A two-dollar book bargain from a flea market vendor in Florida provided me with an exploratory look at “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” by Jean-Yves Leloup originally published in 2002. You have not heard of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene? Surely you have heard of Mary Magdalene though?
Leloup makes a convincing case that Mary Magdalene was indeed a major player in the early church and the discovery of the Gnostic Gospel of Mary in Cairo in the year 1896 unveils a new perception on just how powerful Mary of Magdalene’s role was both during Christ life and at the time of his death.
US Catholic has an article entitled “Who Framed Mary Magdalene” and validates many of the central points that Leloup articulates
“Now that scripture scholars have debunked the myth that she and the infamous repentant sinner who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears are one and the same woman, word is trickling down that Mary Magdalene’s penitent prostitute label was a misnomer. Instead, her true biblical portrait is being resurrected, and this “apostle to the apostles” is finally taking her rightful place in history as a beloved disciple of Jesus and a prominent early church leader.”
Pope Francis agrees. “Pope Francis took the biggest step yet to rehabilitate Mary Magdalene’s image by declaring a major feast day in her honor, June 22. His 2016 decree put the woman who first proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection on par with the liturgical celebrations of the male apostles.”
Leloup takes a deep dive into the actual fragment of writing found that are attributed to Mary of Magdalene and then expounds on them both for their originality and complimentary agreement with the accepted canon Gospels, but only after giving you the actual text without commentary. You can read the entire fragments of the gospel here: http://gnosis.org/library/marygosp.htm.
Leloups style is very interesting and promising. He does not attack the canonical gospels and they by far are our most complete and most historically accepted documents.
Instead, he accepts the ambiguity of authenticity and controversies and leaves that for you the reader to explore. He leaps off with the words of Mary of Magdalene and places them in context with a codex of the cannon Gospels. He then expounds on what it means for us today in light of the revelations of not only this document – but others as well. He does a deep dive into the metaphysical realities of spirituality that we often find missing or stifled by religious instruction. The Gospel of Mary he portrays as a Gospel of teaching that ignites the spiritual imagination to be able to live the faith after Jesus in the flesh has left us.
And it was she who was first to see Jesus post-resurrection. There is not much left of this fragment of writing, but it is enough to ignite your spiritual imagination. It also may you leave you wondering if the church is ready to admit and act on the falsity of our male-dominated institution.
Deeper than that though, how about Pope Francis’s reflection that “Her tears at Christ’s empty tomb are a reminder that “sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus.”
“Archbishop Roche explained that in giving St Mary Magdalene the honor of being the first person to see the empty tomb and the first to listen to the truth of the resurrection, “Jesus has a special consideration and mercy for this woman, who manifests her love for him, looking for him in the garden with anguish and suffering.”
Drawing a comparison between Eve, who “spread death where there was life,” and St Mary Magdalene, who “proclaimed life from the tomb, a place of death,” the archbishop said her feast day is a lesson for all Christians to trust in Christ who is “alive and risen.”
“It is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same level of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar and highlights the special mission of this woman who is an example and model for every woman in the Church.”