Mosaic in the church in Lourdes, from left to right: the apostle John, Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene embracing Jesus' feet, Mary the sister of Mother Mary.
Mary Magdalene in the Bible
In the last few years there has been much talk about Mary Magdalene. Even before Dan Brown wrote "The Da Vinci Code" some referred to her as a manifestation of the divine feminine. That's why some people confuse her with Mary, the mother of Jesus. But Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' main disciples. Catholics call her "the apostle to the apostles", because Jesus honored her in a very special way. According to the Bible, he allowed her to be the first person to whom he revealed himself after his resurrection and then he sent her to tell the good news to the other disciples.
A couple of times the Bible lists women who followed Jesus with his disciples and "provided for them out of their resources". Both times Mary Magdalene is mentioned first, as if to stress her foremost importance. (see Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40)
All four gospels agree (which is rare) that Mary Magdalene was the first person Jesus appeared and talked to after his resurrection. In Matthew 27:55-28:18 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph are the only ones keeping watch at Jesus' tomb all night. Then they go home for one night, only to return early the next morning, before dawn. An angel greets them at the empty tomb, tells them that Jesus has risen and commands them to run to the disciples and tell them where to meet Jesus. The two Marys are "fearful yet overjoyed". As they are running to do what they were told, Jesus appears to them. The women "approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage." He repeats the same message the angel had already given them: go and tell the others where to meet me. The other disciples meet Jesus in the designated place, worship him duly, but (unlike the women) they doubt. Mark 15:40 - 16:13 (and Luke 23:55 - 24:12) tells more or less the same story. Only he puts more emphasis on the male disciples' disbelief. They do not believe Mary Magdalene that Jesus rose from the dead, nor do they believe two other men who later report the same thing, nor the Lord himself in his resurrected body.
John mentions Mary Magdalene as standing under the cross with the other two Marys (See article: Mother Mary and the Bible) and also has a beautiful account of her being the first disciple the risen Jesus appears to in Jn 20:1-18. Here she cries so hard that she doesn't recognize Jesus when he speaks to her until he calls her by her name: "Mary!" Then she immediately exclaims: "Rabbouni!" which means, my teacher, or, my master. Apparently she flings herself at him and wants to hold on to him, because he warns her saying: "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father."
(Others translate simply: "Don't touch me!")
Mary Magdalene in the Apocryphal Gospels
Apocryphal gospels are those that were not admitted into the Bible. Since they were suppressed, only fragments and damaged copies have been found so far. Words in [square brackets] mark holes in the manuscript that were filled in by scholars' best guesses. Empty brackets [ ] mean no guesses can be made; too much is missing.(*1)
Mary Magdalene figures prominently in "the Gospel of Philip", "the Gospel of Mary", and in the "Dialogue of the Savior". In all three she is presented as his favorite, most enlightened disciple. But that does not at all mean that she is unanimously revered by the disciples. On the contrary, every gospel speaks of conflict surrounding her. The apocryphal gospels are particularly clear that this is because of the male disciples' jealousy and disrespect for women. Gender conflicts are talked about explicitly. They get patched up temporarily but not really resolved.
So much for Dan Brown and all those people who want to believe that the first Christians were free of such conflict and that the urge to suppress women in general and Mary Magdalene in particular only came later when the Roman Catholic church established itself as an institution of the Roman Empire. Certainly the Emperor Constantine was no help for women's liberation, but even while Jesus was alive, most of his male disciples could not follow him in his egalitarian treatment of the other sex.
The canonical (biblical) gospels don't delve as deeply into the gender conflict, though they mention jealousy and competitiveness even among the male disciples. Concerning the apostles' feelings about Mary Magdalene, they only mention that the male disciples didn't believe her that Jesus had risen. But then they don't believe men either, and not even Jesus himself.
Here's what the supposedly so enlightened, apocryphal gospels have to say about Mary's gender:
The Gospel of Thomas ends like this:
"Simon Peter said to them, 'Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life.' Jesus said, 'I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.' "
Some say that this passage contradicts earlier statements in the Gospel of Thomas and was therefore probably added by a later redactor. They are referring to verse 22: "Jesus said to them, 'When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter [the Kingdom]."
"The Dialogue of the Savior", while granting Mary a place of special honor, also equates "femaleness" with inferiority, worldliness, and obstacles to the spiritual path. It says 144:15-21:
"When we pray, how should we pray? The Lord said, 'Pray in the place where there is [no] woman.' Matthew said, 'He says to us, 'Pray in the place where there is [no] woman,' ... 'Destroy [the] works of femaleness,' not because she is another [...], but so that they (the works) will cease [from you]."
The Gospels of Philip and of Mary both recount the jealousy of the male disciples because Jesus loved Mary more than them and revealed things to her that he didn't reveal to them.
Even Mary herself in the Gospel of Mary equates maleness with superiority when she says in 9:19-20: "Let us praise his greatness, for he has prepared us (and) made us into men."
The last part of this gospel is Mary's account of what Jesus said to her in a vision. Peter had asked her for this account saying (in 10:1-5): "Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember - which you know (but) we do not, nor have we heard them."
But when she finishes:
"Andrew answered and said to the brethren, 'Say what you (wish to) say about what she has said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas.' Peter answered and spoke concerning these same things. He questioned them about the Savior: 'Did he really speak privately with a woman (and) not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?' Then Mary wept and said to Peter, 'My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?' Levi answered and said to Peter, 'Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect man, and separate, as he commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said.' When [...] and they began to go forth [to] proclaim and to preach." (17:10-end of gospel)
The Gospel of Philip 63:31-10 states:
"And the companion of the S[avior is] Mary Magdalene ... her more than ... the disciples ... kiss her ... on her ... The rest of ... they said to him, 'Why do you love her more than all of us?' The Savior answered them, 'Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.' " -- Apparently Mary Magdalene was far more enlightened than the other disciples.
People fill in the gaps in the text according to the context, which suggests that Jesus kissed her on the mouth. They read: "The Savior loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth."
But even if Jesus often kissed her on the mouth, one still cannot assume that they also had sexual intercourse. Four chapters earlier Philip speaks about kissing on the mouth as a ritual act of being born or "begotten" spiritually of Jesus:
"[Those who] are begotten by him [cry out] from that place to the (perfect) man [because they are nourished] on the promise [concerning] the heavenly [place. ...] from the mouth, [because if] the word has gone out from that place it would be nourished from the mouth and it would become perfect. For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth (to their spiritual selves). For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in each other." 58:30-59:5
Sounds like they all kissed each other on the mouth. Were they all married to each other? Were they advocating same sex and group marriage?! Of course not. At least during the first five hundred years of Christianity kissing each other on the mouth was part of celebrating the ritual of the Eucharist (or "last supper") even within the main stream Church. It is refered to in the biography of Mary of Egypt (More on her below). The ancient text describes this extremely chaste and humble hermitess receiving the Eucharist the night before her death: "After the prayer has been spoken, she kisses the priest, as is the custom, on the mouth, receives the holy mysteries and says..." (Gertrude and Thomas Sartory: Maria von Aegypten - Allmacht der Busse, Herder Taschenbuch, 1982, p.55)
It is true that the Gospel of Philip continues for 13 pages to talk about the great mystery of marriage and the original unity of man and woman in the first human (before the female aspect was separated out). It says that: "Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and again unite the two". (70:15) But it also speaks about the mystery of the "bridal chamber" in a very confusing, obscure, and esoteric way, suggesting that it far exceeds anything an ordinary person would associate with bridal chambers. E.g. in 74:19-20: "He who has been anointed possesses everything. He possesses the resurrection, the light, the cross, the Holy Spirit. The Father gave him this in the bridal chamber;" And in verse 67 it says: "It is from water and fire and light that the son of the bridal chamber (came into being). (...) The Lord [did] everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber." The Gospel of Thomas 50:15 refers to the "bridal chamber" as the place (this earth) where the bridegroom, Jesus, gets to be with his bride, the disciples.
The gospel of Philip does seem to suggest that Jesus found a deep spiritual union with Mary Magdalene which he deemed extremely important, but which might have been purely spiritual. For he says in 65:30 - 66:5:
"He who comes out of the world can no longer be detained because he was in the world. It is evident that he is above desire and fear. (...) Fear not the flesh, nor love it. If you fear it, it will gain mastery over you. If you love it, it will swallow and paralyze you." And (76:9): "in the aeon the form of the union is different, although we refer to them by the same names." (78:30-79:2): "So spirit mingles with spirit, and thought consorts with thought. (...) If you become light, it is the light which will share with you." (82:4-8) "If there is a hidden quality to the marriage of defilement, how much more is the undefiled marriage a true mystery. It is not fleshly but pure. It belongs not to desire but to the will."
Some people claim that 'companion', the title given to Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Philip, was an equivalent to 'wife'. Yet "The Book of Thomas the Contender", also contained in the Nag Hammadi Library, bestows the same title on Thomas. In 138:6-10 Jesus says: "Now since it has been said that you are my twin and true companion, examine yourself that you may understand who you are, in what way you exist, and how you will come to be."
It seems to me that if Mary and Jesus were married in the ordinary, "defiled" way, the disciples wouldn't have been so baffled why he would love her more than them and why he would say things to her that he didn't say to others. Wouldn't patriarchs love to explain her special status away by saying it grew out of her marriage to Jesus? Isn't it much more of a challenge to patriarchal thinking to have to acknowledge that she was that special in and of herself and that Jesus appreciated her fully without using her for himself in any way?
Mary Magdalene a Former Prostitute?
Another question we need to discuss is, why did Christians decide to identify the "sinful woman", i.e. prostitute, who washed Jesus feet with her tears and covered them with kisses, with Mary Magdalene? Nowadays many suspect that this happened out of malice, in the attempt to denigrate Mary Magdalene and to topple her from her place of honor. It is true that for millennia men have downplayed or defamed every strong and virtuous woman in the Bible. However, I think calling Mary Magdalene a former prostitute is a case apart and served a broader need of men as well as women.
The first problem this solution addresses is that the Bible doesn't introduce Mary Magdalene properly. Out of nowhere she appears as foremost among the women followers of Jesus and as the one he is closest to after his resurrection. The text mentions in an aside that he healed her from seven demons, but it does not seem to explain why there is this special love between them. So one is naturally left looking for clues to fill in her story and to link her to other stories in the Bible. One such possible clue may be that both the "sinful woman" and Mary kiss his feet and are very passionate in expressing their love. Jesus rewards them both for their free show of devotion. The second clue is that the story of the "sinful woman" in Luke 7: 36-50 is immediately followed by his first mention of Mary Magdalene. In this story Jesus stresses the exemplary love and devotion of the woman and explains it by saying: "many sins have been forgiven her, hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." (Lk 7:47) According to this reasoning it would follow that Mary Magdalene must have sinned much before she found Jesus, because she certainly loved him a lot.
The second problem Magdalene's characterization as a former prostitute addresses is women's frustration with the Virgin Mary as the prime example of what a good woman should be like. How many times have I heard Catholic women complain that they had a problem with Mother Mary because she is an impossible example to follow! How can we be expected to be a mother, wife, and virgin?! To be as much like her as possible, women were traditionally admonished to be wives and mothers, yet also "chaste". That is to say, on the one hand they were not to be sexy, not to want or enjoy sex. On the other hand they were to grant sex to their husbands whenever the men wanted it, as their "marital duty" and their duty to God to procreate. This made many women angry, not at the men, with whom it wasn't safe to be angry, but with the Virgin Mary, who seemingly put them in this position. Men didn't appreciate this virgin-wife example either, because it didn't allow them to have much fun with their own wives.
Then, along comes Mary Magdalene, the former prostitute and a passionate, heroic woman to the end. She may be reformed but at least she knows all about sex. She is never demure, but defiant, free, and self-confident.
Was it not a gift to have a variety of women among the disciples of Christ? Do feminists and Goddess worshippers not profess that one needs to honor the feminine in all its archetypes: as the virgin, the whore, the maiden, mother, and crone? It seems to me that's what Christians were trying to do. They acknowledge the virgin, mother, prostitute, and crone.
The crone finds supreme expression in the gospels as Elizabeth, Mother Mary's cousin and the mother of John the Baptist. (To see how important Elizabeth's spiritual and emotional support was for Mother Mary, read in the article "Mother Mary in the Bible")
All these women are in the inner circle of Jesus and nothing bad is ever said about them. Even if Mary Magdalene is identified with the former prostitute, this is never held against her. On the contrary, the Catholic Church sanctified her because she left that way of life and Jesus forgave, loved, honored, and defended her.
It is true that celibate priests tend to focus on the virginal Mary rather than on the passionate Magdalene who knows everything about "down there". Unfortunately they cannot freely indulge an issue that is as threatening to them as sexuality. But Christian artists were always happy to take up the cause. Next to the demurely covered virgin, they love to portray a dramatic and sensual Mary Magdalene. Her big, flowing, traditionally red hair has long been a symbol of a Christian's ability (or at least hope) to make peace with the force of sexuality.
There is one more reason why Mary Magdalene was dubbed "reformed prostitute": Some time between the 4th and 6th centuries there lived a woman ascetic in the desert of the Holy Land. Her name was Mary of Egypt and she really was a reformed prostitute from Alexandria who became famous for making a 180 degree turn from extreme lustfulness to extreme holiness, exchanging sexual union with men for divine union with God. She lived 47 years in the desert, naked and practically without food. In the Orthodox Christian world she is still revered, but in Catholic Christendom her story was gradually melded into the story of Mary Magdalene, the other famous penitent. The two kept getting mixed up with one another, until Mary of Egypt was forgotten, and her story tagged onto Mary Magdalene. Hence the French tradition that Mary Magdalene lived as a hermitess in Sainte Baume, Provence, dressed only in her hair, and fed only by the angels. (See: ibid.: p.12. For more details on Mary of Egypt google her name + catholic or + orthodox)
By the way, referring to someone as a "penitent" does not imply that the person is particularly sinful (as is often assumed by non-Christians). Rather it means they chose an ascetic lifestyle of penance - something all Christians are called to since John the Baptist and Jesus. When they are done purifying their own shortcomings they continue with penances for the sake of the rest of humanity. Like Jesus and his apostles (and like serious practitioners of many other religions) they voluntarily take on what would be hardship to others and use it to transform themselves and others.
Cynthia Bourgeault wrote probably the most balanced book on everything to do with Mary Magdalene. It is called “The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity”, Shambhala Publications, Boston 2010. She too sees advantages in Mary Magdalene’s denotation as a penitent prostitute and says: “God sometimes writes straight with crooked lines”. (p. 27)
Goddess of Love: Aphrodite, Mary Magdalene or the Virgin Mary?
To me Mary Magdalene and Mother Mary are like Isis and her sister Nephtys (Greek) or Nebthet (Egyptian). Isis was more famous, more important, more powerful. But she had a sister who was her complementary opposite. Isis was the day, life, fertility; Nephtys the night, death, barrenness. Yet they decided to work together for the greater good and gradually Isis incorporated all the attributes of her sister.
Similarly, the Virgin Mary has this spiritual sister Magdalene. One is purity, virginity, obedience, silent humility. The other is passion, sexuality, loudly outrageous and shamelessly non-conforming. Once the virgin and the whore Mary were paired up as a suitable couple of sisters in the Spirit, the Virgin started to claim her sexuality and the whore her saintliness.(*2)
In medieval art and thinking Mother Mary had to fulfill all the old roles of the goddesses. That meant she was responsible for everything to do with a woman's life: love, passion, fertility, child bearing, praying, and dying.
Mother Mary's role as the Christian goddess of love was expressed in three symbols: the red rose, the unicorn, and the color red.
1. Since ancient times the red rose was a symbol of the goddess Venus and erotic love. The vagina was often referred to as 'the little rose beneath the rosebush'. In the Middle Ages, with its troubadours spreading a culture of refined and spiritual love and with the crusaders emphasizing self-sacrificial love, the rose conquered the imagination of European Christians. It became one of the favorite symbols of human and divine, romantic and spiritual love. Mother Mary became known as the 'mystical rose' and her chaplet of prayers as the 'rosary', a collection of roses. To this day it is said that each time someone prays the rosary, Mary is crowned with a fresh crown of roses, i.e. with the power of love and femininity.
2. Mary and the unicorn were often portrayed in an enclosed garden. According to myth only a pure virgin (the enclosed garden symbolized her virginal womb)(*3) could capture a unicorn. The powerfully good, yet fiercely wild animal could not be killed by hunters unless it came across a pure virgin. Then it would lay its head in her lap and fall asleep. At that point its pursuers would strike.
In the Christian context this story came to mean that the fierce, male God could only be bound in this world, tamed, and made docile by the exceedingly pure and docile Virgin Mary. Once he entered her womb and became Jesus Christ he could be sacrificed as the Lamb of God for the good of all.
But the unicorn also retained its worldly aspect. It represented wild, ferocious manhood that could only be tamed by pure womanhood and would gladly allow itself to be trapped into holy matrimony and made docile. In that context the Virgin Mary represented virtuous womanhood taming wild manhood and channeling erotic passion into the 'sacrament of marriage'.(*4)
3. Mother Mary's passionate love also came to be represented by the red robes under her blue mantel. Apparently people felt so justified in their sexual passions by Mary's red robes that during the Renaissance the church decided to put an end to Mother Mary as the goddess of love. Suddenly she was not allowed to be portrayed in red any more, and no more unicorns either. In 1563, the Council of Trent condemned all associations of the Virgin Mary with the unicorn and henceforth only virginal white veils and heavenly blue mantels were permitted.
That's when the two Marys, who had become one, were separated out again and the responsibility of holding a space for human sexuality fell solely onto the beautiful, naked shoulders and the red open hair of Mary Magdalene.
I like the two aspects in one figure and I find the Virgin Mary to be quite efficacious in blessing the sexual union of husband and wife with a cosmic passion. Unfortunately we don't have a goddess of human love in Christianity. We miss the Aphrodite archetype. The closest we can come to it is in the idea of the good prostitute, which in a Christian context can only mean a former, repentant prostitute, a sensuous, passionate saint like Mary Magdalene.
I agree that 'Aphrodite' is a much nicer name for the archetype 'goddess of love' than 'repentant prostitute'. But since Aphrodite is a Greek goddess, we may just have to realize that Mary Magdalene is the Christian form of Aphrodite, the same archetype by a different name.
Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code"
Though I was not impressed with the book, I loved the movie.
Certainly, if Jesus had married, it would have been Mary Magdalene. In the Bible as well as in art, she is consistently portrayed as his closest female disciple, a very intimate one with definite romantic overtones. Many depictions of the crucifixion show her wrapped around the cross of Christ in such a physically intimate way that the message can't be overlooked: Jesus and Mary Magdalene were somehow a couple.
Jewish custom did indeed dictate that a Rabbi had to be married and Jesus was called Rabbi on several occasions. But Jewish custom also said that once a man was married, he was not to speak to any women besides his wife and immediate family. Jesus, on the other hand, made a point of talking to many women and of not worrying too much about laws and customs. We know for sure that the apostle Paul was not married and even so, contrary to Jewish custom, did teach in synagogues. We also know that both, being married and being celibate were completely acceptable options for leaders in the early church.
Hence we may never know for sure if Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and if they had children, but I don't think it makes nearly as much of a difference as Dan Brown suggests. Jesus' message doesn't hinge on that. But there certainly is a lot more evidence that Jesus was celibate than that he was married. To give only one example: in Matthew 19:11-12 Jesus says that forsaking marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God is a mystery many practice, but many others with inferior capacities cannot grasp.
Even if Jesus had children, they wouldn't necessarily have been important. As he says in Mat 13:50, and in the other gospels: those who do the will of his heavenly father are his family. Certainly his apostles must have had children, but they are never mentioned anywhere. Remember, we are talking about religion here, and about the kingdom of God, not about worldly royal bloodlines and kingdoms who usually ended up with imbeciles because of inbreeding.
Other religious founders had children who played no important role in history. Buddha's son wasn't particularly special and died at an early age. In Islam only the Shiite minority took Mohammed's bloodline into account when determining its leadership. Judaism certainly venerates its bloodline of patriarchs, yet the prophets whom God established as the spiritual leaders were independent of any bloodline. Lord Krishna, the Hindu god of love, must have had thousands of children because he is said to have had 16,000 queens, plus consorts! Yet I've never heard his children mentioned anywhere. Historically, only the leadership of the Bahai was passed from father to son. So it seems that spiritual enlightenment does not normally transfer with the DNA.
But if you're looking for divinity in someone's DNA, that's an easy find, because we're all created by God and in God's image by receiving His breath, i.e. spirit. Hence, it seems to me that the whole human race is of God's bloodline.
Concerning the supposed motivation (according to "The Da Vinci Code") for concealing Jesus' marriage: Dan Brown says that it was the Catholic Church's effort to portray Jesus as purely divine and not human. Actually, the Church insisted from the start that Jesus was both human and divine.
It argued against the Gnostics who would take away from Jesus' humanness by saying that he didn't really suffer on the cross, because God doesn't suffer. It also argued against those who would diminish his divinity by teaching that Jesus started out as an ordinary human and only later became the Son of God.
Only it wasn't until the council of Ephesus (431 C.E.) that the Church could agree precisely how divine and how human Jesus Christ was at any given point in time, and how those "two natures" co-exist.
In my opinion the "two natures of Christ" are the very core and gem of Christianity. It is rare to find another religion that gives us permission to be, like Jesus, truly human and truly divine. Mystical Christianity does.
Rather than hurting the veneration of the "divine feminine", insisting that Jesus was "truly human and truly divine" from the moment of his conception, actually gave it a great boost. For it justified the veneration of the Virgin Mary as Mother of God.
What is certainly true is that at a certain point the Church started suppressing anything that supported women's full participation in the Church. But that sharing of ministry and power did not depend on the supposed descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Rather it would have been quite sufficient to faithfully emulate Jesus and Paul (on a good day!). But instead, Jesus' own relationship with the many women in his life was ignored and to Paul's true letters, fake, misogynistic ones were added. (see: my article on "Women of Spirit and Power in the Bible", especially the section "the Woman who Anointed Jesus")
And the Holy Grail? In the movie it is described as "the source of God's power on earth". - If Jesus is God's power on earth then Mary, his mother, could be seen as his source. Indeed, to me much of what the movie says about Mary Magdalene is more true about the Virgin Mary. Loius Charpentier in his book "Les Mysteres de la Cathedrale de Chartres" explains that the Knights Templar went to Jerusalem, not to seek the Holy Grail, but the Ark of the Covenant, which they hoped to find in the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. Charpentier says, that they certainly did find an esoteric knowledge and a source of power and wealth that enabled them suddenly to create gothic cathedrals. Maybe so, but along with that knowledge they found black madonnas (see my article) and they venerated their Dark Mothers in those cathedrals.
From of old Mother Mary was given the title "Ark of the Covenant", because she was the vessel of the New Covenant: Jesus Christ. To her the Templars dedicated their order, their cathedrals, and their hearts.
Mary Magdalene Pilgrimage Sites
1. Ephesus: Donald Carroll states the following in his book "Mary's House: The extraordinary story behind the discovery of the house where the Virgin Mary lived and died" on pages 78-80: "In 1952 a large sarcophagus was unearthed near the entrance of a grotto on the outskirts of Ephesus known as the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, so-called because of an ancient Christian legend attached to it. The sarcophagus was positively identified by Professor Louis Massignon of the College de France as the tomb of Mary Magdalene. The bones were removed and are now in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Paris. (Read more about Mary's house in Ephesus in the "Mother Mary and the Goddess" article.)
2. So Paris is interesting both because of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and because of the sanctuary and apparition site of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in the Rue du Bac. The shell of Magdalene's church (L'eglise de Sainte Madeleine) is a very big reproduction of a Greek temple that has long housed what is claimed to be the thigh bone of Mary Magdalene, but which did not come from the excavations in Ephesus. When I was there in 2006 I did not find any other remains of Magdalene and the local custodian assured me there are no others kept at the church. Later I found out though that the church has a crypt (which I didn't see). Who knows what they are hiding down there!
3. Sainte-Baume is a beautiful place in Southern France, where the Magdalene is said to have spent the last 30 years of her life as a hermit. There is far more and older evidence that she lived with Mother Mary and John in their home in Ephesus after the crucifixion of Christ. However, it is conceivable that she also traveled to France. After all Jesus had urged his apostles and disciples to emulate his wandering as a homeless beggar. In any case, a site where a saint has been honored and invoked for roughly a thousand years is sure to be filled with her blessing presence.
When I was there, my impression was that instead of Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha of Bethany were in that part of France. The remains of the latter are venerated in nearby Tarascon. Many people think that Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala were one and the same person, many others (including myself) disagree. (For pilgrimages including a visit to Sainte-Baume, visit our home page.)
*1: All the apocryphal gospels quoted here can be found in: "The Nag Hammadi Library". It is one book you should be able to order through any bookstore.
*2: Cf. Charlene Spretnak, Missing Mary, Palgrave McMillan, New York: 2004, pp. 211-13
*3: This symbolism goes back to the Song of Songs.
*4: A sacrament is an "efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us." See: Sacraments of the Catholic Church For further info see Kayleen Asbo's great website.