22 July 2007

St. Mary Magdalene

Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, faithful disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, eyewitness of His Cross and Passion, and first witness of His Resurrection from the dead. The Eastern Church names her "the apostle to the Apostles," which sounds a bit shocking to our ears, but simply confesses that she was the one Christ sent (apostled) to the Apostles with the news of His Resurrection. I know that some of my friends and colleagues have been disappointed that the LSB opted for St. John 20 instead of St. Luke 7, but we deemed it appropriate to hear the testimony of Holy Scripture concerning St. Mary of Magdala on her festival day. St. John there and thereby commemorated her, long before the Church determined this date in her memory.

The fact that St. Mary is identified as the first witness of the Resurrection is indicative of the Gospel's veracity. If the Apostles had invented these things, they would surely not have written a woman into that position. I believe it was also by the Lord's own intention that one of those faithful women who followed and supported Him should be the first to see Him arisen from the dead. The Church ever receives her Lord as the heavenly Bridegroom of us all, and relates to Him collectively as His Bride. It is that feminine posture of faith and love which are exemplified and embodied in St. Mary's witness. Indeed, all of the DaVinci Code nonsense aside, it is the case that she is herself a living member of the Bride of Christ, His holy Church, as are all (both men and women) who believe and are baptized into Him. As He cast out seven unclean spirits from her, so has the Lord Jesus cast out the unclean spirit of sinful unbelief from our hearts, and bestowed His Holy Spirit upon us, by the washing of water and the Word in Holy Baptism.

Now when St. Mary was called by name to recognize and rejoice in her risen Lord Jesus, she was not yet perfected in faith and love. She would then have clung to Him apart from His Ascension to the Father, according to the familiar earthly manner in which she had known Him previously. It is much the same with all of us. We cling to our loved ones, and to our own temporal lives in this world, more comfortable and content with what we have known and are able to see than we are with what is given to us in the Gospel-Word and Sacrament. Yet, the same Lord who called St. Mary to discipleship, who recalled her and restored her to faith and hope and love, likewise calls each of us by name and gathers us again and again to Himself. The Word that He sent to His Apostles via this faithful woman, is a Word that He speaks also to us. Which is to say that His Resurrection and Ascension are for us, for whom He suffered and died, such that His God and Father are now also our God and Father, by grace through faith in Him.

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