Part II: Mary Magdalene in the history of Christianity and Contemporary Culture Series 2 – 2

Mary Magdalene should and must be remembered more for her cleansed state after being freed from the possession of seven demons by Jesus Christ. She no longer possessed the seven deadly sins – pride, lust, envy, anger, covetousness, gluttony, and sloth. In their place exist the corresponding virtues; the way has been cleared for ‘the seven virgins of light’ [1]

With Mary Magdalene’s purification, she became the most thoroughly sanctified person mentioned in the New Testament and probably in the world. Once healed, she was able to see the spiritual truth that works in all things and the transcendent beauty of Jesus Christ’s teachings, and the wholesome understanding of Christ’s words. In modern terms, her heart and energy centers are open. [2] Mary Magdalene, in her purified state, is the only one who can deliver the risen Christ’s message: “Go to my brethren and tell them I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” At this point, she becomes in the canonical Gospels the “apostle of apostles’ whom the other gospels (from Nag Hammadi, the third-century Pistis Sophia, and so forth) expand upon. [3]

We should ask ourselves: Is it possible to be an ‘apostle of apostles’ if you are not a foremost apostle? The answer is No – therefore, Mary Magdalene was chosen and designated an apostle by the Master. She ministered unto Jesus and the Apostles of her substance. It was already known from the New Testament gospels that Mary was a Jewish woman who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently, of independent means, she accompanied Jesus during his ministry and supported him out of her resources (Mark 15:40-41; Matthew 27:55-56; Luke 8:1-3; John 19:25). Although other information about her is more fantastic, She is portrayed as a prophetic visionary and as a leader among the disciples.( Mark 16:1-9; Matthew 28:1-10; Luke24:1-10; John 20:1, 11-18; Gospel of Peter ).

In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus gives her special teaching and commissions her as an apostle to the apostles to bring them the good news. She obeys and is the first to announce the Resurrection. And to play the role of an apostle, although the term is not specifically used for her. Jesus asks her to represent teaching to the others – to the men who were not to be found at the foot of the Cross during the Crucifixion, the men who did not believe Jesus himself when he told them he would rise. In a way, the teaching Mary received at the Resurrection site is the most important. Tradition hands us a picture of the final moments of Jesus Christ’s life on the Cross. Three figures stand at his feet, three central people whom his teachings will go out into the world (John 19:25): Mother Mary, John the apostle, and Mary Magdalene. Since the 8th century, orthodox tradition has recognized July 22 as the anniversary of Mary Magdalene’s death, and the Catholic Calendar fell in with this custom.

Mary was a prophetic, visionary leader within one sector of the early Christian movement after the death of Jesus. Her contributions to pastoral care and counseling were indeed celebrated and highlighted. In the ‘Sophia of Jesus Christ,’ Mary plays a clear role among those whom Jesus teaches. She is one of the seven women, and twelve men gathered to hear the Savior after the Resurrection but before his ascension. Of these, only five are named to have spoken, including Mary. At the end of his discourse, Jesus told them, I have given you authority over all things as children of light, and they went forth in joy to preach the gospel. Here again, Mary is included among those extraordinary disciples to whom Jesus entrusted his most formal teaching, and she takes a role in the preaching of the gospel.

In the Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is mentioned as one of the three Marys’ who always walked with the Lord and as his companion (59.6-11). In the ‘Pistis Sophia,’ Mary again is preeminent among the disciples, especially in the first three of the four books. She asks more questions than all the rest of the disciples together. And the Savior acknowledges that: Your heart is directed to the Kingdom of Heaven more than all your brothers (26:17-20). Indeed, Mary steps in when the other disciples are despairing to intercede for them before the Savior (218:10-219:2). Her complete spiritual comprehension is repeatedly stressed. She is, however, most prominent in the early second century ‘Gospel of Mary’, which is ascribed pseudonymously to her. More than any other early Christian text, the ‘Gospel of Mary’ presents an unflinchingly good portrait of Mary Magdalene as a woman leader among the disciples.

The Lord himself says she is blessed for not wavering when he appears to her in a vision. When all the other disciples are weeping and frightened, she alone remains steadfast in her faith because she has grasped and appropriated the salvation offered in Jesus’ teachings. Mary models the ideal disciple as she steps into the role of the Savior at his departure, comforts, and instructs the other disciples. Peter asks her to say any words of the Savior, which she might know but that the other disciples have not heard. His request acknowledges that Mary was preeminent among women in Jesus’ esteem, and the question itself suggests that Jesus gave her private instruction. Mary agrees and gives an account of the “secret” teaching she received from the Lord in a vision. The vision is given in the form of a dialogue between the Lord and Mary; it is an extensive account that takes up seven out of the eighteen pages of the work. After the work, Levi confirms that, indeed, the Saviour loved her more than the rest of the disciples (18.14-15). While her teachings do not go unchallenged, the ‘Gospel of Mary’ affirms the truth of her teachings and her authority to teach the male disciples. Mary Magdalene’s dedication and gratitude to Christ were complete. She served Him with everything she had; her money and her labor. She dared to follow Him to the end of His life despite the danger to herself for doing so. She sought to serve Him even after death, and her service to Him was rewarded.

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[1] Pistis Sophia, 271, is a beautiful image of cleansed and renewed energy centers. The Pistis Sophia has been criticized as a highly edited third-century (at the earliest) version of an earlier Questions of Mary, unfortunately, lost. However, we can find in its writings excellent hints about Mary’s reputation.
[2] Leloup, Jean-Yves, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, p. xix
[3] For example: from the Pistis Sophia, 193: “Where I shall be, there will also be my twelve ministers, But Mary Magdalene, John, and the Virgin will tower over all my disciples and over all men who shall receive the mysteries in the Ineffable. And they will be on my right and my left. And I am they, and they are I.”

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