It has been said of Mary the Magdalene that she endured great suffering, gained great understanding, and lived in wisdom. She endures.
Mary is identified in the Christian New Testament as one of several women who traveled with Jesus during his ministry. She is mentioned often in the canonical books as a disciple, but also as a woman who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, and who was the first to come upon the empty tomb. She is mentioned in the books of Luke 8 and Mark 16 (long version) as someone who was once possessed by evil spirits, and who had been cured of them. “Magdalene” refers to the fishing village of Magdala, from which Mary is thought to have come. In the New Testament, she is known as one of several women who supported the ministry of Jesus and the apostles out of their own resources.
Mary is also prominent in the Gnostic Gospels, where she is seen as Jesus’ closest disciple and the one who had the most clarity and understanding about his teachings. Her nearness to Jesus was not well received by the other followers, who tended to speak of her with envy because of the special teachings she received and the closeness she experienced with their leader.
People sometimes characterize Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. There is no support for this in the Christian or Gnostic texts. Mary Magdalene was introduced in the book of Luke in connection with Mary of Bethany and another woman who was not named but was characterized as “sinful” and who anointed Jesus’ feet. Some scholars think this juxtaposition caused her to be confused with a “sinful woman,” an idea that was expanded to color her as a prostitute. This point of view was furthered by Pope Gregory I in the 6th century, and throughout medieval legends in which her wealth and beauty were emphasized and enlarged. Eventually, in the 20th century, Pope Paul VI removed her identification as sinful from the General Roman Calendar, although the stigmatizing idea continues in popular culture. She is now considered to be a saint in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and by Anglicans and Lutherans. She is often thought to represent penance.
Bart Ehrman, who is an early Christianity historian and a New Testament scholar, proposes that the seven demons of which Mary Magdalene was cured may represent ongoing and serious emotional trauma which required a number of attempts to cure. Seven may not be a literal number of exorcisms conducted for her, but may instead represent a number of completion after longstanding suffering and many attempts to heal. We suggest that Mary Magdalene may shed light on the experience of trauma, the suffering that ensues, and the ability to recover and grow in spiritual maturity. She became a beacon to all who followed the teachings of Jesus, not only at the time, but for the ages.
In the Gnostic gospel Pistis Sophia, likely written in the second century, Mary Magdalene was present in a gathering when Jesus answered many of his followers’ questions. More than half of the questions were posed by Mary. Jesus is reported to have said to her, “Mary, thou blessed one . . . whose heart is raised to the kingdom of heaven more than all thy brethren . . . Well done, Mary. . . . You will be the fullness of fullness and the completion of completion.”
This is a gathering for people who have experienced hardship and who seek the presence of others who understand. It is for people who yearn for spiritual company. It is a way to experience and understand our value in this vast universe. We are beloved. There is a community for us.
The Church of the Magdalene offers a weekly online meeting place to share joys and concerns, to be companions, and to connect with an experienced spiritual leader for direction and support.
We are practiced in many faith traditions, and respect all those that guide us toward compassion. Our teachers draw upon the wisdom traditions of Buddhism, Islam, indigenous faiths, Quaker practice, and mainstream Christian denominations.
Join us as we explore the many pathways up the mountain. May we be united as one people, in peace with one another.
To find out more about meetings, contact us at info@TheNewCommunity.org.