Let’s talk about Mary Magdalene and her new film by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

In keeping in line with my last month’s post, movies are on the docket, 2018’s Mary Magdalene. It’s fairly recent with not a lot of discussion around it. Here we go. The film written by two women, Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett, focuses on Mary of Magdala who encounters Jesus. The film stars American Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus.

Continue reading “Let’s talk about Mary Magdalene and her new film by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Poem to Mary of Magdala by Anne Fricke

The first documented reference of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute was not until 594 C.E in a sermon by Pope Gregory. The Catholic Church has since, in 1969, officially repealed this declaration.

Mary’s gospel has been found, though a few pages are missing. Those are the pages that explain her teachings. We know that her teachings were of transforming powerful emotions (we know the what, but not the how).

The story line of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute is pervasive throughout our culture. If we have that one major detail wrong, imagine what else we are missing.

Did you know the way this would unfold?
Know before knowing how your story would be disguised?
Did you step into the circle, hands splayed in supplication,
ready to receive gifts of wisdom
in exchange for your dignity and your truth? Continue reading “Poem to Mary of Magdala by Anne Fricke”

The Practice of Bearing Witness by Stephanie Arel

She looked away and stared out the window, trying to hold back the tears in her eyes. “The tents,” she said and shook her head looking down at the ground. The tears were coming, but softly. I asked her what the tents represent. She shrugged her shoulders and said into the camera phone: “The bodies I guess. They don’t have enough room for the bodies.”

In this time of the coronavirus, as in Italy and Spain, New York City has room neither in the hospitals nor the morgue for the bodies that are dying. Up from 25 a week, to 24 a day, bodies are being buried on Hart Island, or City Cemetery, where the unclaimed and unidentified have been interred for decades. Others are waiting in refrigerated trucks for friends and family members to collect them. This New Yorker along with thousands of others have seen the stark reality, one that left even Trump sick at heart.

We are witnessing a global pandemic. Evidence of the ravages of the coronavirus lies all around us. The response to the virus has made physiological, economic, and psychological impacts on our lives. We have changed our working styles, dealt with lowered income, or lost our jobs. Staying secluded at home, we have taken on new roles for which we were not prepared; many of us have become sick, and some have died. We are together witnessing a major world disaster.

What does it mean to be a witness? What will it mean to carry that witnessing forward to future generations to mark this historic event so that when something like it happens again, future generations will have the tools they need to respond more quickly, adapt more easily, recover more rapidly? For this generation, just as those who researched and learned from the Spanish Flu, we bear witness. Continue reading “The Practice of Bearing Witness by Stephanie Arel”

Mary of Magdala and Intersectionality by Gina Messina

We recently celebrated the feast day of St. Mary of Magdala, a woman who is responsible for the founding of the Christian tradition and a model of what it means to live up to the role and expectation of being a human being. 

Committed to Jesus’ message of love, inclusion, liberation, and social justice, she funded his ministry and in his darkest hour, when the male apostles had abandoned him, Mary of Magdala stood at the foot of the cross. 

The Gospels honor her as the person Jesus chose to reveal his resurrected self to – and the first person to preach the message of the Risen Christ — a message initially met with utter disbelief by the male apostles. This male dominated book was careful to ensure that the world knew that Mary of Magdala — a woman — had a primary role in Jesus’ ministry and the establishing of Christianity. Without her – we would not know the message of Jesus as we do today. 

We see how she has been punished for this.  The shifting of her identity dictated by the patriarchal structures of the Church is well demonstrated through art history. Early on her image was shared as a woman who was respected – her head covered and wearing colors that signified her position of importance. Following the not so accidental interpretation of Mary of Magdala as a prostitute in 591 CE by Pope Gregory I, suddenly the imagery changes to a woman with red hair, long and flowing, often nude, begging to be forgiven. What better way to silence a woman than call her a whore? Continue reading “Mary of Magdala and Intersectionality by Gina Messina”

Kassiani’s Song: Woman at the Center of the Easter Drama by Carol P. Christ

Today I am reposting the song and story of Kassiani, the Byzantine composer, poet, and hymnographer, who is not well-known to western feminists or in western history in general. In Christian Orthodox tradition, Kassiani’s most famous song will be sung this week on Easter Tuesday night or very early Easter Wednesday morning, placing a woman’s love for Jesus at the heart of the Easter drama.

For many this song is the high point of Easter week.

Kassiani, also known as St. Kassia, was a Greek woman born into a wealthy family in Constantinople (now Istanbul) about 805 to 810 AD. According to three historians of the time, she was intelligent and beautiful and selected as a potential bride for the Emperor Theophilos. The chroniclers state that the Theophilos approached her and said: “Through woman, the worst,” referring to the sin of Eve. Clever Kassiani responded, “Through woman, the best,” referring to the birth of the Savior through Mary.

Apparently unable to accept being put in his place by a woman, Theophilos chose another bride. Perhaps relieved, Kassiani founded a monastery in Constantinople becoming its first abbess. She was an outspoken theological advocate of icons during the iconoclastic crisis (for which she was flogged). One of only two women to publish under her own name during the Byzantine Middle Ages, Kassiani wrote both poetry and hymns. Up to 50 of her hymns are known today, with 23 of them being part of the Greek Orthodox liturgy. Continue reading “Kassiani’s Song: Woman at the Center of the Easter Drama by Carol P. Christ”

Unexpected Divine Encounters by Katey Zeh


As I finalize my manuscript for Women Rise Up, to be published with the FAR press in early 2019, I want to share this excerpt from my chapter on Mary Magdalene. 

The Spirit of God moves at unexpected times and places. When I spot a single red bloom among the barren trees in wintertime. When I watch my daughter takes a bite out of sun-ripened strawberry. When something catches me off guard and pulls my full attention to the present moment. These breath-taking moments illuminate the presence of Spirit at work.

One frigid Saturday morning I took the two-hour train ride from New Haven, Connecticut where I was living at the time to New York City for the day. I’d been invited to join a gathering of advocates working to end gender-based violence. Around a hundred of us made our way to an upper-floor classroom at The New School in Greenwich Village. When we entered the room, most of us were strangers, but in a matter of hours, we managed to form a sacred community of survivors. We took turns sharing our own pain-filled  stories of violence, betrayal, survival, and hope. Both gut-wrenching and healing, the act of naming our collective suffering fused us together: our cacophony of individual experiences blended into a unified chorus for justice. What once was hidden had now come into the light. Continue reading “Unexpected Divine Encounters by Katey Zeh”

Honoring St. Mary of Magdala by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileWhile I am joining the conversation a bit late, I find it necessary to comment on the significance of the “upgrading” of the celebration of  St. Mary of Magdala to a feast – on par with the male apostles.  While such a day that honors her is quite overdue, I am grateful to Pope Francis for acknowledging this incredible woman and her leadership in the Christian movement.

As we know from the Gospels, it was Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus, during his crucifixion.  When the male apostles ran in fear – and rightfully so – Mary of Magdala stood with Jesus refusing to disavow him and was a face of love for him to see during his darkest moment.

It was Mary of Magdala who was the first witness of Christ’s resurrection.  The very first Easter began with her and she was commissioned by Jesus to go and share the good news – to tell the other apostles – and that is why she is known as the apostle to the apostles. Continue reading “Honoring St. Mary of Magdala by Gina Messina”

An Indecent Reading of Mary Magdalene by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

cynthia garrity bondRecently I took one of those on-line quizzes that show up on Facebook. Based on my response to particular questions, it promised to tell me what my Biblical name would be. To my joy I received Mary Magdalene. To my disappointment her bio lacked any of the historical tensions we have come to expect.

On July 22 we celebrate the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene, witness to the Resurrection and therefore deemed, “apostle to the apostles.” For as many depictions of Mary there are just as many interpretations. Her status in early Christianity surpassed the Virgin Mother in popularity but by the fourth century her positive image began to decline. In 594 Pope Gregory the Great delivered a sermon in which he conflated the story of the unnamed woman anointing Jesus in the Gospel of Luke with Mary of Magdala as penitent whore, a title she would embody for nearly 1,400 years until in 1969 when the Catholic Church repealed its teaching of Mary as prostitute.

On the other hand, recent feminist theological scholarship, especially by Karen King, offers a depiction of Mary as leader within ecclesial settings, where, “From the second to the twenty-first century, women prophets and preachers have continued to appeal to her to legitimate their own leadership roles,” (King, 153). By casting Mary as prostitute and adulteress, King argues, the church tarnished the image of Mary as a spiritual leader. It is this binary of Mary as repentant whore or “prominent disciple of Jesus, a visionary, and a spiritual teacher” (King, 154) that I wish to explore.

To begin I ask the question what does it mean for Mary’s role as leader for her to have been a prostitute who also functioned, in the words of King, as disciple of Jesus, a visionary and spiritual teacher? Continue reading “An Indecent Reading of Mary Magdalene by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

Mary Magdalene – A Woman of Power and Vision by Judith Shaw

judith Shaw photoWho was Mary Magdalene? The first thought of many today is that Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute. But was she? Until the third century, Mary was considered an “apostle.”

Mary as an apostle posed a threat to the early Church patriarchs who denied women all authority in the Church. In addition, by early in the first century C.E., Mary Magdalene had become associated with Christian thought identified as heretical by the Church. The easiest way to eliminate Mary’s importance was to cast aspersions on her moral character.

Continue reading “Mary Magdalene – A Woman of Power and Vision by Judith Shaw”

The Case for a Woman Pope: Mary Magdalene by Frank Shapiro

Frank shapiro picThere’s a lot of hullabaloo these days about belief in God, atheism, separation of religion and state. However, like it or not, Western civilization is a Christian one.

Ever since the Roman Empire officially became Christian in the 4th century Christianity has formed an integral part of the Greco-Roman culture, forging the West’s crystallization.

And within this religious-political-cultural matrix, women have been striving for equality of power in virtually every field. Most of the time men had the upper hand.

Yet in Christianity’s early maturation period an egalitarian approach to the gender issue was the accepted norm. Following a good start in gender power sharing in the Early Christian Church, this enlightened approach gradually changed for the worse. In the early 6th century women found themselves stigmatized and demoted from almost all the major roles in church service and liturgy.

So what went wrong? Continue reading “The Case for a Woman Pope: Mary Magdalene by Frank Shapiro”

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