MARY MAGDALENE—Apostle to the Apostles

09 - page 5 - MARY MAGDALENE

Jesus most likely met Mary Magdalene at Magdala on the Sea of Galilee for that is where she lived. Mary Magdalene is also known as “Mary of Magdala.”

The gospel presents Mary Magdalene as an active character at Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and empty tomb. Certainly Mary Magdalene filled the role of an apostle as she was one sent forth with orders. These were specific orders given first by an angel at the empty tomb: “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:7, and “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” Mark 16:7

Then by the risen Christ: “…go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ ” John 20:17; and again by the risen Christ: “…Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:10

Later tradition proclaimed Mary Magdalene “Apostle to the Apostles” because the risen Christ appeared to her first and gave her instructions to relay His message to His “brothers” (favored disciples), which she carried out immediately. For this reason I have chosen to put her story 1st in the series of 14.

Noli me Tangere - Pietro da CortonaChrist appearing to Mary Magdalene by Pietro da Cortona, c. 1640-50
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia


The Provençal Tradition (1)

There is a widely recognized, time-honored alliance between Mary Magdalene and Provence. Two significant sites of pilgrimage bear witness to this claim: Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene in St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and LaSainte-Baume, a mountain cave on the plain of the Plan d’Aups, overlooking the Massif de la Sainte-Baume.

Tradition has it that, after the execution of St. James the greater in Jerusalem (son of Zebedee and Mary Salome), Mary Magdalene, her sister Martha and brother Lazarus were persecuted by the Jews of Jerusalem and imprisoned. The Jews were afraid of the crowd if they were to execute the prisoners so they towed them off the shores of Palestine in a boat without sails or oars or supplies and abandoned them to the open sea. Others in the boat included Mary Jacobe, mother of James the lesser and the sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary, Mary Salome, mother of the apostles James the greater and John the beloved, Maximin, one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, Cedonius, the blind man who was miraculously healed by Jesus, Marcelle, Martha’s servant, and Sara, maid of the two Marys.

Mary Magdalene and her companions being sent off to seaMary Magdalene and her companions being sent off to sea,
Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene, St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, France

After narrowly escaping death during a storm at sea the boat finally came to shore on the coast of Gaul in a town now called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Camargue.

Mary Jacobe, Mary Salome and Sara remained in Camargue. Martha traveled towards Avignon and ended up in Tarascon. Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Maximin and Cedonius traveled on to Marseille where Mary Magdalene began to preach.

MM preaching in MarseilleMary Magdalene Preaching in Marseille, c. 1518,
John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art

They ended up converting all of Provence. Lazarus became the first bishop of Marseille. Mary Magdalene then went on to Aix where Maximin had already gone, some twenty miles north of Marseille.

Maximin became the first bishop of Aix and Mary Magdalene retreated to a mountain Cave on the plain of the Plan d’Aups known as La Sainte-Baume (47AD) where she remained alone for the last thirty years of her life in contemplation, prayer and penance. She is said to have been lifted up by the angels seven times each day at the canonical hours and fed heavenly nourishment. The tiny chapel of Saint Pilon on the crest above La Sainte-Baume was built in memory of Mary Magdalene being raised by angels.

When the time of Mary Magdalene’s death arrived she was carried by angels to the oratory of Maximin, where she recieved viaticum. She died in Maximin’s arms and her body was laid in an alabaster sarcophagus in an oratory he constructed in the Gallo Roman town of Villa Latta or Tégulata, which after Maximin’s death became St. Maximin.

Mary Magdalene's Last CommunionMary Magdalene’s Last Communion by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1484-9,
John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Saint Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of contemplatives. Her feast day is July 22.

Marie-Madeleine by EischmaninhoffMarie-Madeleine by Eischmaninoff, c. 1868

(1) A LOVE DEVOUT—The True Untold Story of Mary Magdalene by Paula Lawlor, 2011

2 Responses to “MARY MAGDALENE—Apostle to the Apostles”

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  1. Stacey lee says:

    When is the 2020 trip I’m ready!!!

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