Who is Saint Mary Magdalene ?
A sinful woman converted by Christ
Redeemed by the grace of the Risen Christ, and who became the Apostle of the Apostles.
From the first centuries of Christianity, penitents, saints, kings, popes, came to carry out their pilgrimage to Saint Mary Magdalene in the cave of Sainte-Baume.
This woman is one whose Christ has cast out seven devils. Once purified, she became with the Twelve and some other women, disciple of Jesus Christ, our Lord. She was one of the few disciples to stand at the foot of the cross, shedding all her tears to the one who offered himself on the wood of the cross. On the morning of Easter, Saint Mary Magdalene recognized in the gardener the risen Christ. He asked her to announce to his apostles that he is risen, that is why St. Mary Magdalene is called « Apostle of the Apostles ».
According to legend, shortly afterwards, Mary Magdalene embarked with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha. She arrived in the place now called Saintes Maries de la Mer. She accompanied Lazarus to Marseille. She continued her journey along the river Huveaune and settled in the cave of Sainte-Baume to spend the last thirty years of her life there. She offered all her life in penance for the conversion of sinners.
The pilgrims who still come today to the cave are surprised by the inestimable presence of this saint who leads all those who are ready to Christ our Lord.
Is she the forgiven sinner and Mary of Bethany ?
From the time of St. Gregory the Great (6th century), the Church Doctors and Fathers saw in the forgiven sinner (Luke 7: 36-50) and Mary of Bethany (Luke 10: 38-42; Jn 12: 1-11) the same person, Mary Magdalene.
The unity of the character can certainly be contested or defended but taken in this unity, it astonishes by the spiritual path that it invites us to live.
The forgiven sinner
The Gospel – Lk 7, 36-50
A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.p Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages* and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.* But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Mary Magdalene, by birth, had many gifts. All admired her beauty, her delicacy, her intelligence. She was become the inescapable host of every feast given in the trendy environment of the time. When she appeared at every feast, all eyes are resting on her. Gradually, she came to appreciate it and the spirit of the world imprisonned her. Her desire for the flesh, her desire for money, her desire for honors, hindered his spirit. In the beginning, she tasted, then little by little, she dried up inside until she felt empty and so miserable. Who could get her out of this environment, this confinement?
In her journey between Bethany and Magdala, she heard of a man who also came on road, from Jerusalem to Capernaum, from Samaria to Galilee. She heard of him that he has done marvellous things: he has healed, has spoken with authority, he has forgiven. Men have followed him like the famous crooked publican, Levi. Some Pharisees were outraged by the attitude of this man called Jesus. Did he take himself for the Son of God? Who was this Jew who ate at the table of sinners? Who was this Jesus who forgave sins? Jesus, the one who saves, replied to the Pharisees: « It is not the healthy people who need doctor, but the sick ones: I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance » (Lk 5: 31-32). This sentence is decisive in the life of Mary Magdalene. She humbly acknowledges that she is sick and sinful. Perhaps she said to herself: « He can cure me, I will go to him, I will meet him and if he is really the doctor of every soul then he will cure me. »
The opportunity to meet him came when Mary Magdalene heard that he was invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee. She was getting ready to go. She went to meet him. She emerged in the middle of the banquet, throwed herself at his feet and layed on it all the tears of her repentance. With humility, she took her hair and wiped the feet of Christ. She embraced them and deposited there a perfume of great price. Christ, faced with the thoughts of Simon who judged this woman, took her defense and told Simon: « His many sins are forgiven him because she loved much. » (Lk 7:47). Then Christ addressed Mary Magdalene: « Your sins are forgiven (Lk 7:48), your faith has saved you, go in peace (Lk 7:50). »
The Gospel – Lk 8, 1-3
Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.a Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.
After being delivered from all her sins, exorcised from all her devils, Mary Magdalene, light and radiant due to the God’s forgiveness, was willing to follow Christ and to assist Him with her goods. Christ called her to take her place among his flock. Christ, pastor par excellence, gathered his sheep. He built his body. From the apostles to the holy women, they all set out. They went from village to village proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples and women (included Mary Magdalene) had the privilege of receiving special teachings. Christ teached them one of the main points of His teaching: the spiritual disposition to have in order to be a disciple. Mary Magdalene listened attentively to the words of the master. She remembered two fundamental pillars: being poor as Christ became poor and being docile to the Holy Spirit.
After being touched by the grace, Mary Magdalene conceived the joy proposed by the Christ. This happiness surpasses our human expectations, it is divine one. Like all true happiness, it has to be built. The building of the happiness from God is demanding. This requirement is first a call to poverty. The poverty proposed by the Christ is first and foremost a spiritual one more than material. Material poverty is only the visible sign of the true spiritual poverty. This poverty consists in renouncing oneself, that is, renouncing all things that prevent us from going freely to God. To refuse our selfish pleasures to be all turned towards God and towards the others. Christ calls us to renounce all our earthly treasures, our impure desires, our manners so human to think, to reflect, to love, to act. He invites us to lay on our shoulders all our burdens, our difficulties, our failures, our problems, our human joys and to take the concerns of the Christ. To lay down his burdens with Christ is to take charge of his yoke. He invites us to see our concerns with His eyes. « Come unto me, all ye that labor under the burden, and I will comfort you: Load ye my yoke, and put me in my school: for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find relief for yourselves. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light « (Mt 11: 28-30). To renounce is to lay at the feet of Christ our whole being so that by his grace he may elevate us to the life which God wants for us. « Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but who will lose his life because of me, he will save it » (Lk 9:24). To renounce oneself is to say a free and sincere yes to the call of God.
This poverty to which Christ invites us is a disposition to welcome the treasures of God and to be shaped by grace. The grace of God acts in the heart of man who is available to His grace. Being available requires humility of heart, and docility to the Holy Spirit. Mary Magdalene prepared herself by humility and the grace acted in the most intimate of herself. In her prayers, she asked God to come into her to make His home. « Lord, allow me to be shaped by your grace, let me be reconciled by your forgiveness, let me be transformed by your word, let me be carried by Christ, let me be led by your Son, I let myself be cured by the true doctor of hearts, in order to be put back in the right direction by the one You have sent, the way, the truth and the life.
Being docile to the Spirit also means having an unalterable trust in God. By trusting God, I allow him to act in the most intimate of my heart. I trust in Him because I know that He alone knows me, He alone knows the path to find the ultimate happiness. He alone knows the true good which corresponds to what I am. He alone knows the good to which He calls me to serve Him. He alone knows the place where I can be the happiest and give myself without counting as He Himself has totally given Himself.
Contemplation : Martha and Mary
The Gospel – Lk 10, 38-42
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Mary Magdelene, you understand why Christ asks His disciples the renunciation and the docility to the grace. These dispositions are indispensable in order to set you in motion, to place you in the footsteps of Christ. And now, let the beautiful things begin.
She was always the first to ask questions, to beg the teachings, to open her ears when the master spoke. For one thing is to prepare oneself to receive everything from Christ. Another one is to receive, to listen to the word of God, to try to put it into practice and build a virtuous person. For the disposition of the heart is worth only if we are in search of truth and love of God. Mary Magdalene understood then the importance of biblical wisdom. Listen, Israel. Listen. Give ear to the truth, receive it from your God, receive the word of God sown in your heart, root yourself in the Word of God, let the seed that Christ has deposited in your mind germinate. Be enlightened by the light of the prophet par excellence. And then you will understand how God loves and will only desire one thing from you, to love as God loves. You will love God more than anything and your brothers in a true love for the good of God. The more you utter love words, the more you will do thoughful acts, the more virtues will arise in you, the more you will proclaim the wonders of God. Following Christ, once freed from all her sins and devils, Mary Magdalene was aware of her chance to be with Christ. She allowed Him to lead he ; nothing, she though, could disturb her. Christ is there, Jesus is present in my life, why shall I fear?
By remaining at the feet of Christ, by being near the source of living water, by quenching your true thirst, you show us the importance, the necessity, the ultimate task of all human life, our being, our expectations . In taking up your defense, Christ showed you the goal of your life, to see God in eternal life. He made you understand why he has created us: to be in God and to share His life. He assured you that he was the one who could quench your thirst. What a joy to listen to his voice ! You looked at him and you saw him, the Word that was with God and took our human condition. Christ gave you to live a privileged moment and no one can take it. At that moment you tasted what will be the delights of eternal life, the sweetness of the divine word. You were nourished by Christ. You now enjoyed the delights of what would be the divine banquet in the Kingdom. You feeded on the Lord’s table. You remembered at this moment this meeting that Christ had with the Samaritan woman. Christ said to her, « I am the living water, who drinks of this water shall live forever, and the water which I give shall be in those that receive it the spring of water gushing forth into eternal life » (Jn 4:14) . Did you understand Madeleine what Christ showed you? What will be eternal life. Eternal life is the contemplation of the mystery of God, His truth, His goodness, His unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, His simplicity, His love, His beauty. Will we be hungry and thirsty always? « One day we will be intimately and definitively united to the pure and perfect goodness of God, we will no longer need to meet the needs of the body, and we shall be fully happy: lacking nothing, possessing everything, having nothing left. We shall be filled with the abundance of the house of God, and we shall be satisfied when His glory will manifested, and this is what Mary understood: if she did not possess this life intimately and definitively, she possessed at least the one who, being everything, can satisfy: such was the best part that Mary had chosen, never will she be taken from her » Saint Augustine.
Friendship : the resurrection of Lazarus
The Gospel – Jn 11, 1-4.32-35.39.42-44
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,a the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death,* but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed* and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”
I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,* “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
This friendship with Christ was real. Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Four times in this text, the evangelist John ensured it. When Jesus first learnt that Lazarus was sick, Martha and Mary made Jesus be informed: « that man that you love is sick. » Immediately afterwards, when Jesus decided despite the news to remain two days in the place where he was, John made this remark: Jesus loved Martha, his sister and Lazarus. Then, when Jesus began his journey to Bethany, he mentionned Lazarus as His friend to His disciples. The Jews themselves, when they saw Jesus weeping near Mary Magdalene in tears, said: « See how he loved her. » All these words show us the friendship that existed between Jesus and the family from Bethany.
This friendship is an opportunity to understand the true meaning of friendship, a true love that transcends our human horizons. Knowing that his friend Lazarus was sick, Jesus did not immediately go to his bedside. The first step he undertook is to make himself present to his friend by thought, by prayer. He took the time to confide it to God, to discern the most perfect good for his friend. Christ teached us that the best good to wish for his friend is the good that God wants for him and his entourage. Jesus could have set out immediately to relieve Lazarus of his illness. Instead, he waited for the moment to shoot Lazarus from death. Christ then decided to go to meet Lazarus and his sisters when they most needed His friendship.
And yet, they had many friendships. How many Jews had come to see the family in Bethany to be with them and console them? But the presence of their friends was not enough to get them out of their pain. And instead of getting them out of their mourning, they crushed them with their tears. Jesus arrived at the gates of the city. As soon as Marthe knew that, she rose to meet Christ. She told her sister in secret that the master was there: she rose in turn to meet her Lord. Tenderness overflowed in this narrative about consolation. Christ took the time to be with each member of the family. He carried their grief. Seeing Mary so sad, Christ shuddered with all his being. He was troubled and wept with the weeping Mary. Christ consoled Martha and Mary by taking their grief upon him. He understood the state of their heart, the state of their soul. He wept with those who cried. This consolation that Christ testified to his friends is not just a feeling of complacency, it is a moment of total confidence, of understanding the other.
They both came to Jesus and said, « If you had been there, my brother would not have died. » To Martha, the Lord answered with these words of hope: « Do not worry, I am the Resurrection and life, only believe and your brother will live. » To Mary, the Lord answered with tears and the steps to go to the tomb of Lazarus. Standing in front of the door of the tomb, he pronounced this word which was realizing: « Lazarus, come outside, come out of your tomb! » Was not this word the sign of the most beautiful friendship of Christ with Lazarus and his sisters, and with all the witnesses of this scene? Christ, by this act, revealed all the depth of his friendship. The friend wants the good of his friends: may they live. Christ wants the most perfect good that is to lead us to his Father and live his life. He wishes thereby to explain to what he says: there is no greater love than to give our life for those we love.
Adoration : the Anointing in Bethany
The Gospel – Jn 12, 1-11 (or Mk 14, 3-9 ; Mt 26, 6-13)
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus* and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages* and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” [The] large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.
After the resurrection of Lazarus, Christ was finding refuge in Ephraim. He was far from the threat due to the Jews who have decided to seize him and kill him. He remains alone with his disciples. The Passover is coming closer. Before entering solemnly at Jerusalem, Christ made a stop at Bethany. He found his friends there: Lazare, Marthe and Marie. They were all invited to a dinner given in honor of Christ. Mary slipped near Christ with a perfume of great price and finesse. In the middle of the meal, she removed the top of the bottle of perfume. The room was full of its pleasant odor. From all sides, the eyes of the guests searched where this odor comes from. They saw Mary Magdalene with the bottle in her hand, delicately pouring the precious nard on Jesus’ feet. She wiped them tenderly with her hair.
This gesture of Mary gave rise to lively comments. Judas was offended. This gesture was useless, luxurious and scandalous. It was useless because it did not meet any need. It was luxurious due to its price and value, by spending so much money for this gesture. It was scandalous : it would have been much more profitable to sell this perfume and give the money to the poors. Christ took once again the defense of Mary because this gesture was so profund, so rich and so free!
This gesture was profound because it showed all the gratitude from Mary Magdalene for the works of God. Through this gesture, Mary Magdalene rendered thanks for all the work of Salvation that the Lord had accomplished towards her friends, herself and all men. Her gesture was the fruit of a prayer where she recognized in Christ all the saving actions that he has done for all the people he met in these crossed cities and paths. Following Christ, she could recognize that all his actions and words can not come from the power of man. Only God is able to do such works.
This gesture was rich in adoration. The work of the Lord manifested His divinity. Marie-Madeleine was not mistaken. She saw and believed. Through this action, Mary Magdalene paid tribute homage to the entire Trinity. She adored the Father who sent his only son to dispense his Spirit, the Holy Spirit. She adored the pastor according to the heart of God so long awaited by the prophets : he come to seek sinners in order to lead them to eternal life. She adored the Son of God who had come to fulfill in every way the will of his Father. She worshiped the one who is the Resurrection and life as he said in words and actions when he rose Lazarus from the tomb.
This gesture was a genuine gift, completely free, that required no return. Mary Magdalene offered to Jesus the most beautiful, the dearest gift. « And yet, » she said to herself, « what is this gift compared to God’s gift ? » God give us life. Is it not for Him useless, luxurious or even scandalous? What can He expect in return? God does not need us in order to live, to be greater, more beautiful, more true, more good, more perfect. God is sufficient for Himself. The life He gives us adds nothing to His perfection, to His being. The life that God gives us is luxurious because He gives us everything. He gives us to be from His image. He invites us to His likeness. The man with the freedom given by God wanted to be like God and without God. God, faithful to Himself, has come to us by preparing the coming of His Son, to give us His Son so that Christ will give Himself and open us the gates of eternal life. He gives us to be His sons by the Spirit of His Son, the Holy Spirit which He gives in fullness. Mary Magdalene was right to give all she had. Moreover, this gesture, Christ told us, will be announced wherever the gospel will be announced.
At the foot of Cross
The Gospel – Mk 15, 40-41 ; Mt 27, 55-56 ; Lk 23, 55-56 ; Jn 19, 25
Mk 15, 40-41
There were also women looking on from a distance.m Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
Mt 27, 55-56
There were many women there, looking on from a distance,* who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him. Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Lk 23, 55-56
The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.
Jn 19, 25
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.
After this tribute given in honor of Christ, Jesus ascended to Jerusalem. He entered this city, acclaimed by the crowd. Then he asked his apostles to prepare the feast of the Passover. The Passover meal took a special atmosphere. Jesus gave them His spiritual will, He gives the bread and the wine, signs of the spiritual nourishment of His body and His blood. Judas left the meal to betray Jesus, Peter promised fidelity to Him when Jesus told him that he would disown Him this evening three times. They went to the Garden of Olives. Christ prayed and accepted the cup that His father offered him. He was arrested by the soldiers. He was led in front of the Sanhedrin. The morning he was in front of Pilate, who did not find in Jesus grounds for conviction. In front of the screaming crowd: « Crucify Him! », Pilate yielded, liberated Barabas, and condemned Christ to death.
Christ was charged with His cross. He climbed the death hill. His mother and Mary Magdalene, accompanied by some other women and Jean, followed him from afar. He falled three times. Interminable was the pain that Christ underwent. On the other side, Mary Magdalene had a ray of hope, hoping for a moment that Jesus would be delivered from the punishment that falled on the pastor. She had seen so many miracles happened from the hands of Christ. Arriving at the place of the last torture, she realized that nothing will be able to get out Jesus from this situation. She understood nothing and accepted the sad fate of the one who declared Himself to be the source of water springing into eternal life (Jn 4:14), who comes to fulfill the will of the one who sent Him (Jn 6:35), the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the Son of God (Jn 10:36), the Resurrection (Jn. Jn 11:24), the Way, the Truth, the Life (Jn 14: 6). He arrived at the Calvary where He is has been stripped. Mary Magdalene saw Him rise from the ground, and laid His arms upon the wood of the cross. She heard the last words that Jesus spoke to his Father, the good thief, his mother, John, the centurion.
Jesus did not speak to Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene did not speak to Jesus. They remained in a suffering silence. « In the past she silently poured out her tears and odors to Jesus, and you can see that in the Pharisee she did not say a word, and at the banquet in Bethany, where she did the same with her perfumes, she did it without words. She spread her tears and odors on Jesus in silence, Jesus now sheded His blood on Mary Magdalene in silence. So she was without words but not without love towards Jesus, and now Jesus was not without love towards Mary, although he was without a word, and the power of His spirit, and of His suffering spirit, was extended to Mary, and she entered by love in conformity of mind and state with Jesus. She suffered by love what Jesus suffered from the Jews, and this cross crucified Mary Magdalene in Jesus and with Jesus ; these thorns crown and sadden Mary Magdalene as well as Jesus, and that spear that pierced the dead heart of Jesus pierced the living heart of Mary. » Pierre de Bérulle, extracted from ‘At the foot of the cross’
The burial of Christ
Mk 15, 42-47
When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea,* a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died. And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.
Mt 27, 57-61
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus.He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.
Mary Magdalene remained for a moment at the foot of the cross. The guards descended the body of Jesus. They gave it to Mary her mother. She took her son on her knees, rose her head to the sky and cried. Mary Magdalene, on her knees, also wept on the feet of Jesus. For his part, Joseph of Arimathea removed the body of Jesus (Jn 20:38). He wraped it in a shroud and deposited it in the tomb that he had made buried in the rock (Mt 27, 59). Mary Magdalene closely followed Joseph of Arimathea. She saw where he deposited it (Mk 15:47). Mary Magdalene remained seated for a moment near the sepulcher (Mt 27: 59). She was dejected, tired, annihilated … Her look was empty. The tears of sadness flowed over her face. Her master was now lying in the tomb, lifeless. She retraced in her mind all these last moments from the arrest of Jesus to His death on the cross.
A thousand questions arose in her mind. Why did He cry to his Father: « Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing »? Why did He say to one of the two thieves « today you will be in the eternal Kingdom with me » ? Why did He say, « Elijah, why have you forsaken me » ? Why when He groans « I’m thirsty », do they give Him vinegar? Why did He turn to His mother and look at John: « Woman, this is your son? » Why did He turn to John and look at His mother: « John, this is your mother »? Why did He proclaim in a final effort: « All is accomplished, in your hands I give my spirit »? Why did not the soldiers break his legs like the two thieves? Why did the soldiers pierce his heart with a spear once he died? Why did water and blood sprout from the wound? Why? Why? Why?
All these questions had no answer in Mary Magdalene. After so much agitation in her mind, Mary Magdalene returned to reality. Looking up, she saw the tomb where the master’s body rested. He was dead. It was unavoidable that Mary Magdelene ask all these questions. It would not solve the fact that Jesus died. She accepted that the only truth she holded was His death. The only thing to do at this moment is to accept His death: Jesus was dead. In the tomb Mary Magdalene dropped all her questions, all her weakness. She accepted that Jesus was no more. Was absent. He was no longer alive with her. But then, what shall I do without Him? Who do she follow? Who di she can listen to? What does she do? Accepting His dead, I accept. But how can we live without Him? Did He not have the words of eternal life? Was He not the way, the truth, the life? Oh Lord, I am understanding and realizing that life without You is so sad, so empty, so dead. Oh Lord, how can I be without you? Oh Lord, I experience painfully that without your word, without Your love, I am no more. Oh Lord, I become aware of my human weakness. Without you I am nothing.
The Resurrection of Christ
The Gospel – Jn 20, 1-17 or Mt 28, 1-8 ; Mk 16, 1-8 ; Lk 24, 1-8
On the first day of the week,a Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths* there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned home.
But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.f And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”h She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”* which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,* for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
On Sunday, at dawn, Mary Magdalene, accompanied by some women, came to the tomb. Along the way, they wondered who would going to open the door for them. Stupor, on their arrival, they saw that the door was open. Mary Magdalene rushed to the apostles closed in the cenacle. Pierre opened it. Mary Magdalene exclaimed: « The body of the Lord has been taken away. » Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb. The disciple came first and passed his head. Peter joined him and entered the tomb first. The body was no longer there, the cloths were arranged and folded. Peter and the beloved disciple returned home. Mary Magdalene remained. She had only one desire, to find the body of her master. Two angels appeared to her and say: « Why do you seek the living one among the dead ones? » She saw a man. She went to meet him. The man said to her, « Who are you looking for, why are you weeping? » And she replied: « If you took the body of Jesus, tell me where you put it. » And there, the man pronounced a word, her first name: « Mary ». And there Mary, in an instant, recognized the man who was in front of her, Christ. He was alive, he was risen. The meeting of the Easter morning between the Resurrected and Mary Magdalene ended with this prodigious talk in which Mary Magdalene, in her joy, throwed herself at His feet. Christ was holding her back and saying, « Noli me tangere », « Do not touch me, I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them: « I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God (John 20:17) ». In His reply, Christ wanted to explain Her all the reasons why He should have die and rosen from the dead.
If he has accepted to die on the cross, it was in order to resurrect and take his place with his Father and our Father, his God and our God. Now that he was risen, it was no longer necessary for Mary Magdalene to retain Christ. Because if Christ was risen, he was ascending to his Father. Thus, Christ would henceforth always be with her. It would be in a different way. Certainly Mary Magdalene would no longer see Him; she would no longer follow Him. His presence with her will be in some way stronger because He was ascending to His Father, He will be present in the most intimate of her heart. Christ has abandoned himself to the will of His Father, he has lived the Passion, all his sufferings, all his humiliations in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He offered himself as a taskless victim, pure and holy. He offered the perfect sacrifice. He was nailed to the wood of the cross, the place whe He offered His life. He was dead. He was deposited in the tomb. He came down to hell so that his Father would come and fetch him on the third day. He has drawn Him from this place of indifference to lead Him among the angels in the throne that He has prepared on His right for Him from eternity. And in this Ascension he opened the gates for Adam, all the patriarchs, and all the prophets, all those who believed in Him, all those who threw themselves into His mercy. « Mary, he said, my father is not my father, He is your Father. My God is not my God, He is your God. Do not hold me back. My place is no longer here. I finished the work that the Father had entrusted to me. My place is now with my Father. »
Our Father has allowed me to meet you so that you may know, that you understand, that you become aware of everything. Mary, believe me, I have conquered death. Death did not have no hold over me. I am alive. I have risen. Mary, believe me, death has no hold on you, on Peter, on my disciples, on all those who go to my school and follow me as you have followed me. I opened the doors of eternal life. The kingdom of my Father is now available for you. By my death, my resurrection and my ascension, I offer you the grace necessary for your purification, your sanctification, your glorification. By my death and resurrection, you are delivered from the consequence of original sin. Through my death and resurrection, I give you as adoptive father my Father in heaven. You are His adopted sons and daughters. You saw on my pierced side water and blood. Blood is the living water of which I have spoken so much to you. Water means my body which is the Church of which you are the members by this grace acquired on the cross by my death. By grace and by the Church, you are integrated as a member into my body. I give you to share my life, the life of my father with the Holy Spirit in eternity. Are you aware of the immense gift that my Father offers you and offers to all men? Because all men are His children. All men were created in His image and likeness. All men of every race, language, people and nation are invited to enjoy the banquet of the lamb’s wedding. Be aware of the life that you and your brothers are called to live. Live it now because it is worth living. Respect it because it is beautiful. Understand that it is a gift from God. Understand its invaluable value.
You now understand why I was the so long awaited and proclaimed pastor by the prophets. You now perceive better the pasture I have spoken to you. Imagine that the beautiful moments we have exchanged with the disciples are only the first fruits – I call you for and in eternity. I am the promised bliss. I am the poor of heart who opens the Kingdom of Heaven. I am the sweet who promises and brings the promised land. I am the consoler of the afflicted ones. I am the one who satisfies the hungry and thirsty for justice. I am the merciful who has mercy. I am the pure heart that makes you see God. I am the peacemaker by whom you are sons of God. I am persecuted for the righteousness that opens the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Mary Magdalene, be in the joy of being filled by Christ and be sure that you will find rest near me, peace and blessing. I have opened for you the doors of happiness that you are not able to not grasp and from which the desire is inscribed in the depths of your being.
The Apostle of Apostles
The Gospel – Jn 20, 17-18 ; Lk 24, 9-12 or Mk 16, 9-11 ; Mt 28, 9-10
Jn 20, 17-18
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her.
Lk 24, 9-12
Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.
In order not to keep for herself this inestimable treasure that Christ gives to Mary Magdalene, Jesus sent her to her apostles. Mary went to her brothers and told them all things that Christ has told her. But as well as she had not believed and understood the words of the angel, it was the same with the disciples. They took her for a madwoman. They believed that Mary’s words were gossip. Let us not be surprised by the reaction of the disciples. The disciples from Emmaus either did not believe in the rumour which circulated the first day of the week. They learnt everything that had happened. They also heard that some women had seen the tomb open and empty, that they had even seen and heard the angels announcing to them the resurrection of Christ. Thomas did not believe too the story that Mary Magdalene had told them nor the eleven when they told him the apparition of Jesus while they were locked in the house.
Mary Magdalene, the disciples of Emmaus, the eleven and Thomas make us realize that we may hear the angels and those who witnessed the risen Christ, but however, this does not make us believe for sure in the Resurrection of Christ. To believe and live the Resurrection, it is essential to meet the Lord personally. It is essential that he comes to us, that he stands by our side, that he explains all the scriptures to us, that he shows us his wounds, that he breaks the bread. It is essential that Christ comes to us but, more importantly, that it reveals Himself to our intelligences. And even after having reconnized Him and seen Him one time, the eleven apostles who fished on the shore of Galilee lake did not recognize Him first. It was necessary that Jesus tolf them to throw the nets on their right and that they take a high number of fishes so that they recognized in this man the Lord. And today, how to recognize Him, how does He come to us? He is there in the most intimate of our hearts and especially in those who receive the Holy Spirit the day of their baptism. Because this day God comes to remain in the most intimate of ourselves. He makes us adoptive sons, temples of His Spirit, members of His body that is the Church. He is with us every time we read the Gospels and understand them, that our hearts burn to listen to the Word and to its explanation. He is here and we can see Him whenever we celebrate a sacrament and in particular the Eucharist where we recognize Him at the breaking of the bread. He is here every time we let ourselves be touched by the balsam of mercy which heals the scars due to sin in the sacrament of reconciliation. He is here whenever we love our neighboor as God has loved us. It is the love that you will have for others that show everybody that I am present and that I work in you and through you.
Once they all had recognized the resurrected Christ, Jesus sent them on mission. He said to them, « Go and teach all people, may the universe see the salvation of God ». Go, travel the world and give the people the good news of salvation. Tell the people what I have taught you. Show them the love of my Father. Make myself present to them by grace. Do not keep for yourself what fills your souls and your hearts. Do not worry, I will be with you, I will assist you, I will accompany you because I send you my Spirit. I give you Peter as shepherd of my sheeps. And ye also, under his authority, be shepherds of my people. Before you leave, pray. « You will receive a strength, that of the Holy Spirit that will descend upon you, and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth » (Acts 1: 8).
In Saint Baume
His preaching in Provence
After the Resurrection, Mary Magdelene, Martha and Lazarus and their companions decided to leave by boat. They arrived in Sainte-Marie-de-la-mer. They continued their route through Provence, leaving Martha in Tarascon, Lazarus in Marseille. Mary-Magdelene stayed with her brother for some time and announced the Good News.
Then, she decided to leave and she followed the course of the Huveaune which brang her to the Saint Baume. Seduced by the beauty of the site, Mary Magdalene decided to stay there. She lived as a hermit, praying, entrusting to the Lord all the people she met, all the people who came to meet her, all the people who came to seek refuge with her and asked her for help.
She asked only one thing to the Lord: may His work of grace of which she has benefited continue in the hearts of all men. Since this time, many men and women have come on pilgrimage to pray St. Mary Magdalene.
Its radiance through the ages
Mary Magdalene was one of the first evangelizers of which the tradition of Provence speaks. She found in the holy cave a solitude in order to worship the Savior. Her body found in the crypt of Saint Maximin is revered as the real one. The relics of the saints are venerable, because through them it is the work of God that Christians seek and admire. Mary Magdalene thus remains alive; and this is the meaning of this pilgrimage dedicated to her. The origins of the Sainte-Baume pilgrimage are obscure; It is believed that in the fifth century, monks came to seek solitude in the forest and the caves of the Sainte-Baume. No doubt they were drawn there by the ancient tradition of Mary Magdalene. In 1254, on the return from the Seventh Crusade, Saint Louis, King of France, hearing of the Sainte-Baume, decided to come there himself with his knights; this royal pilgrimage had a very great repercussion.
In 1279 Charles II of Provence sought the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene. He found them in the crypt of St. Maximinus. The relics were authenticated by the Pope. In 1295, the Dominicans were installed in Saint-Maximin and Sainte-Baume. Their task is to welcome the many pilgrims who come to take refuge with St. Mary Magdalene. In 1793, a fire, accompanied by pillaging and profanation by the revolutionaries, destroyed the Sainte-Baume until the annihilation. In 1851, the Dominicans took over the guard of the sanctuary thanks to Father Lacordaire. He seeked to bear witness to the Gospel: « When the Son of God, » he wrote in his study on St. Mary Magdalene, « comes to save men, none of them is surprised that the Gospel is a Book of love and love the book of salvation ». He wanted that this place spoke about the most beautiful friendships: » « It was there, » he said, « in this world, the summit of human and divine affections »: « Jesus Christ loved souls, and He transmitted to us this love that was the deep foundation of Christianity. It was the friendship as God, made man and died for His friends, could conceive of it. The great of earth came on pilgrimage to Sainte-Baume; but the most living memory is the many saints who came to pray here. Nowadays, this stream always seems very alive: anonymous pilgrims or grouped ones come to Sainte-Baume.
The graces to ask
With Saint Mary Magdalene, you can pray her to ask for :
The grace of prayer : in order to experience the presence of God in the most intimate of your heart.
The grace of preaching : let the joy of this received treasure give you the joy of proclaiming the wonders of God.
Intercede, assiduous supplicans pro nobis, Jesu Domino, Maria Magdalena
Intercede and pray constantly for us Jesus, O Blessed Mary Magdalene.
O light of the world
O light of the world! O resplendent pearl! By announcing the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you have become the apostle of the apostles, may you remain constantly in our favor near the throne of God, of whom you are the favorite friend; be our refuge and our lawyer.
Prayer to Saint Mary Magdalene
Saint Mary Magdalene,
You have been forgiven by Jesus,
You have loved so much;
Show us the path of true conversion
And purity of heart.
By love, you followed Jesus to serve Him;
Teach us to give our lives freely
For our brothers.
You were near the cross of Jesus
With Mary and John;
Obtain the grace of faith and hope
In our difficulties.
In the morning of Easter, you have received from Jesus the mission to announce
The resurrection to His disciples;
Help us believe that life is stronger
Than death, that love triumphs over everything.
Through your intercession we entrust to the Lord …
Relics of saint Mary Magdelene in the Grotto
Prayer from a penitent
Saint Mary Magdalene,
You received the forgiveness from Jesus
For all your sins,
You assisted Him until His last breath
At the foot of the cross,
The first one, you witnessed His resurrection
And you first announced the Paschal joy,
I beg you to hear my prayer.
Intercede for me to our Lord Jesus Christ
May he grant me His forgiveness for all my sins,
For my doubts,
For my lack of goodness and charity
To my loved ones
And all those whom I approach,
And for all my mistakes
Voluntarily or involuntarily.
Now that you are near Jesus,
Do not abandon me in my distress.
May the Lord grant me absolution,
May he allow me to recover the serenity,
The peace of heart, soul, and spirit.
Litanies of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy
O Christ, have mercy. O Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy
Holy Trinity who are one God, have mercy on us
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, carrying the alabaster vase, full of perfume, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, watering the feet of Jesus with your tears, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, wiping them with your hair, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, kissing them with ardor, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, of whom many sins have been forgiven, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, inflamed by the ardor of Charity, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, in favor with Lord, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, dear to Jesus, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, choosing the best part, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, obtaining the resurrection of your brother Lazarus, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, faithfully assisting Jesus on the Cross, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, remaining near him, when the disciples were fleeing, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, the first disciple who deserved to see the risen Christ, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, marked on the forehead by the touch of her glorious hand, pray for us
St. Mary Magdalene, apostle of the apostles, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, apostle of Provence, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, protector of the Order of the Preaching Brothers, pray for us
Saint Mary Magdalene, sweet advocate of the penitents, pray for us
So that we may deserve one day with you in front of the Lord forever, pray for us
Lamb of God who take away the sin of the world, forgive us, Lord,
Lamb of God who take away the sin of the world, hear us, Lord
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
V. Intercede and beg continually for us the Lord Jesus, O Blessed Mary Magdalene,
A. So that we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray : O Most gracious Father, pour out your gifts on us, so that through the intercession of Blessed Mary Magdalene, who by loving our Lord Jesus Christ above all have been forgiven of her sins, Your mercy give us eternal beatitude. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
© Sanctuary of Sainte-Baume