The story of Mary Magdalene that is told and re-told in Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran churches is one in which she is cast as the penitent prostitute; the figure who traded her life of bodily pleasure and delight to journey out into the desert, following the man known as Christ.
Within the traditional religious framework Mary Magdalene’s devotion to her God and her conscious sets her apart from others and gives her the unique position of importance in witnessing three seminal events: the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
The Gnostic Gospels tell a different story of Mary Magdalene, one in which she is not merely one among many disciplines but is first and foremost among them, an intelligent and charismatic teacher and speaker in her own right, who was edited out of liturgical history in favor of a male dominated version.
Other versions of Mary Magdalene cast her as a Pagan Priestess or a devotee of the Goddess or the illicit lover or legal wife of Christ. No matter which story you have heard and resonate with, one thing is for sure: The Magdalene is greater than any one story about her.
She is also courage embodied; specifically the courage to bear witness to trauma, heartbreak, and death. Like all good lovers, Mary Magdalene is one who knows the limits of pleasure because she also has first hand knowledge of pain.
Hers is the ever merciful, deeply immanent, Presence that allows us to say over and over again: Yes, I will look at the hard head on, Yes, I will go where angels fear to tread, Yes, I will love even that much and more and more again still. It is that willingness to love and keep loving, to look and keep loving, that makes Mary Magdalene such a singular figure within the Gospels and has allowed her legacy to move beyond their pages.
There is a common tendency to run away from the hard, or, if you do choose to sit with it, to do so by making a trade on the enjoyment of your own life.
Mary Magdalene does not accept such a deal.
Her ability to stare Death straight in the face is coupled with her overt sexual presence and sensuality amid all the asceticism; most poignantly rendered in the tale that has been attributed to her but does not call her by name, of the anointing of Jesus’ feet with sweet Spikenard ointment days before his Death. She does not eschew pleasure in favor of more important things, rather, she meets the most devastating moments with pleasure as her constant companion. As can we.
In my traditions, I was also taught that Mary Magdalene is a strength and support to all women who have experienced physical trauma, the loss of children, or the inability to conceive.
As the official patroness of Apothecaries and Herbalism, she is one of several Sainted figures who manages to bring the wild back into the stone cathedrals.
For this Feast Day of the Radically Reverent we will call in the inner spark and flame to light us up with the courage to love ever more and ever deeper as Mary Magdalene did, as we all can.
Questions to consider as you craft your petition:
Where do I need more courage in my life?
What am I afraid to bear witness to right now?
What kind of help would support me in looking at the hard stuff?
What is ready to heal?
What old scar is ready to be blessed?
Where do I feel infertile and in need of blessing and healing?
What pleasure am I ready to partake in?
Where can I love more?
Feast Days for the Radically Reverent
What are Feast Days for the Radically Reverent?
Born into a family full of many devoted Catholic practitioners, Feast Days are one of the aspects of folk tradition that I love best. There are hundreds of Feast Days – in fact, according to official Catholic calendars every single day is a feast day – and that alone is a though worth pondering – what would happen if you treated every day as a feast day?
Years ago in my own practice I began creating altars and honoring ceremonies on Feast Days that have deep personal significance to me and inviting my community of soulful seekers to join in the process of honoring by sending in their own prayer requests, blessing ways, petitions, and thanks givings.
The results are always stunning. They remind me again and again that the act of blessing is transformative and also deeply universal — every year individuals from all over the world and many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds identifying as Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and followers of various alternative spiritual paths come together in blessing. It is a profound time always and one felt deeply by all participants.
These Feast Days can be found on various calendars but we celebrate them together with one thing in common – radical reverence; this is reverence that goes right down to the root of things in plain speech and in direct, heart-felt actions.
Feast Days for the Radically Reverent are open to all people who would like to come together to celebrate, request, and bless. They are 100% free of charge and always will be.