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In the Footsteps of Magdalene

From the Cross to the Resurrection

Michael J. Matt POSTED: 3/30/13
Editor, The Remnant  



( When Our Lord was crucified, Mary Magdalene—the notorious public sinner—was at the foot of His cross comforting the Mother of God.

After Jesus' body had been placed in the tomb, Mary—the penitent—went to anoint it with spices that first Easter morning. Not finding the Body she began to weep, and seeing someone whom she thought was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the Body of her beloved Master had been taken:  “Sir, if thou has removed him, tell me where thou hast laid him and I will take him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” Turning, she said to him, “Rabboni.”  Imagine that moment!

Jesus then said to her, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene had thus been chosen by Our Lord himself to be apostle to the apostles. She went forth and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord and these things he said to me.” John, 20: 15-18. Hers was an honor so great that in the early centuries of the Church, Mary Magdalene's feast was celebrated with the Mass of an Apostle.

Magdalene had walked with Our Lord, witnessed His passion and death, and yet kept the faith even after witnessing the horrors of the Crucifixion. “God is dead,” the Romans told her, but she paid no mind then even as we should pay no mind now.

In times of great despair and loss of faith, Magdalene emerges as the powerful patroness of hope and perseverance. She is not a doctor of the Church, but she shows what love of Christ can attain even for poor, ignorant sinners, and how God crowns such love with His predilection.

She wept for Christ because she could not find Him. "The Angels said to her 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them ‘Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him'.’ ”

Today, as the doors of our churches close, our families divide, and the Mystical Body of Christ suffers unspeakable persecution from within and without, we too do not always know where to find Him. And hope becomes the virtue that is the assailed the most.

Some say ours is the worst time in history, and yet what must it have been like for Magdalene at that cataclysmic moment when the Messiah breathed His last and gave up His spirit?

She watched the physical Body of Our Lord expire on the Cross. And, yet, far from despairing on that first Good Friday she wept and prayed and never ceased to seek His Adorable Face.

If His death on the Cross did not crush her faith, what cause have we to despair even as the Mystical Body of Christ seems to be expiring (in its human element) in our own day? Easter Sunday will come…Mary knew it and so must we.

It is sometimes suggested today that tradition-minded Catholics, in their arrogance, see themselves as being “more Catholic than the Church”. If there be any truth to this it is to be sadly lamented. But one wonders if Magdalene wasn’t accused of something similar, standing beneath the cross after all but one of the apostles had fled. Who does she think she is? Peter isn’t even there!

It was love, not arrogance that inspired Mary to stand at the foot of the Cross when even Peter was absent.  So, too, it is love—love for Our Lord and His Church—that inspires Catholics today to cling to the Church and Traditions of the ages, even, alas, when many of the apostles seem to be hiding for fear of the Jews.

And it should also be readily admitted that fear is also a powerful motivator. We’re all afraid to depart from Tradition for fear that our faith will fail us. After all, Christ prayed even for Peter himself that his faith would not fail. “And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” (Luke 22)

Who among us is fool enough to presume that salvation is easily within our grasp, especially now when the bulwarks of the old Faith that stood strong against the gates of hell for a thousand years have been either crushed or severely compromised. We remain paralyzed with fear, our arms wrapped around Tradition like Mary’s around the Cross.

We look at the crisis within our Church and we see therein the passion of the Mystical Body of Christ. And in the darkness that is falling again, we plead as Mary might have: Dear Jesus, we are not strong enough to be without You; we are so afraid of the Romans. Permit us to remain here with You where it is safe.

Like Magdalene, we are sinners whose only hope for salvation lies in clinging to the wood of the Cross, the rock of the traditional Mass and the maternal voice of the old teachings of Mother Church that ushered a million saints and more souls than we can count through this vale of tears.

Thomas Aquinas may have reasoned his way to the Cross; St. Teresa prayed her way there; St. Joan of Arc obeyed even unto the Cross; the Cure of Ars and St. John of the Cross rode there on the backs of their great virtue.

But sinners like we can only hope to find our way as Mary did—through Divine mercy and forgiveness. Our prayer is that He will see our pitiful weakness, pick us up and ask His mother to take our hands and lead us to the Cross. After all, that’s exactly what He did for Mary Magdalene.

St. Luke records that Magdalene, the notorious sinner, had seven devils removed from her. And yet she was present at Our Lord’s Crucifixion, and with Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, she was first at the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.

She loved Him, and that was enough.  

The Pharisees were shocked that Jesus had let such a sinner touch Him, but Our Lord said: "Her sins, many as they are, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved much. But he to whom little if forgiven, loves little." Then to Mary He said kindly, "Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace."

Mary, we are sinners too.  Please, take us with you!

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