Feast of St. Mary Magdalene July 22

Mary was called “Magdalen” because she was either from Magdala near Tiberias (on the west shore of Galilee) or possibly from a Talmudic expression meaning “curly women’s hair,” which means an adulteress.

In the New Testament Mary is mentioned among the women who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Luke 8:2-3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection.

The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish the “sinner” of Luke 7:36-50; Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary Magdalen. On the other hand most of the Latin Fathers hold that these three they were one and the same. It is impossible to demonstrate the identity of the three through the Scriptural texts. Yet it is certainly Mary Magdalen who, according to all the Evangelists, stood at the foot of the cross and assisted at the entombment and was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. And while St. John calls her “Mary Magdalen” in 19:25, 20:1, and 20:18, he calls her simply “Mary” in 20:11 and 20:16.

Many Scriptural scholars observe that the “sinner” in Luke comes early in the ministry of Jesus to seek for pardon; Mary is described immediately afterwards as Mary Magdalen “out of whom seven devils were gone forth”; shortly after, we find simply “Mary” “sitting at the Lord’s feet and hearing His words.”

To the Catholic mind it all seems fitting and natural. The sinner has repented, and she is no longer considered an “adultress.” At a later period Mary and Martha turn to “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and Jesus raises their brother Lazarus. Only a short time afterwards Mary and Martha make Jesus supper and Mary repeats the act she had performed when a penitent. At the Passion she stands nearby; she sees Him laid in the tomb; and she is the first Scriptural witness of His Resurrection (although it would have been only fitting for Jesus to have appeared first to His Mother) St. Mary Magdalen, patroness of penitent sinners, pray for us!