Entry on Mary Magdalene in

The Catholic Encyclopedia

 

A Note on the Making of The Catholic Encyclopedia (1917)

The need of a Catholic Encyclopedia in English was manifest for many years before it was decided to publish one. Editors of various general Encyclopedias had attempted to make them satisfactory from a Catholic point of view, but without success, partly because they could not afford the space, but chiefly because in matters of dispute their contributors were too often permitted to be partial, if not erroneous, in their statements. This need was felt more acutely when, at the beginning of this century, new editions of several of these general Encyclopedias appeared, in which many subjects of special interest to Catholics were either ignored entirely or else scantily and even erroneously treated. For two years the publishers of some of these Encyclopedias made earnest efforts to amend the articles which provoked Catholic criticism, but their efforts served only to emphasize the need of a Catholic Encyclopedia. Actual work on the Encyclopedia was begun in January, 1905. It was completed in April, 1914. For two years before the formation of a Board of Editors those who were to be its editors and publishers met together occasionally to confer about its publication. These meetings resulted in an agreement among the editors on December 8, 1904, to begin the work early the next year and in the choice of those who were to be its publishers.

 

 

St. Mary Magdalen

Mary Magdalen was so called either from Magdala near Tiberias, on the west shore of Galilee, or possibly from a Talmudic expression meaning "curling women's hair," which the Talmud explains as of an adulteress.

In the New Testament she is mentioned among the women who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Luke 8:2-3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection.

The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish the three persons:

On the other hand most of the Latins hold that these three were one and the same. Protestant critics, however, believe there were two, if not three, distinct persons. It is impossible to demonstrate the identity of the three; but those commentators undoubtedly go too far who assert, as does Westcott (on John 11:1), "that the identity of Mary with Mary Magdalene is a mere conjecture supported by no direct evidence, and opposed to the general tenour of the gospels." It is the identification of Mary of Bethany with the "sinner" of Luke 7:37, which is most combatted by Protestants. It almost seems as if this reluctance to identify the "sinner" with the sister of Martha were due to a failure to grasp the full significance of the forgiveness of sin. The harmonizing tendencies of so many modern critics, too, are responsible for much of the existing confusion.

The first fact, mentioned in the Gospel relating to the question under discussion is the anointing of Christ's feet by a woman, a "sinner" in the city (Luke 7:37-50). This belongs to the Galilean ministry, it precedes the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and the third Passover. Immediately afterwards St. Luke describes a missionary circuit in Galilee and tells us of the women who ministered to Christ, among them being "Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth" (Luke 8:2); but he does not tell us that she is to be identified with the "sinner" of the previous chapter. In 10:38-42, he tells us of Christ's visit to Martha and Mary "in a certain town"; it is impossible to identify this town, but it is clear from 9:53, that Christ had definitively left Galilee, and it is quite possible that this "town" was Bethany. This seems confirmed by the preceding parable of the good Samaritan, which must almost certainly have been spoken on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. But here again we note that there is no suggestion of an identification of the three persons (the "sinner", Mary Magdalen, and Mary of Bethany), and if we had only St. Luke to guide us we should certainly have no grounds for so identifying them. St. John, however, clearly identifies Mary of Bethany with the woman who anointed Christ's feet (12; cf. Matthew 26 and Mark 14). It is remarkable that already in 11:2, St. John has spoken of Mary as "she that anointed the Lord's feet", he aleipsasa; It is commonly said that he refers to the subsequent anointing which he himself describes in 12:3-8; but it may be questioned whether he would have used he aleipsasa if another woman, and she a "sinner" in the city, had done the same. It is conceivable that St. John, just because he is writing so long after the event and at a time when Mary was dead, wishes to point out to us that she was really the same as the "sinner." In the same way St. Luke may have veiled her identity precisely because he did not wish to defame one who was yet living; he certainly does something similar in the case of St. Matthew whose identity with Levi the publican (5:7) he conceals.

If the foregoing argument holds good, Mary of Bethany and the "sinner" are one and the same. But an examination of St. John's Gospel makes it almost impossible to deny the identity of Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalen. From St. John we learn the name of the "woman" who anointed Christ's feet previous to the last supper. We may remark here that it seems unnecessary to hold that because St. Matthew and St. Mark say "two days before the Passover", while St. John says "six days" there were, therefore, two distinct anointings following one another. St. John does not necessarily mean that the supper and the anointing took place six days before, but only that Christ came to Bethany six days before the Passover. At that supper, then, Mary received the glorious encomium, "she hath wrought a good work upon Me . . . in pouring this ointment upon My body she hath done it for My burial . . . wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached . . . that also which she hath done shall be told for a memory of her." Is it credible, in view of all this, that this Mary should have no place at the foot of the cross, nor at the tomb of Christ? Yet it is Mary Magdalen who, according to all the Evangelists, stood at the foot of the cross and assisted at the entombment and was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. And while St. John calls her "Mary Magdalen" in 19:25, 20:1, and 20:18, he calls her simply "Mary" in 20:11 and 20:16.

In the view we have advocated the series of events forms a consistent whole; the "sinner" comes early in the ministry to seek for pardon; she is described immediately afterwards as Mary Magdalen "out of whom seven devils were gone forth"; shortly after, we find her "sitting at the Lord's feet and hearing His words." To the Catholic mind it all seems fitting and natural. At a later period Mary and Martha turn to "the Christ, the Son of the Living God", and He restores to them their brother Lazarus; a short time afterwards they make Him a supper and Mary once more repeats the act she had performed when a penitent. At the Passion she stands near by; she sees Him laid in the tomb; and she is the first witness of His Resurrection--excepting always His Mother, to whom He must needs have appeared first, though the New Testament is silent on this point. In our view, then, there were two anointings of Christ's feet--it should surely be no difficulty that St. Matthew and St. Mark speak of His head--the first (Luke 7) took place at a comparatively early date; the second, two days before the last Passover. But it was one and the same woman who performed this pious act on each occasion.

Subsequent history of St. Mary Magdalen. The Greek Church maintains that the saint retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin and there died, that her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are there preserved. Gregory of Tours (De miraculis, I, xxx) supports the statement that she went to Ephesus. However, according to a French tradition (see SAINT LAZARUS OF BETHANY), Mary, Lazarus, and some companions came to Marseilles and converted the whole of Provence. Magdalen is said to have retired to a hill, La Sainte-Baume, near by, where she gave herself up to a life of penance for thirty years. When the time of her death arrived she was carried by angels to Aix and into the oratory of St. Maximinus, where she received the viaticum; her body was then laid in an oratory constructed by St. Maximinus at Villa Lata, afterwards called St. Maximin. History is silent about these relics till 745, when according to the chronicler Sigebert, they were removed to Vézelay through fear of the Saracens. No record is preserved of their return, but in 1279, when Charles II, King of Naples, erected a convent at La Sainte-Baume for the Dominicans, the shrine was found intact, with an inscription stating why they were hidden. In 1600 the relics were placed in a sarcophagus sent by Clement VIII, the head being placed in a separate vessel. In 1814 the church of La Sainte-Baume, wrecked during the Revolution, was restored, and in 1822 the grotto was consecrated afresh. The head of the saint now lies there, where it has lain so long, and where it has been the centre of so many pilgrimages.

An Entry from The New Advent WebSite, February 2004

http://www.newadvent.org/2004/02/ash-wednesday-and-passion-of-christ.htm

25 February 2004

Ash Wednesday and The Passion of the Christ

FEBRUARY 25 IS ASH WEDNESDAY

Don't forget: February 25 is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It's also the North American release date of the long-awaited film The Passion of The Christ.

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST IN THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA

After you see The Passion of The Christ, you'll probably have plenty of questions. Here's a list of Catholic Encyclopedia articles related to the film:

Agony, the struggle of Christ in the Garden
Annas the father-in-law of the high priest Caiphas
Anne Catherine Emmerich, whose visions helped give life to the film
Caiphas the high priest of the Jews
Character of Christ as manifested in his relation to God and men
Christology, the study of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Claudia, wife of Pilate and mentioned in our Pilate article; she later became Catholic
Crown of Thorns which were placed on Christ's head
Documents on Christ from ancient history
Eucharistic Sacrifice, the unbloody renewal of the sacrifice of Christ
Four Gospels, the inerrant historical records of the life of Christ
Gethsemane, where the film's opening scene takes place
Golgotha or Calvary, where Christ was crucified
Herod Antipas the ruler of Galilee
Incarnation, the mystery and dogma of God made Flesh
Jerusalem the city in which the Passion of Christ occurred
Jesus Christ the redeemer of mankind
John the beloved disciple of Christ
Judas Iscariot the apostle who betrayed Christ
Latin, the language of the Church, and spoken in the film
Life of Christ in chronological order
Last Supper, the first Catholic Mass in history
Malchus, the servant whose ear was cut off by St. Peter
Mary the Mother of God
Mary Magdalene the penitent disciple
Passion of Christ as an object of devotion
Passion of Christ in the four gospels
Passion Plays, the medieval precursors to the film
Peter, who denied that he knew Christ, but became the first pope
Pharisees, a first-century faction of Judaism
Pontius Pilate the Roman governor who sentenced Our Lord to death
Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist
Redemption which was wrought by the Passion of Christ
Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
Sanhedrin, the council before which Christ was tried
Satan who was defeated by Christ in His Passion and Resurrection
Scourging, the punishment that Our Lord incurred at the pillar
Temptation of Christ, who never succumbed
Veronica who wiped Our Lord's face with her veil
Way of the Cross, a prayer centered around the Passion
Zeal, the love of Christ in action


posted by Kevin Knight  # 2:03 AM