heterosexuals, non-Christians, and free-thinkers, who have been condemned for their obedience to the Divine within over institutional law.
Read the scripture passage below slowly and prayerfully, imagining that it is the Magdalene that is the tower of the flock, she that will restore all those who suffer the wound of separation, and/or those who have been exiled for standing boldly in the truth and law of Love. Record your thoughts and reflections in your journal or notebook.
Restoration Promised after Exile
In that day, says the Lord, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away, and those whom I have afflicted. The lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion now and forevermore.
And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come, the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem.
Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king or queen in you? Has your counselor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in labor? Writhe and groan, O daughter Zion, like a woman in labor; for now you shall go forth from the city and camp in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued, there the Lord will redeem you from the hands of your enemies.
Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be profaned, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.” But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter Zion, for I will make your horn iron and your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples, and shall devote their gain to the Lord, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.
Micah 4: 6-13
Scripture/Meditation Exercise III
Slowly and meditatively read the passage below from the Book of Revelation. Envision Mary, called Magdalene as the “woman clothed with the sun.” After reading and reflecting on this passage, write your own poem or prose piece on Mary’s story – on how her story, her presence, her role, her importance, and her voice were excised from the Jesus narrative and eventually from the institution of Christianity. Write the story from either Mary’s perspective, or from the perspective of the author of Revelation (John the Evangelist).
A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.
REV 12: 1-6