She was the wife of Jesus and is the Holy Grail.
She embodies the “sacred feminine.” She, not Peter, was meant to be the head apostle. The Church sought to destroy her reputation and slandered her name, forcing her to flee for her life. She is the Mary Magdalene of The Da Vinci Code, a mythical creation who is part priestess, part goddess and all nonsense. But the real Magdalene is a far cry from the mythological feminist martyr.
The Church, according to a character in Dan Brown’s novel,
“outlawed speaking of the shunned Mary Magdalene.” The truth is quite
different. There are at least a dozen references to Mary from Magdala (a town on the western shore of the
A third woman was also identified with Mary Magdalene: Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Luke 10:38-42; John 11). In the Eastern Church, however, the three women were identified separately, with feast days on March 21 (the unnamed sinner), March 18 (Mary of Bethany), and July 22 (Mary Magdalene).
Mary Magdalene has a prominent role in the Gospels as witness to Christ’s resurrection, remarkable considering the low value placed on the testimony of women in first century Jewish society. Yet despite being mentioned more times than some of the apostles (Thaddeus, for example, is named just twice), some feminist writers speak of her being marginalized by a piece of propaganda called the New Testament, written by “the anti-Magdalene party.”
The prime suspect in this alleged crime against femininity is Pope Gregory the Great (c. 540-604). On Sept. 21, 591, he preached a homily based on Luke 7:36-50 — the story of the woman “who was a sinner” who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil. “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary,” Pope Gregory stated, “we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?”
Many early Church Fathers remarked about the
Magdalene and she was described by Hippolytus (c.
170-236) as “the apostle to the apostles” in his commentary on the Song of
Songs. By the eighth century the
The cult of Mary Magdalene was established at Vézelay, the Romanesque church in Burgandy founded in the ninth century and originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary. During the abbacy of Geoffrey (1037-1052) she was recognized as the patron of that church in a papal bull dated April 27, 1050 by Pope Leo IX. At the same time, relics of the Magdalene were being sought and gathered in earnest, and soon Vézelay became a major destination for pilgrimages.
A leading tradition in the West
held that Mary Magdalene, Martha and Lazarus were expelled from
What is clear is that St. Mary Magdalene has been beloved and celebrated by Catholics for many centuries. She was a brave disciple who stood at her Savior’s cross; she was also a witness to the resurrected Christ. Far from being slandered, Mary of Magdala is recognized as an exemplar of faithfulness to the truth of the Gospel of her Master and Lord.
Carl E. Olson is the co-author,
with Sandra Miesel, of
The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code
published by Ignatius Press.
He is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.