This happened to catch my eye over at Father Z’s. While in my tradition we don’t do Saints like the Catholics do, we do respect the stalwart in faith who have gone before us. Amongst them is Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the Risen Christ, and her Feast day was yesterday. That is why she is sometimes called the Apostle to the Apostles, Christ himself charged her with going and telling the apostles that He was risen.
Well, I gather some think that the Church has rather shortchanged her and that her reputation has been sullied. Maybe so, not my department, but I keep in mind what Jessica wrote long ago about her on NEO, my blog. It was this:
Under Jewish Law the testimony of a woman was no testimony at all. The first witness to the Risen Lord was a woman – Mary Magdalen. She was tearful. There she was, come to the tomb to anoint Him, and there was the stone moved. Her mind went where most of our minds would have gone – someone had taken Him away. That great stone had not moved itself, and dead bodies don’t walk out of tombs. The grave-clothes were bundled up and there was no trace of Jesus. Hard to imagine her feelings at the point. Only two days earlier her world had fallen apart. The man whose feet she had anointed and whom she had followed so loyally had been taken, tortured and then crucified. She knew that; she’d been there (which was more than could be said for most of those Apostles). It was over. All that remained was for her to do a final duty to the corpse. But even that was to be denied her. They had taken her Lord away.
She ran back to where the disciples were and told Peter the horrible news. Typically Peter, he ran to the tomb, and equally typically was outpaced by the younger John. But John stood at the entrance, and when Peter arrived he it was who, impulsive and brave as ever, went inside to see that the tomb was, indeed, as empty as Mary had said. The men went back home, no doubt to tell the others; Mary, as is the way of women, wanted to stay there a moment longer, perhaps to gather her thoughts, perhaps to mourn a moment alone.
She looked into the tomb again, only to be met by the most amazing sight – two angels asking her why she wept. The answer she gave echoes down the ages: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” As she turned away she saw a stranger, whom she took to be the gardener and asked where Jesus was. Then the man spoke – just one word, one word which shattered the world as she had known it and which echoes down the ages, even to the end of all things. ‘Mary’ was that word, the first from the lips of the Resurrected Lord. However much her tears had blinded her, that voice was clearly unmistakable: “Rabboni!” She said. Teacher, teacher, that was what she called Him. She went to cling to Him and He said: ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ He bade her to go and tell the others what she had seen.
The testimony of a woman was no testimony in Jewish Law, and yet it was to a woman that the Risen Lord first came. He had broken the bonds of death, He had conquered the power of death and of Satan, the hold of sin on mankind was broken; and these things He entrusted to the power of one who in Jewish Law could offer no testimony at all.
She was the first. Let us love and honour her for that this Easter morning: ‘He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!’
And there, on Easter morning itself, our Lord made his statement on the equality of women. We would do well to note that he made no case for their superiority, as so many these days seem to think, he made the case that women are valuable, and trustworthy, in their own right, which role is not the same as men but is complementary and equal to men.
In the Tridentine Missal, the Epistle is this (from the Song of Songs)
I will rise, and will go about the city: in the streets and the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, and I found him not. (quaesivi illum et non inveni.) The watchmen who keep the city, found me: Have you seen him, whom my soul loveth? When I had a little passed by them, I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him: and I will not let him go …
Would that we all (or any of us) were that faithful to the Lord.