Thursday, July 22, 2021

Mary Magdalene

It's the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene today, who was exorcized of seven devils. We see her in the Gospels at the foot of the Cross and she's the first person to witness Christ's resurrection. In the West, she's held to be the "sinner" in Luke 7:36-50, and the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

The Eastern church believes she retired to Ephesus and lived with the Virgin Mary until her death. St. Gregory of Tours supports this view, but there's another tradition, in which the saint travels to France with Martha, Lazarus, Maximin and others, following the execution of James in Jerusalem. Between them, they convert Provence, with Lazarus and Maximin becoming bishops.

New Advent says this:

When the time of her death arrived she was carried by angels to Aix and into the oratory of St. Maximinus, where she received the viaticum; her body was then laid in an oratory constructed by St. Maximinus at Villa Lata, afterwards called St. Maximin. History is silent about these relics till 745, when according to the chronicler Sigebert, they were removed to Vézelay through fear of the Saracens. No record is preserved of their return, but in 1279, when Charles II, King of Naples, erected a convent at La Sainte-Baume for the Dominicans, the shrine was found intact, with an inscription stating why they were hidden. In 1600 the relics were placed in a sarcophagus sent by Clement VIII, the head being placed in a separate vessel. In 1814 the church of La Sainte-Baume, wrecked during the Revolution, was restored, and in 1822 the grotto was consecrated afresh. The head of the saint now lies there, where it has lain so long, and where it has been the centre of so many pilgrimages.


What do I believe? The Ephesus story is more prosaic, perhaps more attune to the spirit of the age. But Provence is romantic, miraculous, and chivalric, so I choose that. You might think otherwise, no rule.

Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

God bless,



Paul M said...

It is an historical account we may never fully know…unless you believe Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, which I do not of course. She was with Jesus, that’s good enough for me to venerate her as special. But aren’t we all in God’s eyes?

LSP said...

First person to witness the resurrection, Paul. Surely counts for something.

LL said...

Some say that she traveled to Britain (Roman province) after leaving France. I don't know one way or the other. The matter is uncertain after the Day of Pentecost. One thing that is certain is that the women left and some of the men who were closest to the Savior went with them. The Holy Land was not safe for them anymore and would become increasingly unsafe.

Some say that they went to Egypt (Elephantine, etc.) first, before taking ship for Europe and the to the farthest ends of the world (England). The Nag Hamadi Library has articles that touch on the matter - but very slightly.

LSP said...

It's interesting, LL, and possible. I always forget how much travel there was around the Roman world.

Thanks for the Nag Hamadi reminder.

Wild, wild west said...

Yes, lots of travel by Romans and Greeks and all kinds of folks; later Marco Polo et al. I've often wondered how they got around. Yes, by foot and by boat of course. But, how did they pay for it? Kindness of strangers? Maybe to a point, but.....Paul appeals to the Emperor and gets thrown on a boat under escort and gets bounced around and shipwrecked and etc. and all those squaddies on the escort have to be fed and paid. It's not like today where you get on a plane and a couple or three meals later, you're drawing rations in Rome. Who paid for the boat tickets for Paul and his escort troop's and room and board, and how? Did they carry sacks of coins? Did the escort commander write a chit, and if so, how was that processed for payment? Presumably, some scruffy looking Jewish troublemaker gets led on board in chains, the cap'n is gonna want cash in advance. The internet was not on computers yet, of course, so no Roman Express Card.

It's a piddling little wonderment considering all the tremendously wonderous things the Apostles performed, but still I'm curious about it.

LSP said...

I wondered about it too, WWW. Tradition has it that Mary Magdalene helped support Christ and the Apostles financially, so perhaps that carried over into her travels.

We also know from Acts that the earliest church held all in common, and that surely helped the expense of apostolic travel, though St. Paul notoriously worked too so as not to be a burden. But what about the trip to Rome?

Good question. I'm guessing, and it's only a guess, that the state picked up the bill, probably by notes of credit, drawn on imperial bankers. Not unlike European travel in, say, the seventeenth century. Paul, in this instance, would've been taken on board under escort but with a certain amount of freedom, not being convicted at that point of any crime. And again I'm guessing that he would've paid for anything beyond subsistence out of his own funds or from alms given by the Church.

Hmmmm. I'll do some research.