Catholic theologian Saint Augustine called Mary Magdalene the “Apostle of apostles.” His basis for such an esteemed title was St. John’s Gospel text (19:25) in which Mary is said to be the first one to see Jesus resurrected from the tomb and the one appointed by Jesus to bring the good news of his resurrection to the other apostles. She was, in truth, the Beloved Companion of Yeshua/Jesus, whom he had named the “Migdalah”(which means tower of courage and strength).
In 591 AD, however, the Beloved Companion of Jesus was reduced in status and dignity to that of a prostitute by Pope Gregory I in Homily 33, according to Jean-Yves Leloup, author of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. In his homily, Gregory “declared that she and the unnamed woman in Luke 7 are, in fact, one and the same , and that the faithful should hold Mary as the penitent whore.” To the faithful of the Christian world, this is who Mary Magdalene was: the woman out of whom Jesus cast “seven demons”– and whom he rescued from being stoned to death as a “sinner,” saying to those who would stone her, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
About this word “sinner” Leloup writes:
“It is interesting to note that the Greek word interpreted as ‘sinner’ in the verse of Luke to which Pope Gregory referred was barmartolos, which can be translated several ways. From the Jewish perspective, it could mean one who has transgressed Jewish law. It might also mean someone who, perhaps, did not pay his or her taxes. [This is more likely the case in this incident with Mary Magdalene, who is often painted by artists with red or golden hair, suggesting a fiery woman with a passion for truth and a disdain for the laws of men.] The word itself does not imply a streetwalker or a prostitute. The Greek word for harlot, porin, which is used elsewhere in Luke, is not the word used for the sinful woman who weeps at Jesus’ feet. In fact, there is no direct reference to her – or to Mary – as a prostitute anywhere in the Gospels.”
It was not until 1969 that the Catholic Church admitted its error and officially repealed Pope Gregory’s labeling of Mary as a whore. This retraction did nothing, however, to alter the public teachings of all Christian denominations that Mary Magdalene was a penitent sinner. Jean Yves writes:
“Unfortunately, the fact that Mary Magdalene is freed from the possession of seven demons has resulted in greater focus on the perceived stigma of her past as interpreted in Homily 33 than on her cleansed state after this healing. . . . Like a small erratum buried in the back pages of a newspaper, the Church’s correction goes unnoticed while the initial and incorrect article continues to influence readers.”
The Woman with the Alabaster Jar
Mary Magdalene, often depicted by artists holding an alabaster jar in one hand and a skull in the other, is the same as Mary of Bethany who is said to have anointed the head of Jesus with expensive oils during the Last Supper. The author of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene compares her to a priestess of Isis:
In addition, the presence of Mary at the Crucifixion and at the tomb, beyond illustrating her love for Jesus, also indicates her comfort and familiarity with death. The many artistic depictions of Magdalene with a skull may suggest that this has long been seen as part of her identity. In fact, Golgotha, the hill where Jesus was crucified, means “place of the skull.” Perhaps visionary artists of the past, in their representations, were implying that Magdalene understands the thresholds of death. Her appearances with special oils to use in anointing Jesus Christ place her in the tradition of priests and priestesses of Isis, whose unguents were used to achieve the transition over the threshold of death while retaining consciousness.
Jesus accepts and encourages this anointing, explaining to the other disciples that she “helps prepare me for my burial.” This statement implies Jesus’ knowledge that Mary is aware of what is happening at a deeper level than the other disciples. We can ask ourselves, “By what authority does she anoint him?” But we cannot ignore the fact that the very word christ means “anointed one.” How can it be that Christians have pushed into a dark corner the female minister of the rite of anointing?
After one anointing of Christ by Mary, in Mark 14: 9, Jesus remarks, “Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, what she has done here will be told in remembrance of her.” How is it, then, that all Christians do not remember and revere this memorial, so clearly marked by their teacher? Why do most people know her as the reformed prostitute, rather than as what seems more likely-a ministering priestess with a deep understanding of the thresholds of the spirit world?
In the legends and stories told about Mary Magdalene there can be found some hint of what she may represent to us today: As one who was cleansed from sin; who remains with Christ throughout his death on the cross; and who first witnesses, understands, and believes Christ’s resurrection, she represents a human being who is open and available to true “inner knowing,” who can “see” in deeper, clearer ways through a unique spiritual connection to both earthly death and the Divine.
Honored in Southern France
In Southern France Mary Magdalene is honored and celebrated as the Madonna in what historically is known as the “Magdalene tradition.” There is evidence that Mary Magdalene traveled to and settled in Southern France after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus – and after her ordeal with Peter and the apostles who rejected her as the Apostle of apostles, the one and only one, other than John the Beloved, who knew oneness with her Lord and Master and who moved closely with him into the experience of gnosis, “the priceless wisdom of ‘direct knowing.'”
This is the true and original meaning of Gnosticism before it devolved into a cultish community: the direct knowing of Spirit within and as one’s Self without the mediation of an ordained priesthood – which is why the early Christian Church founded by Constantine and a group of bishops condemned them and sought to eradicate them altogether. Those bishops who disagreed with Constantine about what gospel texts were to be included in, and excluded from, the New Testament Bible were exiled “on the spot.” Thankfully, some of these excluded gospel texts were preserved from the book burnings, later to be found and brought to light, notably in our time. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Thomas are two of the most noted gospels that were discovered and became the sources of contemporary authors’ books, such as Jean-Yves Leloup, Jehanne De Quillan (author of The Gospel of the Beloved Companion), and several others.
I particularly like the way in which this sentence is phrased by the authors of the Preface of her book, acknowledging the vibrational significance of Mary Magdalene’s return to consciousness and awareness at this time:
We consider her reemergence and renewed awareness of her importance as an essential remembering of the Feminine.”
As surely as Jesus’ spirit is considered to be present with us today, so is that of his Beloved Companion present and actively guiding the rise of the Feminine. It’s what seems powerfully evident anyway.
I will conclude this consideration of Mary Magdalene in my next post – which will be an in depth look at the true meaning of Gnosis and the obscured message inherent in the companionship of Jesus and Mary Magdalene – the core mission and purpose for the incarnation of the Divine in the Son of Humanity. Until then,
Be love. Be loved.
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