Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Religion: Who Was Mary Magdalene? - Newsweek Society - MSNBC.com

Religion: Who Was Mary Magdalene? - Newsweek Society - MSNBC.com
An Inconvenient Woman
She witnessed the resurrection, then vanished, leaving popes and painters and now 'The Da Vinci Code' to tell her story. In search of the real Mary Magdalene.

A friend posted this to one of my groups this morning, and I wanted to share some comments. Mary has always been one of the most interesting characters to me, and this article is one of the first ones I've seen that actually treats her as the fully mature character she deserves.

There are enough clues in the canon even to reach the conclusion that Mary of Magdala was an important figure in Jesus' life, improperly maligned by history. That she is the first witness to the risen Christ is certainly clear in the canon, as is the fact that she stayed for the crucifixion while all the disciples fled. Its odd, then, that the only person not related to Jesus with the courage of witness, should get practically no mention after his resurrection is complete.

That's a point the Bible makes clear, though it tends not try not to focus on it. All the male disciples fled, refusing to name themselves brothers of Jesus .. the women stayed at his side till the end and beyond. And yet, after the resurrection, when the Mission truly began, its all the male disciples we see back at the front.

Is the modern Christian church … be it Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant … so much a church of Jesus as it is a church of Peter? It was Peter who organized the new church, even though he wasn't around during the crucial period, as Mary was. Even more, we see Peter openly distrusting Mary, even though there's good evidence she was doing very solid missionary work. Its interesting that a modern Catholic Cardinal (can't recall his name) on the CNN documentary The Two Mary's called the notion that Mary might have been the first Pope "Truly bizarre." He even admitted that she was the first witness … though he neglected to mention why, lol … but his attitude shows a closed mindedness towards early church figures that I find distressing.

The reality is, the modern church can be called Peterian as much as Christian. There's no doubt Jesus was the guy at the centre, but it was Peter who set forth the tone of the early church. To paraphrase MLK Jr from my recent Gandhi post, Jesus was the message of the early church certainly, but Peter was the man with the method.

The fact is, though, Mary was more important than history has made her out to be, and as this Newsweek article points out, there is a lot of non-canonical texts that point to her being an equal disciple of all the others. Its clear that by describing her as Mary of Magdala, and never in reference to a man, she was an independent person in the eyes Jesus and those around him.

I think one of the early battles in the church was between Mary and Peter, over the form that future worship would take. Peter campaigned for, and essentially got, the church we see today, while Mary argued for a more introspective and individual faith. One of the key differences, I think, would have been than Peter's vision involved more organization … Peter's vision was always about control of the Christian flock, more than anything else, while Mary was about promoting control of ourselves.

In today's terms, We'd recognize Peter, I think. in the men in the Vatican for one. Mary would be a far more 'Pagan' worshipper … she might even be attracted to Buddhism. She'd be more interested in getting people to look inside themselves to find the meaning of Jesus' words, rather than to a book, or a Priest.

I think its worth asking ourselves what we might look like today if Mary HAD been the first Pope, instead of Peter. I know some people will find that preposterous, and that's fine … in a way, Newsweek is right and Da Vinci actually helps them by keeping Mary nothing more than a sexual body, transformed from prostitute to mother (hooker to MILF?), but still ignoring the person who Mary was. She was a single woman from Magdala, a harsh fishing village. She had means to minister unto Jesus' of her substance, and she was there through the end and beyond. That we know so little of her full role in the Ministry is our severe loss, IMO.


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