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St. Mary Magdalene icon by Theophilia St. Mary Magdalene icon by Theophilia
St. Mary Magdalene icon
© Cecilia Lawrence
September 3rd, 2018
4.5 x 6 inches
Ink, watercolor, gold leaf


“Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much.”
~ Luke 7:47

"The sweet fragrance of thine ointment
all the earth is filling now;
and thy tears are turned to jewels
for a crown upon thy brow:
there are thousands in all ages
come to Christ because of thee,
Oh then, Mary, with thy converts
in thy kindness number me!"

~ from Saint Mary Magdalene by Fr. Frederick Faber

“Not she with trait'rous kiss her Saviour stung,
Not she denied Him with unholy tongue;
She, while apostles shrank, could danger brave,
Last at His cross, and earliest at His grave.”

~ Eaton Stannard Barrett

"While countless kings and generals and the noble exploits of those whose memorials remain, have sunk into silence;
while those who have overthrown cities and encompassed them with walls, and set up trophies, and enslaved many nations,
are not known so much as by hearsay, nor by name, though they have both set up statutes and established laws;
yet this woman, who was a harlot and who poured out oil in the house of some leper in the presence of a dozen men
—this all men celebrate through the world."

~ St. John Chrysostom

This is my image of the great “apostle to the apostles” St. Mary Magdalene! I have depicted her dressed in the garb of a first-century Jewish woman in her traditional colors of red and green. For her jewelry (the gems of which are also red and green) I referenced the designs shown on the funerary portrait busts of wealthy women from Palmyra, in Syria. She holds an alabaster jar in her hands as a reference to the two anointings mentioned in the Gospels as well as to her title of “Myrrh-bearer” as she was one of the women disciples who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’s body and was thus one of the first witnesses of the Resurrection. This image is dedicated particularly to dashinvaine who I know has a special interest in St. Mary Magdalene.

A quick note on the biography. There is a current debate among biblical scholars (some of which is politically-motivated) about the identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and the sinful woman. The traditional view in the West (until the Reformation) was that they were one and the same person, and I have followed this tradition in my biography of her. The book Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love by Fr. Sean Davidson has an in-depth and detailed discussion about the biblical questions (and history of the questions and controversy itself) surrounding the identity of Mary Magdalene in this regard.

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:+: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF THE SAINT :+:

Saint Mary Magdalene (early first century A.D. – c. 75? A.D.), was a Jewish woman born in the first-century A.D. in the Roman Province of Iudaea. The town of Magdala—from whence she gets her surname—was located right on the Sea of Galilee, situated half-way between Capernaum and Tiberias (about 3 miles from each town). In Mary Magdalene’s time, the whole region of Galilee was then part of the Herodian tetrarchy ruled by Herod Antipas, and Magdala itself was a wealthy, metropolitan resort town frequented by Greek and Roman visitors which had a reputation for vice and licentiousness.

Mary may have been born either in Magdala (or alternatively got her reputation there after moving to the region) or possibly in Bethany near Jerusalem—where her brother and sister Lazarus and Martha lived. Evidently she was wealthy (which would be unsurprising since she lived in Magdala) and was able to support Christ and his disciples out of her financial resources. In any case, she is first mentioned by name in the Gospel during Christ’s early Galilean ministry: “Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.” (Luke 8:1-3)

As Frank Sheed writes in his book To Know Jesus Christ: “The devil can afflict the body, as we have seen. But “seven devils” suggests something more spectacular in the way of demonic control. She is named for the first time a few verses after the episode of the sinful woman who (Luke 7:36-50), from an alabaster box, anointed Jesus’ feet as he sat at table in Simon the Pharisee’s house at Capernaum in Galilee. Was Mary Magdalen this woman? Was she Lazarus’ sister Mary who, as we read in Mark 14, Matthew 26, John 12, from an alabaster box anointed Jesus’ feet as he sat at table in Simon the Leper’s house at Bethany in Judea? Lazarus and his family may have moved from Magdala to Bethany—perhaps because of the shameful life his sister Mary had lived before her repentance. Jesus may have made theirs the one home he was in the habit of visiting in Judea precisely because they were old friends from Galilee—Magdala is near Capernaum. They may—He may—no one knows.”

Just before she is mentioned by name, Luke also records the incident of the pardoning of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his great work Life of Christ paints the scene:
“While visiting the Galilean towns early in His public life and before open hostility had broken out, a rich Pharisee named Simon invited Our Lord to his home for a meal. He had heard of the acclaim given Our Lord by the people and was anxious to determine for himself whether He was really a prophet or a teacher. Curiously enough, there was someone else in the vicinity who was also anxious to meet Our Lord, but her interests were higher. She had a burden on her conscience, and wanted to see Him as Savior from her guilt. Great as was her shame, she did not permit it to hold her back even in the face of those who might condemn her. Our Lord thus found Himself between one who was curious about Him as a Teacher and another who was penitent before Him as a Savior…

…While the meal was being served, an untoward incident happened. Simon looked up, and what he saw brought a blush to his cheek. he would not have minded it if anyone else had been there, but This Man! What would He think of it? The intruder was a woman; her name was Mary; her profession, a sinner, a common woman of the streets. She moved slowly across the floor, not brushing back her hair, for it acted as a screen against the gaze of the Pharisee. She stood at the feet of Our Blessed Lord, and let fall upon those sandaled harbingers of peace, like the first drops of warm summer rain, a few tears. Then, ashamed of what she had done, she bent lower as if to hide her shame, but the fountain of tears would not be stilled. Emboldened because unreproved, she cast herself on her knees and began to wipe the tears from His feet with her long disheveled hair. To anoint the head was the usual course, but she would not venture such an honor, but would make bold in her humility to anoint only His feet. Taking from her veil a vessel of precious perfume, she did not pour it out drop by drop, slowly, as if to indicate by the very slowness of giving the generosity of the giver. She broke the vessel and gave everything, for love knows no limits. She was not paying tribute to a sage; she was unburdening her heart of her sins. She had certainly seen and heard Him before, and she was certain that somehow He might give her new hope. There was love in her boldness, repentance in her tears, sacrifice and surrender of self in her ointment.”

Simon the Pharisee, watching the scene unfold in his own home said nothing, but he thought to himself, If this man were a prophet, He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner. Jesus, reading his thoughts, said to him: “Simon, I have something to say to you. Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” Jesus then said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning to the woman He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then Jesus turned to the woman and said to her: “Your sins are forgiven.” and “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Pope St. Gregory the Great, in one of his Homilies wrote this:
“She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. What did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? It is clear, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously, she was now offering to God in a more praiseworthy manner. She had coveted with earthly eyes, but now through penitence these are consumed with tears. She displayed her hair to set off her face, but now her hair dries her tears. She had spoken proud things with her mouth, but in kissing the Lord's feet, she now planted her mouth on the Redeemer's feet. For every delight, therefore, she had had in herself, she now immolated herself. She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance.”

Mary Magdalene, along with other holy women ministered to Christ and to His disciples, and even—along with her brother Lazarus and sister Martha—opened up her home to Him in Bethany (which was situated some two miles from Jerusalem, making it a convenient resting stop for pilgrims to Jerusalem). She is next mentioned in this context along with her sister Martha. While Jesus rested after His journey and spoke to them, Mary sat at His feet and listened attentively to Him. Martha was busied with work caring for all the guests and said, rather flustered, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” But Jesus gently rebuked her, saying, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Because of this exchange, Martha is often seen as a symbol of the active life, whereas Mary symbolizes the contemplative life.

Mary and Martha are next mentioned in connection with the resurrection of Lazarus at Bethany, at the very end of the Lord’s public ministry. In fact, shortly before His death. John, writing later specifically identified Mary with the sinful woman pardoned earlier by Jesus: “Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.” (John 11:1-2) The two sisters informed Jesus of the deadly illness with the tender words, “Master, the one you love is ill” and urged Him to come and heal their brother. Jesus, upon hearing the message, said: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” and remained where He was for two days. He then told His disciples that they were going to go back to Judea, where persecution was sure to find them. When pressed by His disciples for the reason, Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus had died. By the time they arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been buried for four days. A great number of people were in Bethany, to offer their condolences to the two sisters. When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she ran out to meet Him while Mary stayed at home. It was to Martha that Jesus promised to raise her brother from the dead. She proclaimed her faith in Him, and then sent for Mary to come too. Mary came quickly and many of the other mourners followed her too. She threw herself at His feet and cried, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” On seeing her grief, Jesus was deeply moved, and when they went to the tomb, Jesus began to weep. But after praying to the Father, in the sight of all those gathered, Jesus cried, “Lazarus, come out!” and Lazarus came and wonder and belief struck many of those present. Others, however, hardened their hearts even more and the resurrection of Lazarus sealed the death of Jesus in the minds of many of the religious leaders.

Soon afterwards, a banquet was held for Jesus in Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary present, along with Jesus’ disciples. Mary came in with an alabaster jar of costly spikenard. She broke the jar and poured it out on Jesus’ head. Judas, with hypocritical indignation protested and said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” Jesus rebuked him and replied, “Leave her alone. She has done a good thing for Me. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor with you and whenever you wish you can do good for them, but You will not always have Me. She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” It was after this rebuke that Judas went to the chief priests and received money to betray Him. Frank Sheed, remarking on this incident in his book To Know Jesus Christ says:
“It will have been noticed that St. Luke, who does describe that earlier meal in Bethany at which Martha served and Mary adored [Luke 10:38-42], does not mention this one. But then Luke [Luke 7:36-50] is the only one to tell of an anointing by a sinful woman, as Jesus sat at table in Capernaum, the host, there too, being named Simon. Was that the same incident?...There are similarities, indeed, yet they read like separate incidents. In Capernaum, the host is hostile, or at least not friendly. He shows the bare civilities, none of the courtesies. In Bethany, Lazarus is a fellow guest and Martha helps with the serving—we cannot imagine any courtesy left unshown with Martha there. We note also the difference of the reactions of the extravagant gesture of the anointing. In Capernaum the criticism is of Christ—if He had been a true prophet, He would have known the woman’s sinfulness and not allowed her near Him. In Bethany, the criticism is of the woman—the money might have been spent upon relieving the miseries of the poor (true, but Jesus reminded them that they had Himself only briefly, the poor would be there for their charity for the rest of their lives).

If there were two anointings, were there two anointers? Was Mary of Bethany the “sinful woman” of the Capernaum scene? And was either (or both?) Mary Magdalen? The Gospels do not answer one question or the other. One can only record an impression that the two anointings were the work of one woman: the similarities are too great for coincidence—especially the utterly improbable drying of his feet with the woman’s hair. Even the alabaster vase of Capernaum was surely the one used in Bethany—never to be used a third time, for, as Mark tells us, Mary broke the neck of it before pouring out the oil of nard.

Was Mary of Bethany Mary Magdalen? Glance at Jesus’ answer to the criticism of her extravagance: it is given slightly differently by Matthew, Mark and John: but in all it linked her act of anointing of his body for burial. And Mary Magdalen was one of those who brought the ointment to the tomb—the ointment they did not need to use. Here in Bethany was the anointing for the burial.”


Mary Magdalene is next mentioned by name at the foot of the Cross, along with the Virgin Mary, Mary of Alphaeus/Cleophas, Mary Salome the wife of Zebedee, and her son John, and other “women who had come up with Him from Galilee” (Luke 23:55). Commenting on this in his Life of Christ Archbishop Fulton Sheen says: “Close to the Cross was the only Apostle present, John, whose face was like a cast molded out of love; Magdalen was there too, like a broken flower, a wounded thing. But foremost among all—God pity her!—was His own Mother. Mary, Magdalen, John; innocence, penitence, and priesthood; the three types of souls forever to be found beneath the Cross of Christ.” After the death of Jesus on the Cross, Joseph of Arimathea came and took His body away and buried Him in his own tomb in a garden nearby. Since the Sabbath was fast approaching, the women didn’t have time to anoint and embalm the body. When the huge stone was rolled across the entrance to the tomb, Matthew records that Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” (perhaps Mary of Alphaeus or Mary Salome, John’s mother) remained sitting at the tomb.

On Saturday, the high priests acquired guards from Pilate to watch over the tomb. On Sunday morning at early sunrise, the three Maries (Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome, and Mary of Alphaeus) went to the tomb with he spices they had prepared to anoint Jesus’ body. When they arrived, they found the stone rolled away and two angels clothed in white seated there who told them not to be afraid, that Jesus was there no more because he had been raised from the dead. They then commanded the thunderstruck women to go and tell the disciples, still hiding in fear. The women fled in fear and Mary Magdalene rushed back and informed Peter and John, who then ran to the tomb and found the burial cloths. After they had left, Mary Magdalene stayed behind at the tomb and wept. The two angels asked her why she was weeping, but she was so overwhelmed with grief she only cried, “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they laid Him.” She then turned around and saw a man she believed to be the gardener. When He repeated the question “Woman, why are you weeping?” she cried out desperately, “Sir, if you carried Him away, tell me where you laid Him, and I will take Him.” Jesus then spoke her name “Mary!” and she suddenly realized that it was Jesus Himself. She, with a cry of joy, called out: “Rabbouni!” Frank Sheed writes this:
“We observe two things, perhaps, especially. The first is that she did not at once recognize Him. The second is His mysterious opening word to her: “Do not cling to Me, for I am not yet ascended to My Father.” Scholars have wondered at the connection between the two clauses, and indeed it does not leap instantly to the mind how one follows from the other. I can only report my own liking for one possible solution. Jesus was telling her that this was no momentary apparition of one who had died and gone to Heaven: if it had been, anyone who loved Him might indeed have clung despairingly to Him. But He had not yet ascended to His father: He would be here upon earth for a while yet: she would see Him again.”

Jesus gently told her to stop clinging to Him, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene then ran off with joy to the apostles, loudly crying, “I have seen the Lord!” Earning her the title “apostle to the apostles.” Commenting on this incident in the Resurrection narrative, Archbishop Fulton Sheen writes this: “Only purity and sinlessness could welcome the all holy Son of God into the world; hence, Mary Immaculate met Him at the door of earth in the city of Bethlehem. But only a repentant sinner, who had herself risen from the grave of sin to the newness of life in God, could fittingly understand the triumph over sin. To the honor of womanhood it must forever be said: A woman was closest to the Cross on Good Friday, and first at the tomb on Easter morn. Mary was always at His feet. She was there as she anointed Him for burial; she was there as she stood at the Cross; now in joy at seeing the Master, she threw herself at His feet to embrace them.”

When the apostles and other followers of Jesus were gathered outside of Bethany, Jesus blessed them and told them that He would be with them always. Mary Magdalene—though not mentioned by name—was probably there at the Ascension along with the other women disciples. After the Ascension of Christ, tradition in the West has it that Lazarus, Mary and Martha (along with their steward Maximin and servants Marcella, Susanne and Sidonius) all preached and worked to help build up the fledging Christian community. When the apostle James of Zebedee (and first bishop of Jerusalem) was murdered by King Herod Agrippa in 44 A.D., a great persecution of the Church broke out. Other prominent Christians (like St. Peter) were arrested as well. Traditionally it was believed that Lazarus and his family were also persecuted during this time, as they were well known as believers and friends of Christ. According to the Western tradition, they fled in a boat and eventually made it safely to southern Gaul, where they were welcomed by the inhabitants. They then promptly began to preach the Gospel to the people there, and eventually went their separate ways. Lazarus became the first bishop of Marseilles, Martha went to Tarascon, and Maximin became bishop of Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence) where he evangelized with Mary Magdalene. Eventually Mary Magdalene went off to live a life of penitence as a hermit in the Sainte-Baume mountains. She spent the next thirty years there in solitude, living a life of prayer, atonement, and mystical contemplation. Towards the end of her life, Christ appeared to her and told her that she would soon die, and directed her to leave her cave and go to Villa Lata. As she was walking downhill, she met her old steward Maximin who had also been divinely instructed to come to the place. They went down together to a nearby church, and there Mary Magdalene was given the Holy Eucharist, and in an ecstasy of love and rapture, died on July 22nd. Maximin buried her with great honor and had a beautiful church erected over her tomb. And many who came there experienced miraculous cures.

By 710, the whole south of France was in danger from Islamic invasion and was especially vulnerable to Muslim piracy. The monks of St. Maximin were forced to flee their monastery, but before they left, they tried to protect the precious relics of St. Mary Magdalene. They moved her body to a nearby tomb and then buried the entire crypt under rubble so it wouldn’t be found and destroyed, and they wrote this: “The year of the birth of the Lord 710, the sixth day of December, at night and very secretly, under the reign of the very pious Eudes, king of the Franks, during the time of the ravages of the treacherous nation of the Saracens, the body of the dear and venerable St. Mary Magdalene was, for fear of the said treacherous nation, moved from her alabaster tomb to the marble tomb, after having removed the body of Sidonius, because it was more hidden.” Some of her relics however were smuggled away to Vézelay in Burgundy where they were greatly venerated. Two hundred years later, the Muslims had been pushed back enough for the coast of France to be relatively safe. Christians began going to Mary Magdalene’s tomb, and while the general location was known, her exact tomb was not. On December 12th 1279, Charles II of Anjou at last uncovered the tomb of Mary Magdalene in the crypt of St. Maximin. As the workers opened the sarcophagus, all testified to the wonderful and sweet smell that emanated from it. They found a tablet on which was inscribed the words “Hic requiescit corpus beatae Mariae Magdalenae” (“Here lies the body of the Blessed Mary Magdalene”). On her skull was a piece of intact flesh which those present called the “Noli me tangere” where they believed Jesus had touched her on that first Easter morning. They also found that her jaw and lower leg bones were missing. The newly discovered relics were enshrined in a beautiful reliquary and Charles II of Anjou had a magnificent church erected over the tomb, now known as the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. On news of this discovery, Pope Boniface VIII sent the jawbone that had been venerated in Rome to be reunited with the rest of her body. He also published a bull that established the Dominicans at Saint Baume, as the Dominicans had taken Mary Magdalene as one of their patrons.

However, during the French Revolution, around 1794, thieves came into the church to desecrate the relics and steal the gold and jewels from the reliquaries. Faithful Catholics took the relics and hid them until the atheistic and destructive behavior had subsided. Around 1860, a great golden reliquary was made to house the relics of her skull, some of her hair, and the Noli me tangere. Today her relics can still be found in the Basilica at Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in France, and a special annual procession is held in her honor on her feast day (July 22nd). The relics and reliquary of St. Mary Magdalene can be seen here.

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“Saint Mary Magdalene, you came with springing tears to the spring of mercy, Christ; from Him your burning thirst was abundantly refreshed, through him your sins were forgiven; by Him your bitter sorrow was consoled. My dearest lady, well you know by your own life how a sinful soul can be reconciled with its Creator, what counsel a soul in misery needs, what medicine will restore the sick to health. It is enough for us to understand, dear friend of God, to whom were many sins forgiven, because she loved much. Most blessed lady, I who am the most evil and sinful of men do not recall your sins as a reproach, but call upon the boundless Mercy by which they were blotted out. This is my reassurance, so that I do not despair; this is my longing, so that I shall not perish. I say this of myself, miserably cast down into the depths of vice, bowed down with the weight of crimes, thrust down by my own hand into a dark prison of sins, wrapped round with the shadows of darkness.

Therefore, since you are now with the chosen because you are beloved and are beloved because you are chosen of God, I, in my misery, pray to you, in bliss; in my darkness, I ask for light; in my sins, redemption; impure, I ask for purity. Recall in loving kindness what you used to be, how much you needed mercy, and seek for me that same forgiving love that you received when you were wanting it. Ask urgently that I may have the love that pierces the heart; tears that are humble; desire for the homeland of heaven; impatience with this earthly exile; searing repentance; and a dread of torments in eternity. Turn to my good that ready access that you once had and still have to the Spring of Mercy. Draw me to Him where I may wash away my sins; bring me to Him who can slake my thirst; pour over me those waters that will make my dry places fresh. You will not find it hard to gain all you desire from so loving and so kind a Lord, who is alive and reigns and is your friend.

For who can tell, beloved and blest of God, with what kind familiarity and familiar kindness He Himself replied on your behalf to the calumnies of those who were against you? How He defended you, when the proud Pharisee was indignant, how He excused you, when your sister complained, how highly He praised your deed, when Judas begrudged it.

And, more than all this, what can I say, how can I find words to tell, about the burning love with which you sought Him, weeping at the Sepulchre, and wept for Him in your seeking? How He came, who can say how or with what kindness, to comfort you, and made you burn with love still more; how He hid from you when you wanted to see Him, and showed Himself when you did not think to see Him; how He was there all the time you sought Him, and how He sought you when, seeking Him, you wept.

But You, most holy Lord, why do You ask her why she weeps? Surely You can see: her heart, the dear life of her soul, is cruelly slain. O love to be wondered at; O evil to be shuddered at; You hung on the wood, pierced by iron nails, stretched out like a thief for the mockery of wicked men; and yet, 'Woman,' You say, 'why are you weeping?' She had not been able to prevent them from killing You, but at least she longed to keep Your body for a while with ointments lest it decay. No longer able to speak with You living, at least she could mourn for You dead. So, near to death and hating her own life, she repeats in broken tones the words of life which she had heard from the living. And now, besides all this, even the body which she was glad, in a way, to have kept, she believes to have gone.

And can You ask her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' Had she not reason to weep? For she had seen with her own eyes—if she could bear to look—what cruel men cruelly did to You; and now all that was left of You from their hands she thinks she has lost. All hope of You has fled, for now she has not even Your lifeless body to remind her of You. And someone asks, 'Who are you looking for? Why are you weeping?'

You, her sole joy, should be the last thus to increase her sorrow. But You know it all well, and thus You wish it to be, for only in such broken words and sighs can she convey a cause of grief as great as hers. The love You have inspired You do not ignore, and indeed You know her well, the gardener, who planted her soul in His garden. What You plant, I think You also water. Do You water, I wonder, or do you test her? In fact, You are both watering and putting to the test.

But now, good Lord, gentle Master, look upon Your faithful servant and disciple, so lately redeemed by Your blood, and see how she burns with anxiety, desiring You, searching all round, questioning, and what she longs for is nowhere found. Nothing she sees can satisfy her, since You whom alone she would behold, she sees not. What then? How long will my Lord leave His beloved to suffer thus? Have You put off compassion now You have put on incorruption? Did You let go of goodness when You laid hold of immortality? Let it not be so, Lord. You will not despise us mortals now You have made yourself immortal, for You made Yourself a mortal in order to give us immortality.

And so it is; for love's sake He cannot bear her grief for long or go on hiding Himself. For the sweetness of love He shows himself who would not for the bitterness of tears. The Lord calls His servant by the name she has often heard and the servant knows the voice of her own Lord. I think, or rather I am sure, that she responded to the gentle tone with which He was accustomed to call, 'Mary'. What joy filled that voice, so gentle and full of love. He could not have put it more simply and clearly: 'I know who you are and what you want; behold Me; do not weep, behold Me; I am He whom you seek.'

At once the tears are changed; I do not believe that they stopped at once, but where once they were wrung from a heart broken and self-tormenting they flow now from a heart exulting. How different is, 'Master!' from 'If you have taken him away, tell me'; and, 'They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him,' has a very different sound from, 'I have seen the Lord, and he has spoken to me.'

But how should I, in misery and without love, dare to describe the love of God and the blessed friend of God? Such a flavor of goodness will make my heart sick if it has in itself nothing of that same virtue. But in truth, You who are very Truth, You know me well and can testify that I write this for the love of Your love, my Lord, my most dear Jesus. I want Your love to burn in me as You command so that I may desire to love You alone and sacrifice to You a troubled spirit, 'a broken and a contrite heart'.

Give me, O Lord, in this exile, the bread of tears and sorrow for which I hunger more than for any choice delights. Hear me, for Your love, and for the dear merits of your beloved Mary, and Your blessed Mother, the greater Mary. Redeemer, my good Jesus, do not despise the prayers of one who has sinned against You but strengthen the efforts of a weakling that loves You.
- from a prayer to St. Mary Magdalene by St. Anselm of Canterbury

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:rose: The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene is celebrated on July 22nd. :rose:

St. Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of converts, penitent sinners, hairdressers, pharmacists, the contemplative life, those struggling against sexual temptation, and reformed prostitutes.

O God, whose Only Begotten Son
entrusted Mary Magdalene before all others
with announcing the great joy of the Resurrection,
grant, we pray, that through her intercession and example
we may proclaim the living Christ
and come to see Him reigning in Your glory.
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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:iconks1246:
ks1246 Featured By Owner 10 hours ago
I love your work, and would love to purchase a print of this and Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn for our church. It is possible to do that? 
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 10 hours ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yes! Let me know what you'd like to order! You can e-mail me at theophilia.art@gmail.com. Thanks!
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:iconks1246:
ks1246 Featured By Owner 11 hours ago
I love your work. I would like to purchase a print of this. Can you tell me how to go about that? This and Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn would be perfect in our church. 
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner Edited 10 hours ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Certainly! You can find the information for ordering prints at the bottom of my journal: Alfred Duggan: on Historical Fiction

Thanks so much!
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:iconladyoftheapocalypse:
LadyoftheApocalypse Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
She's so beautiful! I love her eyes.
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you! I was pretty pleased with how her face came out! :aww:
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:iconchimene03:
chimene03 Featured By Owner 5 days ago
This is gorgeous! She is one of my favorite saints. Thank you so much for this beautiful icon and lovely biography. ❤️
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
THANK YOU!!! :iconilikeitplz:
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:iconskatingscooby:
skatingscooby Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Again a beautiful piece of a beautiful saint
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much!!! :dance:
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:iconthemlr:
TheMLR Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nice work!
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you!
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:icona-little-tea-rat:
A-Little-Tea-Rat Featured By Owner 5 days ago
I love the rich colors and her face is very lovely :D
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks!! :meow: I was quite pleased with how her face came out!
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:icona-little-tea-rat:
A-Little-Tea-Rat Featured By Owner 1 day ago
You're welcome :)
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:iconalexvanarsdale:
AlexVanArsdale Featured By Owner 6 days ago
Great job! I  love your art!
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much!!! :glomp:
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:icongingeropal:
GingerOpal Featured By Owner 6 days ago
Your art is always so gorgeous. I love the colors (and details cuz you're amazing at details) in this one so much. :heart:
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Awww, thanks Ginger!!! :glomp:
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:icondredwardgumball115:
dredwardgumball115 Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Student Traditional Artist
I'm not too religious, but nice art
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks!
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:icondredwardgumball115:
dredwardgumball115 Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Student Traditional Artist
You're welcome
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:iconphoenixho3:
phoenixHO3 Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Student Traditional Artist
Gorgeous! I love how even though she is depicted with serenity there is an inherent boldness and intensity to her expression.
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 1 hour ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you! :aww: That describes exactly what I was going for! :nod:
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:iconanastasiy:
Anastasiy Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Professional Digital Artist
I love your art! Great work with the colors
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you!!!
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:icondashinvaine:
dashinvaine Featured By Owner Edited 6 days ago
Very nice. About time Mags got a look in! Much as I always imagined her. (Appreciate the dedication.) I think it's quite likely that Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the unnamed sinner in Luke were the same person. John's gospel has Mary of Bethany anointing Christ, Luke the unnamed sinner. There is no mention in any gospel of there being more than one significant anointing of Christ while he was alive, so it seems reasonable to suppose these accounts refer to the same event. The first mention of Mary Magdalene in Luke is right after the anointing episode. Then all the gospels make Magdalene the leader of the women who go to anoint the body after the Crucifixion, so it would seem fitting that same woman has the task. Some people want to accuse the Papacy (in the person of Gregory the Great) of being up to no good in identifying Magdalene with the sinner, as though it were some move to slander her or minimise her importance, but I don't see how that would necessarily work. There are also two references to seven devils being driven out of Magdalene. Very few people with that many devils in them could maintain a respectable reputation and avoid the committing of any sins, I suspect.

Counting against the identification, however, is that Magdala and Bethany are not in the same region (though it is not impossible that the same family could have homes in different places). Also the Greek tradition maintains that they were distinct. This was among the things debated by Eastern and Latin clergy at the time of the crusades.

May as well mention my book on the subject... www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D3MT7LA…
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 3 hours ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yay! I'm glad you like her! :aww:

After doing a lot of reading and researching on the subject I've come to the same conclusion too. :nod: I like the quote from Frank Sheed where he says, "Was Mary of Bethany Mary Magdalen? Glance at Jesus’ answer to the criticism of her extravagance: it is given slightly differently by Matthew, Mark and John: but in all it linked her act of anointing of his body for burial. And Mary Magdalen was one of those who brought the ointment to the tomb—the ointment they did not need to use. Here in Bethany was the anointing for the burial." I had not thought of that before I read it, so I thought that was a cool link he made there.

Yeah, I never really quite understood the vehement opposition to Mary Magdalene being identified with the sinful woman. The whole point is to hold her up as a great woman of bold faith and a great example of God's mercy. That's supposed to be an encouragement to the rest of us (if she can come back from being possessed by seven demons to being a great saint, what could hold us back? :XD:).

There's another passage from Frank Sheed's To know Jesus Christ where he addresses that. "Was Mary of Bethany Mary of Magdala? Bethany was in Judea, Magdala in Galilee. It is not improbable that a Galilean family should have moved to Judea, and it would be easier to account for Jesus' friendship if they were Galileans: Magdala is only a dozen miles or so from Nazareth. It is hard to believe that the Mary who was absorbed in contemplation of Him in Bethany did not travel the two miles to be with Him on Calvary. It is hard, too, to believe that the Mary who anointed His feet in Simon's house--"For my burial" Our Lord said--would not have been of the party that brought sweet spices to anoint Jesus in the tomb. Beyond that we cannot go..."

Huh, that would be pretty interesting to read about, certainly! I chuckled a little when I read this reviewer's take on your book "The only caveat lector is that the author sometimes loses sight of his main subject whilst discussing the Crusades - understandable, given Napier's other publications." Haha...guilty as charged? ;-) That would definitely make it more interesting reading to me, certainly! :D Yeah, I remember also reading about a controversy in the Reformation era between St. John Fisher (who later got his head cut off by Henry VIII) and Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples, who argued the the separate identities of Mary Magdalene, the sinful woman, and Mary of Bethany. Fisher replied in a work called De Unica Magdalena (1519) arguing that she was one and the same person. So the debate has certainly been around for awhile. :nod:
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:iconrhunel:
rhunel Featured By Owner 6 days ago   General Artist
Such a beautiful illustration for her. As always thank you for the excellent research accompanying her icon!
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 1 hour ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
THANK YOU!!! :iconilikeitplz:
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:iconartlovr59:
artlovr59 Featured By Owner 6 days ago   Photographer
Beautiful. The women were amazing, they stayed with Jesus during the Crucifixion and went to the Tomb first. So she was indeed an Apostle to the Apostles. Thanks!
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 1 hour ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Amen! :D
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:icongeorgieganarf:
GeorgieGanarf Featured By Owner 6 days ago   General Artist
Beautifully done my friend, you captured her humility and grace wonderfully.
Bravo!
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 1 hour ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much!! :hug:
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:iconlibra1010:
Libra1010 Featured By Owner 6 days ago
 A very elegant and appealing icon of a most singular saint - my compliments Mistress Theophilia!Clap 
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much!!! :aww:
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:iconlibra1010:
Libra1010 Featured By Owner 5 days ago
 Thank You so much for posting your work to be appreciated.:) (Smile) 
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:iconmeldelen:
Meldelen Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
Actually they are three different persons: Mary of Bethany, Maria of Magdala and the adulteress. There is no reason to think they are the same. In this, our Orthodox brethen are correct. The Holy Scriptures can't be manipulated.
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
As for the link between Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, they may be one and the same person, or two different people, but if we only use what is explicitly stated in Scripture, the fact of the matter is that we don't know conclusively, as that link (or not) is not explicitly stated. I did explain my reasons at the beginning for believing that they are one and the same person, but as you pointed out, in the East they disagree. That's fine. There can be legitimate disagreement on the point. But I'll just quote Frank Sheed in what he says in his To Know Jesus Christ about that question:
“It will have been noticed that St. Luke, who does describe that earlier meal in Bethany at which Martha served and Mary adored [Luke 10:38-42], does not mention this one. But then Luke [Luke 7:36-50] is the only one to tell of an anointing by a sinful woman, as Jesus sat at table in Capernaum, the host, there too, being named Simon. Was that the same incident?...There are similarities, indeed, yet they read like separate incidents. In Capernaum, the host is hostile, or at least not friendly. He shows the bare civilities, none of the courtesies. In Bethany, Lazarus is a fellow guest and Martha helps with the serving—we cannot imagine any courtesy left unshown with Martha there. We note also the difference of the reactions of the extravagant gesture of the anointing. In Capernaum the criticism is of Christ—if He had been a true prophet, He would have known the woman’s sinfulness and not allowed her near Him. In Bethany, the criticism is of the woman—the money might have been spent upon relieving the miseries of the poor (true, but Jesus reminded them that they had Himself only briefly, the poor would be there for their charity for the rest of their lives).

If there were two anointings, were there two anointers? Was Mary of Bethany the “sinful woman” of the Capernaum scene? And was either (or both?) Mary Magdalen? The Gospels do not answer one question or the other. One can only record an impression that the two anointings were the work of one woman: the similarities are too great for coincidence—especially the utterly improbable drying of his feet with the woman’s hair. Even the alabaster vase of Capernaum was surely the one used in Bethany—never to be used a third time, for, as Mark tells us, Mary broke the neck of it before pouring out the oil of nard.

Was Mary of Bethany Mary Magdalen? Glance at Jesus’ answer to the criticism of her extravagance: it is given slightly differently by Matthew, Mark and John: but in all it linked her act of anointing of his body for burial. And Mary Magdalen was one of those who brought the ointment to the tomb—the ointment they did not need to use. Here in Bethany was the anointing for the burial.”

So I do disagree with you there in saying that there is not reason for thinking them to be the same person. I do think there are reasons (besides reasons of tradition) for thinking that they might be the same woman, but again, I think there can be legitimate disagreement on the point.

I didn't mention the adulteress at all, and in fact, I only think that linkage came about later with the advent of the novel and film depictions of the life of Christ. In terms of telling stories, it's easier and more efficient to link important characters with prominent events, but I have never seen or read any Church Father or any other Scripture scholar making the link between Mary Magdalene and the woman caught in adultery. I think that link is mostly a literary one.
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:icondashinvaine:
dashinvaine Featured By Owner 6 days ago
The 'sinner' who does the anointing (in Luke) is the one normally identified with Magdalene, not the 'woman taken in adultery' (in John), who is saved from stoning. Although some have said that she was Magdalene as well. There is in fact a reasonable argument for identifying the sinner, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany, various details link them and their roles, but it is hardly a clear and settled matter. I don't think the exegesis that identifies the figures amounts to manipulation of scripture, and one can argue that interpretation in good faith. One medieval Catholic to do so was Gerard of Nazareth, the author of 'De una Magdalena contra Graecos'.
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:iconlibra1010:
Libra1010 Featured By Owner 6 days ago
 Holy Scripture SHOULD NOT be manipulated, but it can and sadly has been - for personal advantage and to the detriment of Humanity - as History all too often records. It should also be noted that Holy Scripture at its very best represent a Good Faith effort to record the Word of God (the very definition of the Sublime) in terms we mere mundane mortals can understand and that our understanding of the Holy Word is therefore very, very subjective (hence, one believes, the astonishing diversity of versions & translations in which the God Book may be found).

 I state this not in a desire to be contradictory or wilfully confrontational, only in the hope that you will understand why it is difficult to talk about Scripture in absolute terms; we are, after all, only Human (as were those that composed & translated the Good Book in the first place).:) (Smile) 
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah, funnily enough, St. Peter says the same thing (so it's definitely not a new problem!) at the end of his second letter (specifically 2 Peter 3:14-18) about people reading erroneous doctrine into some of St. Paul's teachings: "Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures. Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability. But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen." Haha, good ol' St. Peter. :XD:

I also came across a passage from Saint Vincent of Lérins' Commonitory where he writes this:
I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation? For this reason — because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.
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:iconmeldelen:
Meldelen Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
I agree tho. Don't see how what I said in the first place contradicts this. That can't was not meant in absolute terms but as a recommendation. 
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:iconlibra1010:
Libra1010 Featured By Owner 5 days ago
 Well, I admit that one read it in an uncompromising tone (and may have done you an injustice thereby); please pardon any misconception on my part.:) (Smile) 
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:iconadventvoice:
AdventVoice Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
I love the poem by Eaton Stannard Barrett
I hope I will be able to measure up in my life.
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you!! Hopefully we all will!
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:iconseverusiana:
Severusiana Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Artist
Nice picture. 
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you!
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:iconmenkhar:
Menkhar Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
very beautiful
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:icontheophilia:
Theophilia Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much!! :hug:
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