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I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A New Gospel of Mary Magdalene

A NEW GOSPEL OF MARY MAGDALENE
by Ray Grosswirth, M.A., M.Div

INTRODUCTION

If I had written this during the period of the Inquisition, there is no doubt I would have been condemned to a terrible fate. In today’s day and age, there are still those who might label me as a heretic for writing what follows. However, please keep in mind that this is simply a product of my imagination. It is designed to give you a perception of Mary Magdalene that will perhaps lead the Roman Catholic hierarchy to consider the many ways it has tarnished the reputation of a saintly women who can rightfully claim the title of ‘Apostle to the Apostles.’

THE SETTING

The date is approximately 5 A.D. and the setting is a small desert community in the vicinity of Nazareth. During this year, Mary Magdalene was born. While little is known of her parents, her birth was short of miraculous, for the same three wise men who came from afar to visit a child in Nazareth several years earlier, also decided to visit this baby girl - once again, guided by a star.

From the time Mary Magdalene was a little girl, she displayed a keen intellect and was full of questions. She also managed to disguise herself, so that she could worship with her male childhood friends in the Nazarean synagogue, which was approximately five miles from her home.

MARY MAGDALENE’S FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS

In the year 15 A.D., Mary found herself seated next to a teenage boy, who at that time was approximately 15 years old. His name was Jesus. To her surprise, he boldly challenged the rabbis who were responsible for educating the young concerning their faith. He spoke about following his Father’s will and the need to pay attention to those in need. After astonishing those present in the synagogue, Jesus walked out quietly, fearing that his elders might physically oust him.

Mary decided to follow Jesus through the exit door, whereupon she removed her disguise. As one can expect, Jesus was quite stunned to learn that the person who was seated next to him in the synagogue was indeed a young girl, who at this time was only 10 years old. Both Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a lengthy discussion about the courage Jesus displayed by challenging his neighborhood’s religious authorities. Jesus in turn had a good laugh over Mary’s courage concerning her disguise that allowed her to worship with her male counterparts.

Jesus took a liking to Mary and told her he hoped she would seek him out when she arrived at a marrying age. After several years had passed, Mary indeed began to wonder about the whereabouts of Jesus, the childhood friend who had befriended her.

MANY YEARS LATER

In the year 25 A.D. (Jesus was approximately 25 years old and Mary Magdalene was approximately 20 years old), Mary began to hear stories about a young man who worked as a carpenter in the city of Sepphoris. Sepphoris was a fairly large city dominated by the Romans and Jesus managed to use his carpentry skills to suit the material needs of the Roman aristocracy who ruled much of the surrounding area. Jesus managed to find a safe balance in such an environment by working quietly at his craft and sneaking out of town at night to deal with many issues of faith and the special bond between himself and his Father - a relationship he would not fully understand until several years later.

On a particularly chilly afternoon, Mary Magdalene wandered into Sepphoris. She went from house to house, inquiring about a man named Jesus. Just as she began to feel her journey was fruitless, a man appeared behind her and placed his cloak over her her so that she could be free of the frigid air. To her astonishment, it was Jesus of Nazareth. They instinctively hugged, for they had both sensed that a combination of fate and God’s will would eventually bring them together.

Jesus and Mary talked non-stop for several hours, for they had several years of lapsed time to piece together. When their conversation ended, Jesus told Mary that after his earthly father (Joseph) died, his mother (Mary) encouraged him to seek out his spiritual Father’s will. Although Mary Magdalene did not understand this quest, Jesus assured her it would make sense in the near future.

JESUS AND MARY MAGDALENE ARE MARRIED

Jesus and Mary went on to develop a very close relationship. This relationship became formalized in the ritual of marriage, which took place in Sepphoris. The chief local rabbi officiated and Mary, the mother of Jesus, attended the couple. (During the first two years of their marriage, Jesus and Mary had two children.)

When Jesus was thirty years old, and Mary Magdalene was 25, they began to hear about John the Baptist, who was preaching about the need for repentance. Jesus instinctively knew he had to see him. He kissed Mary goodbye and told her he would return immediately after visiting John. (It was at this point that Mary began to realize that Jesus was following the will of his Father and that his meeting with John the Baptist would forever change him and their relationship.)

THE MISSION OF JESUS

After Jesus was baptized by John at the river Jordan, he immediately set out to return to his wife (Mary Magdalene). Along the way, he was tempted in the desert by Satan. Having rebuked Satan, he returned to Mary, whereby he revealed the full will of the Father to her. Part of this will was to gather up disciples, so that news of the Kingdom of God could be spread throughout the ancient world.

After Jesus gathered his disciples, they traveled with him, along with their wives and children, city by city, until they finally reached their ultimate destination of Jerusalem. It was here that a clash of values would come to a climax between Jesus and Roman authorities.

Contrary to popular belief, there was very little friction between Jesus and the Jews who resided in Jerusalem. For all intents and purposes, Jesus was Jewish and had no reason to alienate his own people. Yet, because a select few of the Jewish leaders feared that Jesus might antagonize the Romans over his preaching about the Kingdom of God, they enticed Judas Iscariot to keep an eye on him. Although most Jews continued to support and befriend Jesus, Judas nevertheless put events into place that were foreshadowed in early predictions by Jesus.

THE PASSION

Sensing that his time was near, Jesus met privately with his wife (Mary Magdalene) and Mary (his mother). While they begged him to come with them to Sepphoris, they also realized there was a purpose to his being in Jerusalem. After a long sorrowful conversation, Jesus instructed both Marys to take care of his children and to make sure they stayed out of harm’s way. (Mary Magdalene made provisions for the children to travel to Sepphoris, while she and the mother of Jesus remained for the events that were to follow.)

On what would come to be known as Holy Thursday, the disciples and their wives, along with Jesus and Mary Magdalene, gathered for a Passover meal. Jesus instructed all gathered to break bread and drink wine in memory of him. He also warned them that future generations would try to exclude women from such a meal, but at the same time, encouraged them to press ahead, despite warnings they might receive from religious authorities.

THE RESURRECTION

As the Gospel writers Mark, Matthew, Luke and John have testified, Jesus was crucified by the Romans and buried, and he rose again on the third day. However, what was not related by the four Gospel writers is the fact that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene for a reason. It was not only because she was his beloved wife; it was also because he sensed that the voices of women would be squashed by future generations. He also sensed that male religious authorities might turn Mary Magdalene into a sinner for their own sinister purposes. Jesus therefore chose Mary to spread the good news of the resurrection, in the hope that Mary’s place in history would be preserved as ‘apostle to the apostles.’

MARY MAGDALENE REDEEMED

As Jesus predicted, the reputation of his beloved wife (Mary Magdalene) would be tarnished for many centuries, due to the male-dominated church that emerged bearing his name. It wasn’t until the year 1969 that the Vatican finally announced to the world what most of us knew already: Mary Magdalene was not a sinner; she was rather apostle to the apostles and continues to be a model for all of us.

Having read my imaginative account of the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, you may be wondering what my motives are. My primary purpose is to articulate a dignity to Mary Magdalene – a dignity that was denied her by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church for close to 2,000 years. Recent scholarship has shed new light on her remarkable life. We can now say with complete certainty that she was not the sinner as depicted in numerous paintings from the medieval period. We also have come to learn that following the death of Jesus, Mary Magdalene continued to spread the good news of the resurrection.

Sadly, when the fathers of the church decided to formulate what has come to be known as doctrine, part of their process was to eliminate references to women who were instrumental in building the church of the first century. They further placed Mary, the mother of Jesus, on a pedestal, identifying obedience as her most noble trait. Thanks be to God, we have finally come to recognize the genuine humanity of both the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene (who I have theorized to be the wife of Jesus).

Whether or not one subscribes to the theory of Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene, I like to think there is universal agreement on the fact that she was perhaps the best example we have in the Gospel tradition of what it means to be a true disciple. The Vatican was perhaps successful in covering up this fact through 1969. However, now that we know the truth, we should be praying to Mary Magdalene every day for guidance in a church that is on a road to self-destruction. I pray that she and all the good women in our church reclaim the inclusivity that was willed to us by Jesus of Nazareth. An exclusive church cannot survive. Noone understood that more than Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

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