Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mary, Mary

Today's feast of St. Mary Magdalen renews the problem of the many Marys in the Gospels. Mary Magdalen has suffered the brunt of most of the confusion, being considered a reformed prostitute by the churches in the west, and a virgin by the Eastern churches. And to tell the truth, the confusion is a bit warranted. Luke says that Jesus cast no less than seven demons from Mary of Magdala, and since the number seven represents completeness, that's like saying "all hell" was upon her before that deliverance. A "sinful woman" washed Jesus' feet with tears, dried them with her hair and perfumed them with fragrant oil. Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, also poured expensive perfume on Jesus' feet and dried them with her hair. There were no less than three Marys at the foot of Jesus' cross, and two who approached the tomb on Easter morning.
There was bound to be some confusion.
And maybe that's all right. Maybe the multiplicity of Gospel Marys means something for us. Maybe we should blend them all into one image of Christian discipleship, summed up in Mary, the Mother of Jesus or Mary Magdalen, apostle to the Apostles. Maybe we are all supposed to be those Marys, made one.

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