Mary Magdalene

This icon is in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco and was made by a Franciscan friar, Robert Lentz. It was commissioned to commemorate the election of the first female Anglican bishop, Barbara Harris. The Syriac inscription reads, 'St Mary Magdalene'. The language was chosen because it is a form of the language spoken by Jesus.

Mary Magdalene's festival is today. She was one of the women who travelled with Jesus and supported him out of her own purse. Jesus had healed her - from what exactly we don't know. Luke 8: 2 tells us he released her from 'seven demons' which implies a severe or chronic illness, either mental or physical. The only other times she is mentioned by name in the gospels is as someone who witnessed Jesus' crucifxion, burial and the empty tomb. According to John's gospel she was the first to see the risen Jesus, who sent her to tell the 12.  For this reason she is known as 'the apostle to the apostles'. Her testimony to them was "I have seen the Lord".

There is nothing known for certain about what she did after Jesus' ascension, but there are plenty of legends. One of these is that she went to Rome and visited the emperor Tiberias, telling him how Pilate had failed to administer justice at Jesus' trial. In telling Caesar that Jesus had risen from the dead she took an egg from the court dinner table to help her explain. Caesar declared that it was as impossible for a man to rise from the dead as for the egg in her hand to turn red. The egg immediately turned red. This story is given as the origin in the Eastern Orthodox church of the Easter exchange of red eggs.

Almighty God,
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene
to health of mind and body
and called her to be a witness to his resurrection;
forgive our sins and heal us by your grace,
that we may serve you in the power of his risen life;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Common Worship Collect for Mary Magdalene 22 July

PS. Later post on Mary Magdalene can be found at Mary Magdalene - a model disciple?


  1. Thanks for this, Nancy. I used to love it when July 22nd was a Sunday and I could preach on Mary, the first apostle.

  2. Thanks Perpetua for your comment. I was thinking of posting on the confusion between Mary Magdalene and other Marys in the gospels and why the western church thought of her as a prostitute for so long. I see that the Roman Catholics have now quietly altered their position on this by changing the lectionary readings for Mary Magdalene.

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