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Talking to church authorities. Mary of Magdala. Meditation Day Two.

Talking to church authorities

Mary of Magdala, Meditation Day Two.

Studying the picture

In this picture a monk tells us that the Church owes the story of the Resurrection to, of all people, Mary of Magdala. This picture is full of significance: the apostles, lleaders of the Church, learn the news of the Resurrection from Mary of Magdala. She brings it to them. She knows something the officials in the Church have as yet no knowledge of. It is also possible that the picture alludes to the legend according to which, when the apostles doubted Jesus’ resurrection, Mary of Magdala preached the Gospel to them and restored their faith.

The narrative in this picture differs from that in Luke (24,11). There the apostles were gathered in an upper room with closed doors, out of fear of the authorities in Jerusalem. Then they thought the story nonsensical.. Mary makes the gesture of someone who has something to tell (the finger). She speaks with authority and Peter reacts with the gesture for reception/ listening or even acclamation: an open hand. The books are the usual attributes for apostles. The fact that Peter caries a book only, not the keys, has become rare at the time this work of art was made. The others are very close together under the small dome, but they are all very attentive, not one of them is looking away: so their attitude is not one of denial but of reception, like that of Peter, their leader.

Although the column divides the space into two unequal halves, the artist nevertheless manages to have balance in the picture. The woman in this case has something the male disciples have not: authority derived from the fact that she has witnessed the resurrection and, for that matter, the crucifixion of Jesus.

12th Century St Albani-Psalter. Originally in St. Alban’s England, nowadays in St. Godehard in Hildesheim, Germany.

Click here or on the picture for an enlargement.


I wonder whether women today dare to testify to church leaders, as Mary of Magdala did.

Even when church authorities are unreceptive and carry huge piles of theological literature? Or do we just keep silent, because they wag fingers at us? Women too are baptised in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When they receive the sacrament of confirmation they too are told, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. And who can contradict the Holy Spirit with impunity?

Sr. Theresia Saers

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