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Mary Magdalene - The Apostle of the Apostles and The Order of Preachers by Guy Bedouelle, OP from 'Dominican Ashram'

Mary Magdalene - The Apostle of the Apostles and The Order of Preachers

by Guy Bedouelle, OP

from Dominican Ashram, Vol.18, no.4, 1999, pp157 - 171.

IN THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN TRADITION, the figure of Mary Magdalene is associated with that extraordinary mission entrusted to her on the morning of the Resurrection. This is why everything one says about Mary Magdalene needs to be prefaced by the very same terms used in the Gospel to recall her commissioning. Thus to quote the seventeenth century English Authorised Version of the Bible: “Jesus saith unto her, 'touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God'. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had spoken these things unto her” (Jn20:17-18).

Mary Magdalene appears in all of the Gospel accounts of the events surrounding the Ressurection. Because Mary reported the good news of the Ressurection to the disciples, she became known among some early Christian writers as apostola apostolorum — the Apostle of the Apostles. She is also the ancient Mary celebrated on the wall of the house-church discovered in 1929 in the ruins of a place known as Dura Europos, a caravan centre and fortified city on a bluff above the River Euphrates in what is now present-day Syria. This earliest extant image of this woman, Myrrophore (“Bearer of Myrrh”, is a spice used for anointing Jesus' body before it was placed in the tomb) dates back, at the latest, to the first half of the third century. This painting can be seen in a photograph at the Yale University Art Gallery. It is important not simply because of its early date but also for the choice of subject matter. According to Mark's and Luke's Gospels, the two women, in going to anoint Christ's body, became witnesses of his Ressurection. According to St Augustine, Mary Magdalene “and the other Mary's visit to the empty tomb” is an “ocular proof” of the Resurrection (PL 35,1955-9)

One or Three?

One must keep in mind that from early times, Mary of Magdala has been identified with “the woman who was a sinner” who anointed Christ's feet in Simon's house (Lk 7:37) and with Mary the sister of Martha, who also anointed him (Jn 12:3). The Gospels give no real support to either identification, but this has been part of the western liturgical tradition throughout the ages. A whole spiritual way of looking at things is implied here. For just as Mary Magdalene is the model of repentance, so also she is the model of contemplation, and in this way, she has gained the privilege of being, through her attachment to Christ, the first witness to his victory over death. Three separate moments are distinguished, but linked: the conversion of the sinful woman to whom the Lord shows mercy because she loved much; Mary Magdalene's searching at the tomb in burning desire and sadness for Christ whom she encounters as the Ressurected One; and between these two moments that contemplative act of listening while sitting at Jesus's feet.

It was St Gregory the Great who was responsible for the western medieval conviction, and confusion even, concerning these three characters (Sermon XXXIII, 1, PL 76, 1238); or at least he gave it its official status.(1) But what counts is the fact that this opinion has since been shared by all medieval Latin authors, with a few rare exceptions, one of whom is St Bernard of Clairvaux. These exceptions were doubtless witnesses to an older tradition which inclined towards separate identities for the three women. In any case, the Greek Fathers and Eastern theologians have always maintained this separateness. Modern biblical scholars do not hesitate to distinguish three separate persons in these three biblical characters.

For centuries, the Roman Church has celebrated Mary Magdalene the Penitent on the 22 July, thus enshrining the spiritual allegory which results from St Gregory's interpretation. It is interesting to note that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, diocesan liturgies in France distinguish between Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany, who were celebrated separately, with a note to the effect that these special liturgies were considered suspect. One should, however, note that in the seventeenth century, the request made by the Dominican convent at Saint-Maximin to celebrate a feast of the conversion of Mary Magdalene had been turned down. (2)

The present liturgy, promugulated in 1970 makes a clear distinction between these three. Mary, the sister of Lazarus, is not given a place in the current liturgical calendar, except in certain approved cases, as with the Dominican Sisters of Bethany, who gather together Mary, Martha and Lazarus in one celebration on the 29 July.

So, whereas throughout the ancient tradition of the West, with which the Order of Preachers fervently concurred, these three were all seen as one, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the anonymous sinful woman have each now regained their individual identity. None of this prevents one from venerating the relics of Mary Magdalene, but where?

Burgundy or Provence?

There are also divergencies between East and West as far as the ultimate fate of Mary Magdalene is concerned. According to an Eastern legend, Mary Magdalene went to Ephesus with St John and the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and died there, whence her body was later taken to Constantinople.

For the West, however her relics are to be sought rather in Western Europe, and the legends give full account of the Magdalene's arrival on the far shore of the Mediterranean. One's critical mindset, therefore, prefers to take as its point of departure the existing places of pilgrimage, and examine the legends associated with them. In medieval times, people believed these accounts, that explained the devotions that were dear to them, to be true.

It was in Burgundy, the south eastern part of Northern France that the cult of the Magdalene was concentrated in the first instance. Experts now believe that towards the end of the ninth century, a monk brought back from Palestine some relics that were claimed to be those of Mary Magdalene. A pilgrimage in Vézelay that would assume considerable proportions was started from the middle of the eleventh century onwards, that is, at the time of the Gregorian reform. In this same spirit, namely with a view to reforming his Benedictine monastery, Geoffrey of Vézelay (+1052) successfully invoked the saint's protection. For two centuries, pilgrims flocked in, numerous cures took place and shrines to Mary Magdalene multiplied, especially in France and in Germany. Some already existed in England.

And so an amazing basilica in the Burgundian romanesque style was built at Vézelay. It was here that St Bernard of Clairvaux preached the second crusade; and it was here also that in 1190, Philip Augustus, King of France, and Richard the Lion Heart, King of England, met up for the third crusade.

It was obviously necessary to explain how the Magdalene's body had got as far as Burgundy. There is a first and fairly radical method that consisted quite simply in believing it as a fact. A fervent supporter of Vézelay, whose dates are unknown, writes the following: “Many people wonder how the body of St Mary Magdalene, whose homeland was in Judea, managed to be transported to Gaul from a country so far away. It is possible to answer these doubts with few words: with God, everything is possible, he does as he wishes. Nothing is too difficult for him, when he has decided on some course of action for the salvation of mankind.”(3) This has the merit of being honest and sober.

If one requires more substantial explanations, the Middle Ages supplies them too. In the middle of the thirteenth century, a sound witness to the hagiography of Mary Magdalene, explains how devotion to her relics came about in two separate locations. In 1264 in his famous Golden Legend or Tomes, Jacob of Voragine (Varazze near Genoa) recounts in great detail how it all happened: “After the Lord's Ascension, fourteen years after the Passion... St Peter entrusted Mary Magdalene to St Maximin, one of the seventy two disciples of the Lord. And so Maximin, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Martha and Cedon, the man born blind whom Jesus healed together with other Christians, were cast off into the sea by infidels, without anyone to pilot the boat.” Through divine grace they arrived at Marseilles, where they were not at first made welcome, but they eventually managed to convert some inhabitants of Provence. This thirteenth century Dominican insists greatly on the fact that it was Mary Magdalene who “preached with her disciples”, but that it was St Maximin who baptised.

Without going into too much fanciful or extravagant detail concerning this story, one can rather go straight to the essentials. “St Mary Magdalene, desiring to contemplate the things of heaven, retired to a cave in the mountains, which had been prepared for her by the hand of angels, and she remained there for thirty years, unbeknown to anyone.” There she survived without food and drink, feeding “only on the food of heaven”. Her death, too, was equally extraordinary: she was miraculously carried off and brought before the bishop, St Maximin, who gave her the body and blood of Christ at which her soul flew off to join the Lord.

Obviously the Dominican preacher, Jacob of Voragine needs to explain the pilgrimage to Vézelay. He does so by situating the episode in the reign of Charlemagne. Girad, Duke of Burgundy, disappointed at having no sons, asked a monk of Vézelay to bring back the saint's body. Having arrived at Aix, he found the town completely destroyed, but Providence allowed him to retrieve the holy relics that he carried off with the consent of Mary Magdalene herself, who appeared to him.

Things had got thus far when the pilgrimage shifted southwards. In fact, even during Vézelay's heyday, the archbishops of Aix-en-Provence claimed that their cathedral housed the tombs of Mary Magdalene and Maximin. But it was two discoveries that fixed the cult of the Magdalene in Provence. On the one hand, that of a cave called Sainte-Baume, claimed to be that in which the Magdalene lived a penitential existence for thirty years, and on the other, the discovery of bones in early Christian sarcophagi in the small town of Saint-Maximin. It was at this point that the Dominicans came on the scene.

According to the accounts left by Bernard Gui and Jean Gobi, two Dominicans from Southern France, who were not living at the time of these events, the young Charles of Anjou, nephew of the king, St Louis, is supposed to have been present at the solemn expositions of the relics of St Mary Magdalene at Vézelay in 1267, and sharing the sentiments of the crowd, was disappointed at seeing only few fragments of bone. He allegedly recalled the traditions of his own region, Provence. Taken prisoner by Spaniards from Aragon in 1279, he was miraculously released in the night of 21 - 22 July, by St Mary Magdalene who appeared to him, and indicated to him the place where he would find her body. She gave him a quite remarkable directive: “You will have a convent erected in my honour, and also a church for the brothers of the Order of Preachers, for I too was an apostle.”

All of this was carried out. But if the discovery of the relics in the village of Saint-Maximin on 9 December, 1279, in particular the skull of the saint for which a splendid reliquary was ordered, took place quite quickly, it took a considerable time to put into practice the rest of the instructions. In fact, having become King of Sicily and Count of Provence in 1285, Charles II, with the help of his Dominican adviser and confessor, Pierre de Lamanon, had to show considerable perseverance in order to accomplish what the chronicler sums up in a few words: “The king obeyed the will of God, which had been revealed to him through Mary Magdalene; he established there the Friars Preachers, devoted to preaching the Gospel and dedicated to apostolic life, and had Saint-Maximin as well as La Sainte-Baume affiliated to the Order of Preachers.”

Historians think, in fact, that the Dominican order was not too keen to take on responsibility for this new shrine, and it took nothing less than the intervention of Pope Boniface VIII in April 1295 to get them to accept this new location. In any case, on 20 June 1295, the first Domincian prior, brother Guillaume de Tonneins, took possession of the convent-shrine and some twenty brethren moved in along with him. In autumn of the same year work began on the basilica and what became known as the royal convent, on account of its foundation by the King of Sicily. The Dominicans remained there until the French Revolution, continually improving and embellishing the buildings, thanks especially to the efforts of lay brothers who were artists (for example, the choir stalls, paintings, and the organ which became famous). The pilgrimage to La Sainte-Baume and Saint-Maximin became very well known and even fashionable during the sixteenth century, when very many people of importance came to venerate the remains of the holy penitent. After five centuries of presence, and then more than half a century of absence, Lacordaire, as part of his re-establishment of the Dominicans in France, decided in 1859 to buy back the buildings that had escaped destruction during the French Revolution. The brethren were to remain there for almost a century i.e. until 1957, but the nuns, who arrived in 1872, are still there, bearing witness with Provençal good humour to the link between the Order of Preachers and the cult of Saint Mary Magdalene. But why in fact was this saint so fond of the Dominicans?

Why the Dominicans?

Prior to the end of the thirteenth century, there does not seem to have been any particular devotion to Mary Magdalene on the part of St Dominic and the early friars. If we read the earliest accounts (Libellus — the Beginnings of the Order by Blessed Jordan of Saxony, and especially Lives of the Brethren by Gerard Frachet, which would not have failed to draw attention to it), one does not find any mention of Mary Magdalene. It is the Virgin Mary who is the great protectress of the Dominican Order.

And yet a tenuous link can be established. In the thirteenth century there was a great effort to convert women of ill repute, to use the expression current at the time, that is to say, prostitutes, victims of poverty. When such conversions were made with deep conviction, bishops had the idea of grouping them together into communities of Penitents, who, quite naturally, took St Mary Magdalene as their patron. This was the case in France, Italy and Germany. It was in Germany that they were given the Constitutions of the Dominican Nuns' monastery of Saint Sixtus at Rome, which had been reorganised by St Dominic, and these communities were for a number of years incorporated into the Dominican Order. This was in 1286,(4) at the same time as Charles II was thinking about his foundation at Saint-Maximin. For it was he, indeed, who turned the Dominican Order towards devotion to Mary Magdalene (even if, as has been seen, Dominican hagiographers took an interest in her before the end of the thirteenth century). It was in 1297 that the feast of Mary Magdalene was celebrated with solemnity not only at Saint-Maximin but throughout the Order, as the General Chapter of Bologna had recommended.(5) So it is in this way that Mary Magdalene became a patroness of the Order alongside the Virgin Mary. As Fr. Mortier, the author of The Dominican Liturgy, so aptly puts it: “The body of the Magdalene is guarded by the Preachers; the Order of Preachers is guarded by the Magdalene.” “Through their call to repentance, the Dominicans were instrumental in spreading the Magdalene cult.” (6)

Testimony to this fact is found in the iconography for Mary Magdalene which is often portrayed with St Dominic and later with St thomas Aquinas and St Catherine of Siena. For example, the Dominican Bishop of Savona, who, when he commissioned a polyptych from Simone Martini around 1320, had himself depicted being presented by Mary Magdalene to the Virgin and Child. This polyptych is now in the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo in Orvieto.

The rules for portraying Mary Magdalene gradually became fixed. There is a sermon attributed to St Thomas Aquinas which explains this.(7) Even if it is not authentic, it is surprisingly beautiful. The text which is commented on for the feast of St Mary Magdalene is that of the rainbow, the symbol of the convenant renewed between God and his people as they emerged from Noah's ark. What is a rainbow? It is the meeting of the sun with clouds that are full of water. And so it is in the meeting between the Risen Jesus and Mary Magdalene: he is the rising sun comes to meet the tears of the woman weeping: here we have fire and water. And as in the phenomenon of the rainbow, here too, colours are created. For Mary Magdalene they are blue and red. Dark blue (coeruleus) is the colour of humility, the blue water of compunction; whereas red is traditionally the colour of faith. Indeed, we see this in painting: the Magdalene is always dressed in a red mantle with a tunic that is often blue. This is the case with the paintings of Fra Angelico: Mary Magdalene is in contrast with the Virgin Mary, almost always dressed in a mauve coloured mantle and with Martha, who is dressed in green, as for example, at the foot of the cross.

Repentance and Illumination

It would seem that the Dominicans' recourse to Mary Magdalene is particularly in evidence at times of reform or renewal, calls to fervour and conversion. To quote just a few instances.

The first, which is the most obvious, is that of St Catherine of Siena, who worked very hard towards the end of the fourteenth century to restore the declining strength of her discouraged brothers and sisters of the Order of Preachers. Catherine certainly visited Saint-Maximin and La Sainte-Baume in late summer 1376, when, after having been to Avignon to beg the Pope who was then residing there to return to Rome, she set sail with her “famiglia" from Toulon. Her confessor and disciple, Raymond of Capua, who set in motion the reform desired by Catherine, and who is also her biographer, shows us the importance that Mary Magdalene had for the mystic of Siena: “She had been given the saint as a second mother in a vision she had once received of Christ. Christ who used to visit her very often... sometimes with the Virgin, Dominic, Mary Magdalene, John the Evangelist and St Paul, on one particular occasion came with only our Blessed Lady and St Mary Magdalene and asked Catherine what particular favour she would like. Reading her mind, he told her that henceforth Mary Magdalene was now her mother. Magdalene acknowledged the holy maid for her daughter” (11,18).

Raymond of Capua suggested that Mary Magdalene had been Catherine's model in her fasting (11, 13), but Catherine herself wrote that it was the saint's figure under the cross, inundated with Christ's blood which was particularly important to her and with which she identified most closely. In one of her letters she advised Monna Franceschini de Lucca to follow the “sweet and loving Magdalene who will never leave the tree of the most holy cross.” In another letter, to Monna Agnesa, she offers the Magdalene again as a model who humbles herself at the cross. Catherine's dramatic image of Mary Magdalene was the model for those who wished to repent.

Again in Italy, a little more than a century after Catherine of Siena, a new and famous reformer emerged in Florence, namely, Savonarola. Even if it seems that he did not preach much on Mary Magdalene, one finds a number of traces of devotion to the holy penitent amongst his disciples, and especially those who were artists.

Such is the case with Sandro Botticelli. In an extraordinary portrayal of the deposition of Jesus from the Cross, which must have been painted around 1495, and is now in Milan, Mary Magdalene, dressed all in red, wipes the feet of the dead Christ with her hair, as she had done at Bethany. In 1508, Fra Bartolomeo, a Dominican painter and Savonarola's disciple, portrayed Mary Magdalene with Catherine of Siena as the exponents of divine contemplation, a constant theme of Savonarola. Fra Bartolomeo's painting of the two saints, now in Lucca has been interpreted as a visual tract of Savonarola's writings: the Magdalene gazing earthward as the contemplative life and Catherine of Siena curving heaven-wards as the active life.

If one moves on to the seventeenth century, it is the turn of French Dominicans to attempt a reform centred on the person of Fr. Michaelis, who himself came from Provence. He really became active as a reformer from the time of his election as Prior of Saint-Maximin. This is why the historian Thomas Souéges, who composed the entries for the saints for each day in The Dominican Year (1691), wrote when he got to 22 July, the feast of Mary Magdalene, “the mother protectress of the Order of Preachers”: “You were kind enough to do us the honour of treating us as children and brothers through excessive goodness; it pleased you let it be known that it was by them that you wished the precious remains of your body to be guarded, and the place of your penance honoured... but it was with your singular help and through your prayers, O glorious saint, that the venerable Father Sébastien Michaelis, the illustrious reformer of the regular life in France, so happily succeeded in the execution of the generous project he had set himself.”

One arrives at last at the nineteenth century and the revival of the Dominican Order in France. Having become a Dominican in Italy, Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, as soon as it became possible and as soon as opportunities presented themselves, established convents in France, where they had been suppressed at the time of the French Revolution. But for a good while he was unable to buy back even a single one of the ancient convents, many of which had been destroyed. As vocations were plentiful and as he had had occasion to go to Provence in 1853, he had already grasped the importance of reviving the royal convent of Saint-Maximin. But there were other worries on his mind at the time, in particular the need of money. He was well-known as a writer. In 1859 he hit upon the idea of financing at least a part of the purchase and restoration of the former convent buildings of Saint-Maximin by means of a little book in praise of Mary Magdalene. The book sold very well and contributed towards the development of the cult of the saint up until the present day. It also served as a reminder to Catholic readers of Mary Magdalene's link with the Dominican Order.

The themes developed in his little book are very interesting. Lacordaire opts for building on the liturgical tradition: Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and Martha, is a woman who twice anointed the feet of the Saviour and wiped them with her hair.

His first theme is that of Spiritual friendship. In his eyes the most obvious point is that Lazarus, Martha and Magdalene were the Lord's friends and that here one meets a Gospel example of that brand of spiritual friendship that Lacordaire describes so beautifully as: “The mutual possession of two ways of thinking, of two wills, of two sets of virtues, of two existences that are always free to go their separate ways and yet never part.”

A second theme, which is very Magdalenian, is that of tears of conversion and of penance. The young Henri Lacordaire never shrank from describing himself as a romantic; nor did he refrain from showing his feelings. Lacordaire carefully analyses the Gospel text and plays artistically with the postures of the Magdalene. She weeps, she pours out her perfume, she wipes Jesus' feet with her hair, she kisses them. In this way the sinner makes manifest her repentance by means of her seductive powers.

Then comes the account of the meeting with the gardener: Jesus, who had not asked Mary the reason for her tears at the moment of her conversion, now, on the contrary, on Easter morning, questions her: “Woman, why are you weeping?”

It is at this point that third theme comes in, and this is very typical of Lacordaire, it is that of the homeland: Provence becomes Mary Magdalene's homeland. And so, as he says in all seriousness, France has in it's safe-keeping the third of the great tombs of Christianity, for exception must be made of the Virgin Mary, assumed into heaven, and of St John, who remained, as it were, buried in his Gospel. In this way Saint-Maximin comes immediately after Jerusalem and Rome, with the tomb of Mary Magdalene: “less elevated than St Peter in the hierarchy, but closer to Jesus Christ through her heart”.

As Mary Magdalene lived out the solitude of “the better part” at La Sainte-Baume. Saint-Maximin thus became the new Bethany for Lacordaire. Lacordaire expresses his love of the real world around him through his French nationalism, which is not always free of a certain chauvinism, then with Provençal patriotism that could be considered to be put on for the occasion, but which is more discreet. He concludes with Dominican patriotism, if one may venture to put it that way, since Charles II entrusted the custody of the Basilica to the Order of Friars Preachers.

So a Magdalene to suit the occasion, a romantic Magdalene and more particularly a Lacordairian Magdalene, useful for apologetics. This Magdalene allowed Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, in the last year of life, to speak again of what was closest to his heart: the themes he touched on in his preaching, his correspondence and his writings namely, his God, the Gospel, his friends, his country and the intimate stirrings of his passionate heart.

This pilgrimage to St Mary Magdalene in the Dominican Order can be brought to a close with a disciple of Lacordaire, who returned so to speak, to the sources of the tradition, by extolling the penitent woman of Bethany. This was Marie-Jean-Joseph Lataste, who, in the mid-nineteenth century, which was so hard on the poor and the marginalized went and proclaimed the Gospel to them using the example of Mary Magdalene as his starting point. Lastaste was among the novices who set off for Saint-Maximin with Lacordaire in July 1859. He completed his training there, was ordained priest and celebrated his first mass in the cave at La Sainte-Baume. He was sent to his home town of Cadillac, where his apostolate consisted in being chaplain to the women's prison. He preached to them, moved the hearts of the prisoners and so his somewhat “crazy dream” began to take up more and more room in his heart.

He tells of his experiences preaching to the women prisoners: “As soon as mention was made of their past faults, the women prisoners could be heard sobbing.... But if one spoke to them of God's great mercy, of his love, of his particular affection for fallen souls that are truly repentant, for souls who seek to love him as St Magdalene did, then they could be seen gently raising their heads...”.

His “crazy dream” was to provide a welcome for these converted prisoners, at the end of their sentence, and mix them in with other Dominican Sisters, in such a way that no one would know about their past. After many difficulties, Lataste and a Dominican Sister of the Presentation of Tours congregation, Mother Henri Dominique, founded the Congregation of St Mary Magdalene, known as Bethany, and also as the “Dominican Sisters of the Prisons”. Marie-Jean-Joseph Lataste died in 1869 at the age of thirty-six, but his congregation lives on until this day.

Of course, mention should be made of Blessed Hyacinth Cormier, of Fr.Veyssière who was “guardian” of the shrine at La Sainte-Baume, or Fr.Bruckberger who wrote about Mary Magdalene on several occasions and was frequently inspired by her repentance. But perhaps the last word should go to Marie-Joseph Lagrange, the great and wise biblical scholar who, in the twentieth century, came up against much criticism and acutely experienced the difficult side of obedience. On 8 September 1879, the day before entering the Dominican Order, he found confirmation of his Dominican vocation at La Sainte-Baume. He wrote in his spiritual journal: “I was frightened at the prospect of entering an Order whose saints are so pure: St Mary Magdalene gave me gentle encouragement.”

Conclusion

An excellent Dominican historian wrote in 1995, on the occasion of the seven hundredth anniversary of Saint-Maximin: “It does not really matter if the Dominican legend does not stand up to trial by the fire of historical criticism. If it perpetuates errors that historical events give the lie to, it yet conceals a truth that is grasped by the history of mentalities: it translates a spiritual experience into poetic language: that Magdalene is 'daughter, sister and protective mother to the Order of Preachers'. We have by no means finished with this legend when we recognise it as apocryphal."

Why? By way of a conclusion, an answer to this question may be attempted. Certainly one may say: it is because Dominicans want to be apostles and they draw their inspiration from her that the Magdalene was closely and inseparably associated with the Order. Yes, but how? It seems that Mary Magdalene in tradition and in literature where she is a major figure, is constantly and simultaneously endowed with three characteristics: she is the converted sinner, she is the contemplative soul and she is the herald of the Resurrection. This is a powerfully profound image of the preaching office and hence of Dominican life. How can one speak of the mercy of God if one has not experienced it oneself, whatever the magnitude of one's sins may be? How can one speak of God without speaking “with God”, to use the phrase so dear to St Dominic. Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere: to contemplate and “to transmit to others the fruits of one's contemplation” is St Thomas Aquinas' way of defining preaching. And finally how can one not bear witness to the fact that the mystery of suffering, separation and death finds its resolution through faith in the Resurrection of Christ, his victory which gains all people their own. The theology underlying Mary Magdalene is an admirably concentrated fusion of the paschal mystery and the meaning of faith in Christ.

It is a joyous thought to realise that the whole Dominican Order has from the time of its foundation, sung during Easter Week the Victimae paschali laudes, which expresses the mission entrusted to it: “Speak, Mary, Declaring/ What you saw, wayfaring/ The tomb of Christ, who is /living/ The glory of Jesus's resurrection/ Bright angels attesting/ The shroud and napkin resting/... Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining/ Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning/ Amen.

Alleluia."

Foot Notes

1. Robert Godding, SJ, Grégoire le Grand et la Madeleine in Memoriam soctorum venerantes, Miscellanea in onore di Mgr Victor Saxer, Vatican, 1992, pp. 469-481.

2. Jean Evenou, “La messe de Sainte Marie Madeleine au Missel romain (1570-1970)” in ibid., pp. 353-365.

3. Quoted by Victor Saxer, Le culte de Marie Madeleine en Occident. Paris, 1959, tome 1, p. 70.

4. Andre Simon, L'Ordre des Pénitentes de Ste Marie Madeleine en Allemagne auXIIIe siécle, Fribourg. 1918, p. 85.

5. “De nativitate sancti Johannis Baptiste, et de beaetis apostolic Petro et Paulo. et de beata maria Magdalena fiat festum totum duplex; et magister ordinis cures de sequentiis providere" in Acta capitulorum generalium ordinis praedicatorum, ed B. Reichert, I, Rome. 1898, p. 283.

6. Susan Haskins, Mary Magdalene, Myth and Metaphor, New York, Harcourt Brace and Cy, 1994, p. 147.

7. “In festo sanctae Mariae Magdalenae”. in sermones festiui, Divi. Thomae Aquinatis opera LXXV, Venice, 1787, p. 113.



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