By Jennifer Wing Atencio
Today, July 22, 2016, we celebrate the first official feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar of St. Mary Magdalene, known as the First Evangelist of the Church. She was the first to see Jesus in His risen form and the first to be spoken to by Him following His resurrection. There are many who honor and revere her, but even a great many more have slandered her memory when they have mistakenly identified her as the woman caught in adultery – the prostitute – whom Jesus spared from being stoned to death spoken of in John 8. So she is sometimes known as the “Patron of the Slandered.”
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:3-7
However, her ministry is nonetheless significant for her mistaken identity, and in some regard made even more powerful, when the true light of forgiveness is shined on all of us at our judgement who as sinners have ALL fallen short of the glory of God, how can we think we are any less sinful? Let he or she who is without sin cast the first stone. We are supposed to understand that the greatest gift given to us through Jesus’ life and sacrifice is our own salvation from ourselves!! and the wages of our own sin, which is eternal death.
Being delivered by Jesus from seven demons, St. Mary Magdalene is an example to us of The Overcomer, through Jesus, one whose entire life was changed by His ministry. She, with humility and gratitude, did not leave Jesus once she was healed and delivered, but stayed at His feet and attended to Him with everything she had to give, becoming one of his most loved disciples, later being titled The Apostle to the Apostles. She chose what Jesus told Martha was “the better part”, to sit in gratitude at His feet. Even in those short years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we see how her life and priorities were completely transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. For the love of Him and by partaking in His Life she was saved, delivered, and transformed. This is the *fullness of life in Jesus Christ” – to be transformed or in other words to be an Overcomer.
So, who is the Overcomer? For this definition we turn to Jesus and St. John as spoken in the Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God. “ – Revelation 2:7
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He who overcomes won’t be harmed by the second death.” – Revelation 2:11
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he who receives it.”- Revelation 2:17
“He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.” – Revelation 2:26
“He who overcomes will be arrayed in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”- Revelation 3:5
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.” – Revelation 3:12
“He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne.” – Revelation 3:21
“He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son.” – Revelation 21:7
In this role as The Overcomer through the ministry of her Lord Jesus Christ, St. Mary Magdalene is even set apart in her own complementary but unique example for us from the ministry of the archetypal woman of God – The Virgin Mary – in that she came to Jesus as one who was not perfect, not a virginal holy vessel, but was like us, a sinner and full of her own demons. So for the purpose of her unique patronage and identity, I will refer to her as Madgalene or St. Magdalene.
Magdalene was assigned the most significant task that any forgiven sinner could be given, and it was entrusted to her only and solely to her by Jesus – to announce to the followers of Jesus the greatest fruit and miracle of His life and His Gospel: His Resurrection.
“ But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.” – John 20:11-18
I do not see how anyone could form a valid argument against the reality that St. Magdalene’s role as the Apostle to the Apostles has been overshadowed by an emphasis on the patriarchal authority of the Church. Was it a just a cultural coincidence or a sign from God that we see no less than four women who were all named Mary and were the only disciples of Jesus who did not abandon Him at the foot of the cross or in his death, attending to His body during and after crucifixion: they were the most dedicated disciples of Jesus, ministering to him personally at the most critical moments in the history of man. I say that ‘no, it is not a coincidence.’
In the type, pattern and influence of the Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary, who upon her command introduced the ministry of her son Jesus to the world with His first public miracle at the wedding at Cana, when it was by her word that she instructed the wedding attendants to do as her Son commanded them in the miracle of the wine; likewise, it was Madgalene’s spoken testimony of His Resurrection, commanded to be told by Jesus to his other disciples that announces the beginning of His ministry as The Risen Lord. It is by the ministry of The Woman and her influence in the Body of Christ, on the Family of God and the Family Church that the Mystical Church is brought to the saving power of Jesus Christ.
It was The Woman who attended to the bridegroom’s wishes at the wedding feast at Cana and it is The Woman who will again attend to The Bridegroom’s wishes to spiritually lead the Church of Jesus Christ in its final hour before Jesus’ return by crushing the head of the serpent. It is the women disciples of Jesus who were the first evangelists, ushering in at their word the ministry of Jesus to His Church and to the world.
Looking at types and archetypes of women in God’s great plan of salvation, we must go all the way back to Eve, sometimes also like the Virgin Mary, the second Eve, to be known as “the mother of all peoples”. Eve was created by God from the rib, the side of Adam, the first man. Both Adam and Eve were created by God in order to commune and fellowship with God in the garden for the pleasure of their Creator. But they, being made in the likeness of God, were also given the all-important characteristic that sets us apart from the angels and enables us to choose to love and honor God in the first place: our free-will. We all know the rest of the story which led to The Fall; the Temptation by Satan to eat of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Life and Adam’s agreement to partake in this sinful rebellion, against God’s instructions, with Eve.
I have often wondered ‘what exactly was Adam busy doing while his wife Eve was being courted and coerced by the serpent?’ ‘What other task was more important than protecting his other half from the deception and invasion of The Enemy.’ It was in Adam’s neglect of his bride that the worst tragedy to humankind occurred. If Adam would have risen to the most important task of a husband…
So, we see even in our very first type of man’s relationship with woman, a lack of oneness of purpose, a lack of vigilance over their shared purpose to serve God together, side-by-side, in perfect union and obedience. Eve is always blamed as the temptress, but where was Adam in the first place?
When Jesus, the Son of God and the second Adam, was crucified on the cross, the last of His seven holy wounds was opened by the stabbing of the Roman soldier’s spear into His side. It is said that out of his side poured blood and water, the symbols of the two most precious sacramental gifts given to His Church: His Blood, given in the communion cup and on the cross and the Saving Waters of Baptism – the River of Life. It is out of His Church that Jesus will select his Bride: those who have washed themselves in the Blood and Water and have entered fully* into His Life. They will be the ones who accompany the Bridegroom Jesus at his second coming to earth.
It was to the Samaritan woman that Jesus gently revealed his identity as the Messiah, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) What was her response? Despite her exposed sinful lifestyle (Jesus lovingly admonished her for having many men, but not a husband) she un-apologetically went and told the whole village that she had met the Messiah.
In the Garden of Eden there was one river that ran into the garden and from Eden split into four other rivers and streams. If we contemplate the symbolic meaning of this, we should see that there was always meant to be four spiritual streams of the Church: while Christianity – at-large acknowledges Eastern Orthodoxy; Roman Catholicism; and Protestant Christianity as the first three streams – the fourth stream is the Family Church under the influence of the woman (the heart of the family)… and, The Woman – the greatest evangelist of all history The Woman with twelve stars in her crown and the moon under her feet, The Woman Clothed with the Sun who crushes the head of the serpent and attends to the needs of all the children of God (Virgin Mother) and also The Woman-Bride (Rev 19:7) as she represents The Overcomers who through the ministry of Christ Jesus, have washed their robes in the blood of The Lamb. The influence of the The Woman through the Heart of the Family Church and the Family of God is profoundly important to the redemption of man and the fulfillment of salvation history. (St. Pope JPII, Theology of the Body)
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man (and woman) according to what s/he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes, take the water of life without cost.”
In St. Mary Magdalene’s example to us as The Overcomer, she is the patron of all sinners and she shows us how to join fully in the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, The Bride, The Spirit and The Woman Clothed with the Sun by never leaving His Presence and having an “ear to hear” what His Spirit is saying.
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Wing Atencio, all rights reserved