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The Conversion of blessed Mary Magdalene. This is an ancient medieval legend, found in various versions, here translated by John Wijngaards from the original Dutch.

The Conversion of blessed Mary Magdalene

This is an ancient medieval legend, found in various versions, here translated by John Wijngaards from the original Dutch.

Four versions of the text are on this website:

There was a noble man of royal descent in Jerusalem called Lazarus. He had two sisters: Martha who was spiritual in life style and morals, but also Mary a worldly girl, who was immersed in the vanity of the world.

When Martha saw that Lazarus spent all his time on knightly military pursuits and Mary wasted her property without limit, she decided wisely to look after the income of the estate, and like an old trusted mother she managed the common property with diligent foresight. She prudently governed the Magdalon Castle that belonged to her sister, Bethany and a part of the city of Jerusalem.

Martha had the custom of preserving words of Jesus Christ in her heart. Often she would admonish her sister, either with pleas or with warnings. She hoped that one day, when her sister was serious, she would bring her to Our Lord the good shepherd. Among the many things she said, were words like this:

“My dear sister, the nobility of your human descent and the perfection of your face trasncend the beauty of all women on earth. From whom does the body get all this beauty? And you decorate the body that will be consumed by worms with gold and precious jewels, but your soul, which is purer than the brilliant sun and more wonderful than all stars, you rob of its purity through worldly morals and a material style of living.”

This is the kind of thing Martha kept telling her sister. And Mary said:

“My dear sister, since you agree that I am beautiful, I will, surrounded by the flowers of the world and young knights, mit a happy heart spend the inheritance of my father, and live my life in luxury!”

After this kind of conversation, it happened one day that she returned to her sister from Jerusalem. Since she had spent the previous days in the vanities of this world, and had led the dance without stop, she entered the house jumping and dancing and met her sister with these words:

“Today I have given joy to all people of Jerusalem, and I have enjoyed myself more than I ever did in all my life. I don't believe there can be greater happiness than to spend your life in fun and pleasure.”

Then Martha said:

“My dear sister, and did you, in all your enjoyment today, meet the happiest and most beautiful king, who makes every human heart happy?”

Mary said:

“No. There was no king among us.”

Martha replied:

“So you don’t know your king, whose beautiful face lights up everyone who looks at him? Whose beauty makes all creatures with reason wonder with astonishment? If you’d only see his face, he would give you the greatest happiness!”

Then Mary said:

“Who is this man who is so perfect and beautiful? You don’t mean Emperor Tiberius, do you?”

Mary replied:

“No, it’s not Emperor Tiberius who is a pagan king, but it is the king of kings and the ruler of all who rule, the redeemer of the children of Israel, strong in what he does. He was born of noble parents. His father is God in heaven, who does not have a wife on earth. His mother is a virgin from David’s family. From this birth God has brought forth the person who can heal the world.”

Then Mary desired very much, in a worldly way, to meet the man who was so noble and beautiful, and she said:

“My dear sister, show me where I can find the man who will give such satisfaction. When I have sought him out and found him, I want to embrace him and draw him to my love more than any other man in the world, so that I may profit from his wealth and his luxury.”

Martha replied:

“He is my Lord, Jesus Christ.”

“You mean Jesus, the son of the smith, son of Mary and Joseph? Why do you think he is God’s son and the son of a virgin?”

Mary replied:

“Jospeh was his foster father, not his natural father.”

And Martha tried to fill her sister’s heart with teaching. Mary wept, and see: the gift of the Holy Spirit fell on Mary, touching her with God’s right finger. Mary stood next to her sister with her neck uncovered, with shining face, as lost in ecstacy. And when she returned to her normal self, as someone who was out of her senses, she said:

“Oh, oh, why was I so keen to live who have deserved eternal death! What pleasure will all worldly pleasures give to me, once I will be handed over to the pains of hell? What use my jumping as the deer and camels when I will soon and suddenly be cast into the flames of the fire? O, miserable, yesy most misterable life that has robbed me of all self respect? Why did I love you when you were my ugly seducer? See, you have destroyed the honour of my virginity, and instead of being a virgin you are cause that I am being called a public sinner!”

And she turned to her sister and said:

“Where is my salvation and the redemption of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ? I have been wounded by his love. Oh, impure world, whoever loves you will always remain impure. Here on earth there is plenty of evil and little wisdom, all things here are impure and dirty and covered in darkness, keeping in its clutches the souls who live in fear. And bodies are being tortured in you. Oh, my most sweet Jesus, where shall I look for you, where shall I find you?”

Martha replied:

“The Lord is close to all who call on him in sincerity. My sister, wait for him. He will surely come, without delay.”

And see, while she was still speaking Jesus arrived with Lazarus. On that day Lazarus came from a company of knights and on the way he saw a huge crowd follow Jesus, listening to his words and teachings. Lazarus too followed Jesus and talked intimately with him. Lazarus was so pleased with Jesus’ words that he left the crowd and brought Jesus into his home.

Martha stood there with Mary. When they saw Jesus, both wept with happiness. Martha gave Jesus an honourable welcome. Mary reckoned she was not worthy to meet Jesus because of her sins, and she wanted to turn her face away. But before she could turn her face, Jesus looked at her with his human eyes, but also with the yes of his goodness and mercy.

Jesus’ face was very beautiful and charming. No one could see him without feeling extremely much attracted to him. Because of his gracious look at her, Mary received an outpouring of grace and an abundance of repentance. And because she considered herself a leper, out of deep shame she withdrew from the presence of her healer. She went to her room, and closed the door, and wept. Her soul longed to be comforted.

O sinful woman, if you had seen at that time the remorse and the outpouring of tears of that woman, you too would have been converted with her. And even if you had a heart as hard as unbreakable rock, it would have become soft as wax!

So she spent the whole night, wringing her hands, pulling out her hair, weeping, beating on her cheeks and grinding her teeth.

At that same hour, Simon the Pharisee asked Jesus to have ameal with him on the following day. Therefore Jesus went to the house of the Pharisee next day - the house stood next to the home of Lazarus and his sisters - to eat there with all the other noblemen who had been invited.

When Martha saw that Jesus had come, she approached her sister to console her. Mary had been on the floor with remorse and anxiety, and when she lifted up her head, Martha said:

“The Lord and Master is close. He will eat in Symon’s house.”

Mary sighed, but did not reply. Martha left her sister lying on the floor, and returned to serve the Lord personally. Martha was accustomed to serve Jesus in person. Jesus had the custom always first to pray to his Father before taking any food. That is why, while all those who had gathered were already seated at the table, Jesus prayed on bent knees.

And see: Mary sent to that house and knelt down at Jesus’ feet, and washed them with tears. Her tears flowed abundantly like rivers. And she kissed his feet and dried them with her hair and anointed them with ointment. Jesus stood up and approached the table and talked initmately with Mary, something that scandalised the Pharisee. He was told off by the Lord as we read in the Gospel. And the sinful woman had all her sins forgiven.

Mary rose, thanked the Lord humbly and left those who were eating. She returned to the room of her house. She prayed, she wept, she sighed.

Martha was delighted. And because Martha was serving, she approached Mary the mother of Jesus and said:

“My master, your son, has forgiven my sister all her sins!”

The glorious virgin replied:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has found and redeemed his people. And he turns sinful men and women into righteous persons. He does not abandon those who trust in him.”

That is why the blessed Mary, the glorious virgin, took her two sisters, Maria Zebedei and Maria Jacobi, with her to visit Magdalena to comfort her. When Magdalena who was alone in her home received the glorious virgin, she called out with a loud voice:

“O most holy virgin, go away from me. Because it is not right that the greatest sinner in the world, who has served sin in her body and who is dirty and impure inside, should come close to the immaculate virgin.”

Mary replied:

“O my friend and friend of God’s son. I clearly see in those words, with the knowledge that reveals everything, that you have been purified of all your sins. And I am not more amazed at the fact that you have been purified from all stains, than that I myself was preserved from all stains.”

And she embraced her and kissed her.

The sisters of the glorious virgin watched as these two, the mother of Christ and Magdalene embraced each other and talked to each other, and were lifted up to the roof of the house by holy angels, and were honoured in the sky with all reverence and then lowered to the ground again. The sisters of Christ’s mother who witnessed this, told this to the believers to the praise and glory of him who is blessed in eternity. Amen.

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