Icon of Mary Magdalene
In 2016 Pope Francis elevated the day commemorating Mary Magdalene to a feast day in the Roman Catholic Church. Calling her the Apostle to the Apostles, Francis paid great tribute to the role of women in the mission and ministry of Jesus. On the day after Jesus was crucified Mary went to the tomb to take spices and oils for anointing Jesus’ body. When Mary got to the tomb she found that the stone had already been rolled away from the entrance. She ran back to tell the disciples that the tomb was open. Mary, Peter and another disciple went back to the tomb and found it empty. Peter and the other disciple went home but Mary stayed at the tomb to grieve. It was then that the risen Christ appeared to Mary. This time when Mary went to the disciples it was with the good news of the resurrection.
Mary of Magdala (a town in Galilee), Mary is often portrayed as a prostitute.
When Jesus said that prostitutes had a better chance of entering God’s Kingdom than his opponents did (Matthew 21:31), some people came to the conclusion that Mary Magdalene fit the category. Biblical witness does not support the picture of Mary as a prostitute. In a time when the cultural standard was for women to live under the protection of a man, Mary’s devotion to Jesus and her presence in the fellowship of the disciples was remarkable.
Among the many icons of Mary of Magdala, many picture her with an egg. One tradition is that after Jesus’ Ascension, Mary boldly presented herself to the Emperor Tiberius Caesar in Rome to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. In her hand she bore an egg as a symbol of the resurrection. Holding the egg out to him, she exclaimed for the first time what is now the universal Easter proclamation among Christians, “Christ is risen!” The emperor, mocking her, said that Jesus had no more risen than the egg in her hand was red. Immediately, the egg turned red as a sign from God to illustrate the truth of her message. The Emperor then listened to her complaints about Pilate condemning an innocent man to death and had Pilate removed from Jerusalem under imperial displeasure. This story became the memorialized in the tradition of colored eggs at Easter time.
The sisters of the Order of St. Helena have written a hymn to honor Mary Magdalene. It is found in The Saint Helena’s Breviary, Church Publishing, 2008, Here are two of the verses:
“Out of the night where hope had died,
to tomb once sealed, now gaping wide,
the Magdalene made haste, to mourn
and bring her spices through the dawn.
…Soon trusting love cast out her fears;
She rose and brushed away her tears.
As first apostle, Mary ran
to tell God’s resurrection plan.”