Today, July 22, is the feast day of Mary Magdalene. She is very near and dear to my heart. To honor her, I would like to share a story about places I visited that helped me understand more about this beautiful saint. My intention is to bring awareness to her presence that still exists in the world today.
I met Mary Magdalene, her essence, in the Pyramids of Egypt, the Isis temple, Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, in Lourdes, France, and surprisingly through the words in a sermon the Archbishop of Jerusalem gave.
I continue to meet her daily in simple things like the number 2. For those who see repeating number patterns, you may understand this better. In numerology, 2 signifies partnership, harmony, peacemaker, and feminine love.
Here we are on July 22, 2022. Guess the page number as I opened the mass book to her feast day reading? 222. She never ceases to amaze me.
The Magdalene shows up in magical ways and reminds us of her love. For it was and still is her unwavering love that helped her to remain at the cross. The one Jesus trusted the most, she was the first to see the risen Christ and committed to carrying on the ministry until her final days and beyond.
The Rose in the Cave
I first met Mary Magdalene in 2019 in a cave in Lourdes, France. Near the last station of the cross, where hardly anyone visits, towards the back, was a white, life-size sculpture of Mary. I was very drawn to the energy of the place and, for the first time, felt a strong connection to a Christian saint. As if I was her and she was me.
Something familiar opened up within, and curiosity led me to explore more about who she is. I use the word is, as if she is still alive. In a way, all the saints continue to live on in spirit. Supporting us is their purpose, and for those who believe, we can connect with them whenever we desire.
Mary Magdalene is unique. Her essence exudes what I felt those days as I meditated near her statue. Love, joy, acceptance, and courage are a few words that embody her spirit. But, the main word is love, an unwavering love, as in the message of Jesus' teachings.
My experience in that cave was profound, and I did not want to leave. I felt as if she was there. Something beautiful filled the air, and while in deep meditation, we connected.
Yet a few days later, a childhood memory popped up. When the priest said her name in grade school, I felt shy since she was labeled a woman who did terrible things. I never believed that. The truth is so much more than what people tell us. I felt her presence and love in that cave, which I know is true.
Who stayed with Jesus until the final moments? Whom did Jesus select to appear to after his death? Who announced the resurrection? Not Peter; he was hiding with the others. Definitely not Thomas. But Mary Magdalene.
The Feast Day
About three weeks after Lourdes, I returned to the States and visited the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. Very keen to see where the great author Thomas Merton lived. The retreat center was full, but there was a cancellation for me to arrive on July 22, 2019.
To my great surprise, I saw on the schedule that it was Mary Magdalene's feast day. So here she was again, guiding me. As I read a little more, I discovered that recently, in 2016, Pope Francis elevated her memorial day to a feast day.
It took more than 2,000 years for the "one who loved Christ and was greatly loved by Christ" to be recognized by the church with a feast day. Why did it take so long?
Also known as the Apostle to the Apostles, and one of the women who stood by Jesus until the end. She seems essential to me, yet, she is the most misrepresented person in the bible. Thanks to Pope Gregory, who labeled her as a 'fallen woman' in his sermon in the 6th century.
What is the best way to diminish a woman? To call her a prostitute.
The church knew about her power and importance as a teacher and healer. But being the patriarch that the catholic church was and still is today, there was no room for Jesus' closest and most trustworthy disciple to be a woman.
Even to know that Jesus and Mary Magdalene loved each other, were possibly married, and had a child. What do we know about the truth of Jesus' life? None of us were there. Remember, he was a human being, extraordinary as a divine being, God Incarnate, but put on this earth to also have a human experience.
Part of my exploration is to experience what I feel is true, to read others' perspectives, and to think beyond what I already know. We get stuff stuck in our heads from what we heard as children.
Our job is to question everything we think we know and to discover the truth for ourselves. This is precisely the reason I journeyed to Israel.
The April 2022 Journey to Israel
I went to Israel for two reasons- the first was to be in Jerusalem for Easter, my favorite Christian holiday. As I walked around the empty tomb at the Holy Sepulchre with people from all over the world, I realized Easter is about our resurrection, rebirth, and a new start.
The second reason was to understand who Mary Magdalene was and still is. It was more apparent to me after I discovered her altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. At the location where she met Jesus, as she looked for his body, is the most beautiful wall sculpture.
An image of their reunion. Imagine the joy, the love, and the excitement as Mary saw Jesus again. The artist depicted their reunion as a dance—the sacred union of two connected people in love. I wonder if anyone else noticed the beauty in this creation that stands a few feet from the tomb.
I then went to the golden-domed Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem. Located a few minutes from the Garden at Gethsemane, this church is only open twice a week for two hours. Since it is an active convent, I assume the Sisters want it this way.
Given the opening hour restrictions, many people do not visit one of the most photographed churches in Jerusalem. That's too bad since it would benefit to share the message with more people.
In this church, Mary Magdalene stands tall in a very different way than in the catholic church. The main altar was a picture of Mary Magdalene in front of Tiberius Ceasar in Rome. She courageously went to him to proclaim that 'Christ has risen, and you made a mistake.'
What courage and continued faith she had in carrying on Jesus' ministry and teaching. She took an egg with her to symbolize a new birth. The story is that Tiberius did not believe her, and he said something like, 'Resurrection is just as unlikely as the egg turning red.' The egg turned red.
I love this image of her in white, standing in front of the men in Rome. The church also has relics from Mary Magdalene and several beautiful icons.
Sea of Galilee and the Ancient Town of Magdala
After Jerusalem, I made my way to her hometown of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee. Magdala means tower. She was a tower of stability, courage, dedication, and commitment to spreading the teachings.
This is where it gets fascinating. I discovered a beautiful place called the Magdala Center, a pilgrimage guesthouse founded by a vision of Father Juan Solano. Construction started in 2009, and during this time, building crews uncovered the original town of Magdala, a 1st-century synagogue, and the Magdala stone.
The carving on the stone looks like one of the symbols of the flower of life, representing the interconnectedness that all life comes from one source. I first learned about this symbol in Egypt as an ancient depiction on the temple wall in Abydos. The heart symbol is also exciting and something else I saw in Egypt in the Hathor temple.
The people who know the Magdala stone say that the image is a six-petalled rosette. I showed them my t-shirt with the flower of life, and they were amazed at the possibility. I feel Mary Magdalene, Jesus, and many others traveled to Egypt to be part of the Nile river, its temples, and pyramids.
Back to Magdala. I am confident it is a place where Jesus walked with the disciples and Mary. I took off my shoes and walked on the stones, connecting to the feeling of what it must have been like 2,000 years ago.
The discovery of the ruins delayed the guesthouse opening by ten years. Now there is an archaeological park, a well-designed hotel, and a sacred spiritual center called Duc in Altum – put out into the deep. So cast your nets and try and try again.
The Duc in Altum honors the presence of the women in the gospel. The dome painting represents Our Lady of Guadalupe. Inscribed on the dome are Latin words translated from Pope John Paul II Dignity of Women letter – "the Church gives thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the mystery of woman, and every woman, for her eternal dignity, and for the wonders, God has worked in and through her in the history of humanity."
In the center atrium, eight pillars support the building. Seven pillars hold the names of honored women who supported Jesus. Of course, our dear Mary Magdalene stands strong. The eighth pillar is unnamed and represents women of faith across all times.
Words from the Archbishop
I was happy to be in Magdala one week after Easter Sunday. On this day, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem came to Magdala to celebrate a Mass honoring Mary Magdalene. I was intrigued by the Archbishop's sermon and his attention to the word love.
In summary, he stated that back to the story of creation, with Eve in the Garden of Eden, the covenant between God and man broke. Mary Magdalene was essential to re-establish the covenant in the garden by the tomb. She closed the broken circle, and her action in the garden re-established our desire to be united with God, with divinity.
Mary was the only one, the first one who believed that Jesus was alive. Her love for him was stronger than death. While the men hid out of fear, Mary went to the tomb. You cannot believe if you don't love. If you love, you can see things you usually cannot see.
The Archbishop spoke about how the churches complain since people don't come. He said, yes, maybe this is all true, but you can only change what you love, not what you complain about. Love is the first way to change things that are dear to you.
Finally, he said, just as Jesus called Mary by name, she calls all of us to see there is life. Regardless of our own 'demons,' we must ask ourselves, "What we have seen, who have we seen? Can you see in the hearts the presence of love? Can you see the beautiful things in ourselves, others, our community, in the world?" To see the beauty despite all that's going on.
Why the Year 2022 is Important
In numerology, 2's represent harmony, togetherness, feminine grace and power, understanding, and cooperation, and 22 is a master builder number. Now more than ever, we see the need to build a new system based on love. It won't be easy and will take many more years, but the change is underway. Remember Greek mythology, out of chaos, eros or love was born.
How amazing is it that Father Juan had the vision to build a center that led to the discovery of the ancient town of Magdala? His dedication led to the development of the Duc in Altum center, a sacred space that honors women in the bible and women of faith. Mary Magdalene is living through this creation, which offers a new view of women worldwide.
It took 2,000 years to unearth the town of Magdala. So it does not surprise me that the ancient village came to life during the chaotic times we currently live in. However, if we believe that Mary Magdalene represents love, femininity, compassion, and understanding, and if we agree that these are qualities the world needs, then maybe we can conclude that the time of honoring the return of the feminine is happening NOW.
It is time for the patriarch (power, domination, control) to move over and welcome the matriarch (love, community, understanding). Only when there is a balance of male and female can this earth and the beings who live with it begin to heal and live a more balanced and harmonious life.
Mary Magdalene calls us by name, she reached out to me many times, and now I understand. She is the teacher guiding all of us in this movement from control and power back to understanding and harmony.
Let's Walk with the Magdalene
Why am I in love with Mary Magdalene? I can relate to her. I imagine her living in Magdala, a dull fishing village on Galilee. She's wise. Independent. More curious than the other ladies, not accepting the status quo, experiencing life, suffering from the mind, wanting more. Along comes Jesus. The first person whose words resonate with her. With courage, faith, and dedication, she follows him, very unlike women back then. Then she steps into her role as a wise teacher and healer. Mary was a forerunner in women's rights.
She inspires me to commit, stand up, to walk, even when I have doubts or fears. I want to be like her standing in conviction and love, not like the men who were hiding. Eventually, they came around, but she never hesitated with her unwavering love and faith.
It always comes back to love and finding ways to be a more loving and kind human being. It has to start with ourselves. If we don't love and nurture ourselves, then we cannot see the love in others. To see with the eyes of the heart means to love beyond your immediate family. It means to love the people who frustrate you as well.
The truth is inside every human being; we must work on discovering what that means. Discovery is in the choices that we make. Each choice takes us closer to the truth of who we are. What is the truth? We are all created in the image and likeness of God. If God is a force, then it is love.
What is love? It is an energy, a feeling that overcomes you that helps you make the better choice, the choice of kindness, understanding, balance, or harmony—that which brings ease to the heart and the mind.
When we are in this place of love, we show up in the world differently. A better way so that all whom we interact with, people, animals, nature, all beings, will contribute to wellbeing for the whole.
We can be the Magdalene incarnate; her qualities are a part of us. We only have to try our best to see with the eyes of the heart and, most importantly, know the divine lives within each of us. Imagine a world where we all realize we are divine human beings. Then, I am sure we would treat each other with more love and respect.
Ask her to walk with you, to help open your heart to see with its eyes. I am certain she will respond in the most magical way. Keep the eyes of your heart open, so you don't miss it.
I took the photo at the Magdala Center. Read more here: https://www.magdala.org/.