Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene – 22nd July

Mary Magdalen (Mary from Magdala). Magdala was a sea-port on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and she first appeared in the Gospel accounts with the women accompanying our Lord in His ministry there.  She followed Him from Galilee to Jerusalem and was a prominent witness at the two most important moments in the story of Jesus: the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Mary Magdalen was one of the women who went to anoint the body at the sepulchre and was the first to see the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday morning.

Her feast has been kept in the West since the eighth century but has been somewhat muted by the rumour promulgated by Pope Gregory who, without any evidence, identified her as the sinful woman in the Gospels. This is now rejected by the Roman calendar.  Observance ceased in the Church of England, along with a number of other feasts, after the Reformation.  It was not until the Prayer Book revision of 1928 (rejected by Parliament) that a collect, epistle and gospel were provided for her day.

St. Mary Magdalene, called by the Orthodox Church both Myrrh-bearer and Equal-to-the-Apostle, has from very early times been commemorated on July 22, as well as with the other Myrrh-bearers on the second Sunday after Easter. Her Icon depicting her carrying the jar of myrrh is always displayed at the Liturgy on her day.

Tradition relates that in Italy Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias (14-37 A.D.) and, proclaiming Christ’s Resurrection, she brought him a red egg, a symbol of new life with the words: “Christ is Risen!” The custom of giving red paschal eggs on the day of the Resurrection of Christ spread among Christians over the Orthodox world. In an ancient Greek manuscript, written on parchment, is a prayer of blessing of Paschal eggs “Thus have we received from the holy Fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy Apostles, therefore the holy Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering.”

Christopher Jobson

The feature image for this post is “Brooklyn Museum – Mary Magdalene at the Feet of Jesus – James Tissot”, Wikicommons (P.D.)

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