In 1900, when our parish was dedicated to our patron, Saint Mary Magdalen was thought of as the first and greatest of penitents. This was because Mary Magdalen was conflated with other unnamed sinful women who were touched by Jesus in the gospel. Scripture tells us specifically Mary was cured of seven demons by Jesus (Lk 8:1). She was wounded, but not necessarily that sinful.
The readings for the Mass of her memorial feast portray her as one who seeks for Jesus in the darkness of morning (Jn 20:1-2). This is reminiscent of the bride who leaves her bed during the night and searches the city for her missing groom (Song 3:1-4b), symbolizing the Church in search of the loving God. When finding Christ, Mary Magdalen does not recognize him first off. When she does recognize him, she witnesses to the apostles (Jn 20:11-18) and becomes, as the prayer for her Mass says, the first entrusted with the joyful news of Christ’s resurrection.
The images in our parish portray Mary Magdalen as a myrrhophore or ointment bearer. These images of myrrhophore are the way Mary Magdalen appeared in the earliest Christian art. It was the way early Christians portrayed Mary Magdalen as the witness to the resurrection as recounted in the New Testament. Her carrying the ointment to anoint the crucified Jesus captures her just before she discovers the risen Christ. By being the ointment bearer she is one who seeks Jesus. Through seeking Jesus she finds the resurrected Christ, the Anointed One, not anointed by myrrh, but by God to bring new life and the forgiveness of sins. After discovering Christ, she becomes the first witness to the resurrected life God gives to us all through Christ.
For us here at St. Mary Magdalen parish, Mary Magdalen serves as a model mystic and steward.
Mystics today must stand silently in the midst of the tensions of our lives pondering these tensions and allowing them to lead us in their proper time to a sense of fullness. Mary Magdalen stood at the foot of the cross, not cursing the evil nor casting blame.
She stood silently in that tension which led her to his empty tomb.
With prayerful pondering, stewards today are able to connect to God’s presence in their busy lives. Their hearts are able to ask, “How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me?” (Ps 116:12). They are able to respond by giving of their time, talent, and treasure. After having seven demons driven out by Jesus, Mary Magdalen gave of her resources in gratitude to support Jesus’ ministry (Lk 8:3).
Mary Magdalen’s memorial feast day is, July 22. This date is also a significant date for our parish in our history. It was on this date in 1900 that the corner stone of the original church for our parish was laid.