Mary Magdalene tells her story
In this “interview” Mary Magdalene is associated with the sinner. It reflects upon forgiveness, without taking into account the complex questions regarding her identity.
I was born in Magdala, a little town in a narrow valley that jets out over the Tiberias sea. It’s a blessed land, green and fertile, with a beautiful lake abounding in fish. The weather can be harsh at times with sudden storms that pass through stirring up enormous waves, but it has molded the character of the inhabitants, they’re tenacious. It has become a commercial port town, now called Tarichea, famous for its fish, oils, perfumes and ointments.
My people are courageous, they’ve withstood the Romans with their own blood. The saltiness in the air and the hot sun remind me of my youth, when the well-weathered, strong fishermen would call out to me, “Miriam you’re gorgeous!”. God has been generous to me, he gave me dark brown eyes, silky hair and a lady-like elegance. I have a regal name, Miriam, like Moses’ sister, which means “princess”.
In fact I became a princess, but a very proud one. I was inebriated by own beauty and I squandered my body impulsively. I thought not of You who made me to be virtuous and strong. I thought not of You while I buried You in the depth of my sins.
But on that day you impressed indelible marks upon my fragile heart, which had darkened and turned cold. For You men have abandoned their lives and followed You. Something had also struck me, a voice that called me to rest in your heart.
On that day I looked at myself in the mirror and saw my body, obscured by purple, dimmed by gold, and buried in the dust of false colors. I was a deformed image of my soul, yes my soul.
I wanted to drive it out of my mind. I wanted not to care for my soul. The temple of my body had been desecrated in my vain search for unfulfilled desires and empty affirmations. But perhaps the whole time I’d actually been seeking love. When you’ve fallen pride is always there to console you so as to avoid the pain of humiliation. Humility, I hated that word. My castle of pride was about to crumble from vainglory.
And then You came, promising a Reign for those who will be last, the outcasts, like me. There was hope that I too could enter into that Reign. When your presence stopped the persecutors pummeling stones at the adulterous woman and I heard you say to her, “Go and sin no more”, my hope became certainty. You weren’t even disheartened by her.
You’ve written the New Law. Even I can be forgiven. Forgiveness was not spoken about in the Old Testament, rather a firm punishment was prescribed for every sin.
It had been a long time since I’d stepped foot in Synagogue; the Synagogue of Magdala is majestic with beautiful frescoes and mosaics, and at the center is a menorah , much like the seven arms of the Jerusalem Temple. I returned there to listen to Your words, but like a thief I hid myself under a veil and behind a column. Together with tears my hardened heart began to beat again. Finally, I felt joy and contrition all at the same time; I was repentant. I’d been released from the pain for what I had been and desired to become someone new. I wanted to be like You, follow You, serve You and help You. But would you accept me? Perhaps I was being presumptuous?
The day I came looking for You, You were in Simon, the Pharisee’s house, who’d invited you to eat with him. When I entered my heart sank and felt as if I were profaning a temple. I held a jar of alabaster filled with precious oil tightly in my hands. I fell to the ground, crouching next to your feet. My tears fell on your holy feet as I strewed them with perfume and kissed them between sobs. Afterwards I dried them, not with my veil, but with my hair, absorbing everything.
This was the only way I knew how to tell You that I had changed, to show You that my eyes had been opened and my tears were sincere: ‘Cleanse my soul, forgive me, please, forgive me!’
Then a miracle occurred: you defended me from those who disdained me and from undeserved accusations. You defended my human nature, sinful but repentant, and You defended my dignity as a woman. Your words to Simon rang in my ears like the sound of thunder, “His sins were forgiven because he had loved much. He who forgives little, loves little”. And to me you’d given life, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace!”.
From then on I became your shadow and people pointed at me saying, “That’s Mary Magdalene who was possessed by seven demons!” I didn’t pay any attention, in fact, I laughed along with Jona, Susanna and many other women whom you’d healed and who walked with us. Together we sought to learn from our Master. I didn’t miss a word You said, and my faith grew ever stronger.
I will never forget the women at the foot of the Cross, especially your mother’s cry with her eyes fixed on the heavens. I remember a loud rumble from the earthquake and then being engulfed in darkness.
But then came the blinding light from your tomb. The men, Peter and John, thought we women were delirious. They ran away but I stayed, the stupid woman, crying because I couldn’t find you. I asked where they’d put your body.
When I first saw you I thought you were the gardener, not because my tears were blurring my eyesight, but because you looked so different. But I recognized you when you called my name, “Miriam!”. “Rabbunì!”, it was You. And then you entrusted me, a sinful woman, with the Good News: “Go, to my brothers and tell them I’m going to my Father and your Father, to My God and your God”. You made me one of your disciples; you took away my sins. You called me by name and resurrected me.
St. Peter’s Square
Aug. 17, 2019
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