This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22 -- Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

Seven demons exorcised
Called Apostle to the Apostles because she brought the news of the Resurrection of Jesus, Mary is a complex and controversial figure.  Part of the problem is that most of the women mentioned in the Gospels are named Mary, making it tough to tell them apart. [By the way, if you want to hop over this stuff and get right to the Easter Eggs, scroll down.] 

Taking the Gospels as the record, it's generally agreed that she was exorcised of seven demons and then followed Jesus as an early and close disciple.  She was at the Empty Tomb on the Morning of the Resurrection.  However, in the Eastern and Protestant Traditions, she is not the same person as Mary of Bethany, the woman who cracks open a jar of nard to anoint Jesus feet, which she then dries with her hair, while the Catholics generally conflate the two Marys.

You mean this egg right here?
Moreover, Pope Gregory the Great identified her as a former prostitute, noting that she had a jar of nard on hand.  True, prostitutes would probably like aromatic body oils as well as  the next girl, and some patrons might make expensive gifts of it.  But that's a pretty tenuous connection between the Oldest Profession and Mary of Bethany; then going from her to Mary Magdalene is some mighty leaping.  Pope Paul VI backpedaled from this position, but the damage was done in the popular imagination.

There's a Gnostic Gospel of Mary, but it is missing many pages, which is frustrating.  The first pages, in which presumably Jesus plays a pretty important role, are missing.  As we pick it up, Jesus is wrapping it up and heading out, leaving the disciples pretty blue.  Mary rallies them, and Peter asks her to share what Jesus told her, noting "that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman (sic)." The next four pages are missing, during which she tells most of what the Savior told her.

Mary comes off as a beloved disciple who can teach the Apostles a thing or two, so even if this work had not contained Gnostic ideas which were later deemed heretical, it probably would have been dropped from the Canon.  The Church Patriarchy would not have put up with Mary's leadership -- it ran counter to Paul's notion of gender roles in the Christian communities.

There's a lot more to be said about Mary Magdalene -- whole books have been written about her, her relationship with Jesus, and her travels after the Ascension.  I could go on, but I am in a hurry to get to the Easter eggs. 


There are two stories (with multiple variations) connecting Mary Magdalene, painted eggs, and the Resurrection. 

In the first, Mary Magdalene brought a basket of boiled eggs to share with the other women who were either at the Crucifixion or keeping vigil at the tomb.  If the former, they were stained with the blood of Jesus as he hung on the Cross.  If the latter, they simply changed color miraculously as a sign of resurrection. more alive than that egg is delicious chocolate
In the second, Mary joins a delegation to Rome to preach the good news of Jesus' Resurrection to the Imperial Household.  I'm not really sure how she got admitted to the Palace, let alone to a banquet with the Emperor Tiberius, but that's what the story says.  Mary starts telling about the miraculous resurrection, but Tiberius interrupts, pointing to a hard-boiled egg on the table and saying that Jesus is no more alive than that white egg is red.  Mary holds up the egg and it turns scarlet (maybe crimson) in her hand. 

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