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Mary Magdalene: Gender Inequality
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Mary Magdalene “Apostle to the Apostles”:
Gender Inequality in the Church


What is an Apostle?

The term apostle comes from the Greek word "apostolos" meaning "messenger" or "one sent forth."

An Apostle, in the scriptures, is therefore a person who is a special witness or messenger chosen by Jesus Christ to spread His word and/or preach the gospel.

In the New Testament the term "Apostles" is used in reference to the group of 12 "men" who were depicted and portrayed as the “primary” disciples of Jesus Christ. Yet, in applying due diligence, the term "Apostles" must also include any person who has been sent by Christ with a special assignment and/or calling, like missionaries, like evangelists, like pastors … like Mary Magdalene.

Who was Mary Magdalene? Was she:

  • The sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus with her tears and ointment (St Luke 7:36-50),

  • Mary of Bethany who anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair (St John 12:3), or

  • Mary Magdalene who Jesus cleansed (exorcised) of seven demons (St Mark 16:9).

The most “popular” rumor circulating for centuries has been that Mary Magdalene was the “prostitute” mentioned by St. Luke.

The spreading of that slanderous, salacious rumor is attributed to Pope Gregory I (the Great), who in a sermon he gave, in 591, merged those 3 women mentioned above into being ... one and the same.

The scriptural facts are certain … there is nothing expressly written in the Bible to suggest that Mary Magdalene was in fact a redeemed Harlot or a model penitent.

What is certain is that Mary Magdalene:

  • accompanied and cared for Jesus during his public ministry being considered His cherished and beloved disciple;

  • followed Christ to the foot of the Cross on the day of His crucifixion;

  • was present at His burial; and

  • was the first “witness” of Christ’s resurrection and carried the message back to the other apostles who were in hiding.

In St John 20 we learn that on the “third day” after Christ’s crucifixion Mary Magdalene went to the sepulcher and found it unguarded, the heavy stone rolled back, and the tomb open.

She was aghast and ran to inform Peter and John (the Beloved) who, in turn, raced back to Christ’s tomb to see for themselves.

John was the first to arrive at the sepulcher but did not go in. He instead stooped down, looking in, only to see the linen that had covered Christ’s body lying there but the body of Jesus was gone.

Then Peter arrived and went in to the tomb and was followed by John. They didn’t know what to think, as none of the apostles were taught the scripture concerning Christ’s resurrection nor had Jesus informed them that he would rise again from the dead, so they simply got up and headed back home.

But Mary Magdalene stayed, started weeping, and stooped down to look into what she believed was an empty tomb only to behold 2 angels sitting at the head and the foot of where the body of Christ had once laid.

And the angels said to her: "…Woman, why weepest thou?” And Mary replied: “Because they have taken away my Lord; and I know not where they have laid him.” (St John 20:13)

Then Mary turned away to leave and saw who she thought was a gardener who asks her: “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?” And she replies: “Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” (St John 20:15)

But it was not a gardener; it was Christ resurrected who then replied: “Mary.”

Then Mary recognized Jesus and says: “Rabboni - which is to say, master.” (St John 20:16)

Note: Mary’s response is an indication in itself that she considered Him as her “teacher” and not as a husband or a lover; which should put to rest any rumors supposing the existence of a “romantic” relationship between the two.

Jesus then instructed Mary Magdalene to relay the message of His resurrection to the “other” disciples.

And because Mary Magdalene reported the “good news” to the “other” disciples, she became known among early Christian writers as “apostola apostolorum” — the Apostle to the Apostles.

Saint Pope Leo the Great's 5th century sermon on the Lord's Ascension, II (Sermon LXXIV):

"Hence comes that which the Lord said after His Resurrection, when Mary Magdalene, representing the Church, hastened to approach and touch Him ..."

That statement made by Pope Leo I leads us to the question: Who can legitimately be said to “sit in the place of Christ” and thus represent the Church without first receiving the ordination (His priesthood) and being duly commissioned thereafter to do so?

How could Mary Magdalene “represent the Church” unless it was believed, by Pope Leo I, that she was a "full" authoritative member of that sacred group of equals (the remaining 11 “male” disciples) within Christ's ministry?

The Significance of the word Brethren

“He answered and said ... Who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold ...” - St Matthew 12:48-49

The word "brethren" (adelphos in the Greek) was used by the followers of Jesus when speaking of one another as fellow-Christians. It was used as a gender-neutral expression.

In St Matthew 28 a slightly modified version of the sepulcher story is told. We learn that the “good news” Mary Magdalene gave to the other apostles was not only that Jesus had been resurrected, but He had instructed that they should inform their brethren (those not in hiding with them) and go to Galilee where He would appear and speak with them.

Oddly, after bringing the “good news” to the other apostles, Mary Magdalene disappears from all scriptural reference. Is it because she’d fulfilled her "divine" role or was she omitted for more nefarious, misogynistic reasons by the biblical theologians and scholars?

It is hard to believe that Mary Magdalene, having cared for Christ during His ministry, following Him through His Trial, His scourging, all the way to the foot of the cross; and being “chosen” by Him (above Peter the “Rock”) to be the first “witness” of his resurrection; that she would have been barred / excluded from being present / attending that meeting in Galilee.

For if anyone was truly worthy of being called an Apostle in Christ’s group of terrestrial equals (“Brethren”) it was surely Mary Magdalene.

Would Mary Magdalene’s presence at that meeting in Galilee, as an Apostle, undermine the Roman Church’s credibility in regards to its continued position of denying “women” the priesthood”?

The Church’s antiseptic position, as attested to by Pope Francis, on the matter concerning “women priests”, is that the scriptures do not indicate that Jesus ordain any women to fulfill that sacred function.

But, that would all have to change if Mary Magdalene was in Galilee, within that group of Apostles (“Brethren”), when Jesus declared:

“…. saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” – St Matthew 28:18-20

Since 1969, when the Roman Catholic Church admitted that it had “mistakenly identified” Mary Magdalene as a “sex worker” (prostitute), the call from the laity for women to be accepted as equals and allowed to hold prominent church leadership positions has grown ever louder.

The Church’s antiseptic position on the matter concerning “women priests” is that the scriptures do no indicate that Jesus ordain any women to fulfill that sacred function.

The Church is indeed 100% correct in stating that nowhere in the scriptures does it indicate that Jesus ordain any women to the priesthood.

Yet, is it not conceivable that the faulty reasoning, applied by the Church in initially “declaring” that Mary Magdalene had been a “sex worker” (prostitute), may have equally been the same faulty reasoning used to conveniently omit any mention of her, as an Apostle, attending that meeting with Jesus Christ in Galilee?

It simply is not enough for the Church to attempt to mitigate, with a mere apology, the seriousness of the tragic injustice that befell Mary Magdalene and which continues to denigrate “women” today by denying them their rightful place within the Church's hierarchy.

Concerning Gender Equality, it is indignant on the part of the Church to try and pacify the faithful with:

  • The 1969 admission of “mistaken identity” of Saint Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, and

  • The 2016 elevation of her liturgical commemoration from an “obligatory memorial” into a “feast day” to come in line with the same status and honor attributed to the other 11 "male" Apostles.

The Shepherds of Christ’s flock must learn to listen more attentively to the bleating of their troubled sheep. We the laity have starting to understand what St Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Ephesians:

"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" - Ephesians 4:14

It would appear that the Roman Church believes that Christ died on the cross to atone for the sin committed by Adam, forgiving “men”; but refuses to accept that His atonement applied “equally” to the sin committed by Eve, forgiving “women” as well.

 


- Pax Tecum

 

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