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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

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In some Gnostic texts she became the highly sexualised spouse of Jesus. In other texts she was portrayed as the dark lover of the biblical text the Song of Songs. In the sixth Pope Gregory the Great asserted that Mary was a converted prostitute, and by the Medieval period it had become traditional for her to be depicted as a naked penitent praying in a cave. Even in recent times religious houses for women who were deemed to be of questionable morality were named after Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene has had a bad press, which bears little relation to the image painted of her in the New Testament. Yes, Luke tells us that Mary had been delivered of seven demons (Luke 8:2-3), but we know nothing of the nature of this demonic possession. And if she was a sinner who became a saint, then she has much in common with many other, male, saints with whom Jesus associated.

For me, the attraction to Mary Magdalene comes through her deep love and trust in Jesus which is displayed particularly in that most moving and beautiful encounter between Mary and the risen Jesus near to the garden tomb in which Jesus had been laid (John 20:11-18). Mary is beside herself and is weeping because the body of Jesus is missing from the tomb. In the darkness she sees a figure whom she assumes to be the gardener:

‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him’ she says.

And the figure, who is the risen Lord Jesus, calls her by name: ‘Mary’. She turns towards Jesus and, in recognition, utters the Hebrew word: ‘Rabbouni’, meaning ‘teacher’.

And following this recognition, Mary goes to tell the other disciples that she has seen the risen Lord. For this she is given the title ‘The Apostle to the Apostles’.

Mary Magdalene is surely to be remembered, not because of the later, and very spurious traditions associated with her. Rather, she should be honoured for her love and trust in Jesus. For being the first witness to the resurrection, and for her courage in spreading that good news to the apostles.

Her feast day falls on July 22nd, which falls during my summer holiday.

Whatever you are doing, or reading, this summer, I pray for God’s blessing on you, that it may be a time of peace and restoration.

With love and prayers

Fr Colin

As I write I am sure that many of you will be enjoying the fine weather that we are having, and are perhaps looking forward to a summer break. The holiday season often allows families the opportunity to spend more time together and, perhaps, the chance to have some quality time on holiday, in this country or abroad.

One of the things that I particularly enjoy about holidays is the opportunity that it gives me to read. This is something that often falls by the wayside in a busy life. I already have a collection of books that I hope to get through when I go away later in July. Most of these are works of fiction, but another, which I am particularly looking forward to reading, is a more academic book by the American biblical scholar Bruce Chilton. The book is entitled Mary Magdalene: A Biography. My understanding is that the author will seek to strip away the legend and myth that has grown up around the life of Mary Magdalene, and get back to the Mary that followed Jesus Christ.

Mary Magdalene has always had a special place in my journey of faith, not least from the time I became parish priest of a church dedicated to her not long after my ordination. I think my devotion to Mary has been a reaction to the fact that in Christian tradition she had become the most maligned of the first followers of Christ.

Summer 2023 issue

From the Vicar, Fr Dr Colin Lawlor