The Institute for Christian Formation
Saint Mary Magdalene
Feast Day (Feast): July 22
Christ Appearing to Mary Duccio, 1308-1311 Museo dell Opera del Duomo
On July 22, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is one of the most well-known figures in the Christian Scriptures. She is also perhaps one of the most misunderstood. Throughout the centuries, many people have often equated Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50. Yet that Gospel passage never names this woman, and Scripture scholars tell us that this passage does not refer to Mary Magdalene.
What do we know of Mary Magdalene from the Bible? Mary Magdalene accompanied Jesus and the Apostles as they journeyed
in their ministry. She was healed of seven demons, and she also helped support Jesus and the Apostles financially (Luke 8:2-3). She witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and death (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25). She witnessed Jesus’ burial (Matthew 27:61; Mark 16:47). Mary Magdalene was also there on that first Easter morning and witnessed the empty tomb. Matthew 28 tells us that Mary Magdalene and her companion, the other Mary, witnessed the empty tomb and encountered an angel who sent them to break this news to the disciples. On the way they encountered the risen Christ who sent them to tell the others in Galilee. Mark’s Gospel tells us that the risen Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9), and Mary then went to tell the Apostles, but they did not believe her. Luke 24:1-12 also tells us of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the Mother of James, witnessing the empty tomb and encountering two men in dazzling garments. The women went to tell the Apostles, but again were not believed. John 20 also tells us of Mary Magdalene arriving and witnessing the empty tomb. She went to tell the news to Peter and the beloved Disciple, and the two men returned to the tomb to witness this for themselves. However, it is to Mary Magdalene that the risen Christ first appears and speaks, and Christ sends Mary as a messenger of this Good News to the other disciples (John 20:11-18).
An Apostle is one who is sent. The risen Christ, himself, sent Mary Magdalene to the other Apostles with the Good News of the resurrection. This has earned her the title, “Apostle to the Apostles.” We have much for which to be grateful to Mary Magdalene!
While we celebrate Mary Magdalene’s feast day on July 22, as the “Apostle to the Apostles” she is an important role model and intercessor throughout the entire Church Year. This is certainly especially true during the Triduum and the Easter Season, as Mary Magdalene was a faithful bystander and witness to Jesus’ crucifixion and death, his burial, and his resurrection. To this day, many Eastern Christians have the tradition of sharing brilliant red-dyed eggs at Easter. This is a tradition with links to legends about Mary Magdalene. You can learn more about this tradition here.
Entombment of Christ
Date: ca. 1900
Click on the image above to download our ICF handout on Saint Mary Magdalene.
If you are artistic and would like to write an icon of Saint Mary Magdalene, here is one source for an icon pattern. This pattern, which has Mary Magdalene holding the egg, could also be used as a coloring page for children and for other crafts.
Mary Magdalene is also often depicted in art holding a jar. Remember that she was one of the Myrrh Bearers who went to the tomb that first Easter morning, expecting to find Jesus’ body and prepared to anoint the body with myrrh.
Spend some time reflecting on the various Scripture passages about Mary Magdalene. Who do you say she is?