At this point in the year, we are well into Ordinary Time, so called because it is a season in the Christian year that is largely absent of major holy days. I know for lots of folks this season comes as a sweet relief after the wondrous but so very intense days between the beginning of Advent and the Day of Pentecost! With its different rhythms, there is yet much to savor in these days of Ordinary Time, as God invites us to notice the presence of the sacred in the midst of the habits and routines of our daily lives. And there are some splendid opportunities for celebration in this season.
One such occasion for celebration happens tomorrow: it's the Feast of Mary Magdalene, the ever-intriguing follower and friend of Jesus. Called by Christ to be the first to tell the news of his resurrection, the Magdalene became known in the Middle Ages as the "apostle to the apostles" for her role in proclaiming the good news.
The Middle Ages stirred up some great legends about the Magdalene, particularly in France, where Mary Magdalene was said to have journeyed after Christ's ascension. The legends tell that she became a famous preacher (as a clergy chick I really like that one) and that her ministry in France included freeing prisoners from a jail. According to some legends, the Magdalene lived out her years as a hermit in the wilderness, clad only in her long hair. And at each of the liturgical hours, angels—so the legends say—would whoosh Mary up to heaven to join in the liturgy, then whoosh her back down to the wilderness until the next heavenly trip.
Though short on fact, the legends provide a charming window onto what many medieval folks thought of this woman whose ministry and message were so crucial in the life of the early Church and the spread of the Gospel. The medieval stories invite us to bring our own prayerful imaginations to the tale of Mary Magdalene and to listen our way into the wide gaps that are present in the handful of details that the Gospels offer about her life.
The Magdalene legends provided inspiration for a series I did some years ago called The Hours of Mary Magdalene; the image above comes from that series. Creating this mixed-media series, which incorporates paper collage, acrylic, and calligraphy and was inspired also by images of the Magdalene in medieval Books of Hours, was a wonderful way to climb into the story of Mary Magdalene. I've never seen her quite the same since then. Years later, she continues to tug at my imagination and prompts me to ask, What word is Christ calling me to proclaim in my own life? What good news am I being called to tell, and where?
I am open to going to France…
Earlier this year my remarkable singer/songwriter husband and I created a video that intertwines the images from The Hours of Mary Magdalene with his haunting song "Mary Magdalena." If you journeyed with us here at Sanctuary of Women during Holy Week, this will be familiar to you, but on this eve of the Feast of Mary Magdalene, I wanted to share it again. Please note that if you click the Vimeo logo in the player below (in the bottom right corner), it will take you directly to a larger version of the video. We have also released the video on YouTube, where you can view it here.
May you have a festive Feast of Mary Magdalene! And many blessings to you in these days of Ordinary Time.
P.S. I've just launched a completely redesigned, brand-spankin'-new website at janrichardson.com and would love for you to visit!