I am reading a great book about St Mary Magdalene called “Mary of Magdalene in the Visions of the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich” (TAN). It includes quotes about St Mary Magdalene from Blessed Anne Catherine’s “The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations”. The quotes describe visions that Bl Anne Catherine had of Jesus’ life, that can help us to go deeper into the Scriptures. The entire book is available online in public domain and I’ll quote from there with page numbers so anyone can find them. However if anyone is interested in a book specifically about the Saint I really recommend the one from TAN!
While reading, I was especially struck by how much St Mary Magdalene loved Our Lord. For example, there is this quote:
“On the Sabbath Jesus taught in Lazarus’, and then all went to walk in the gardens. Jesus talked of His Passion and said in plain terms that He was the Christ. His words increased His hearers’ reverence and admiration for Him, while Magdalene’s love and contrition reached their height. She followed Jesus everywhere, sat at His feet, stood and waited for Him everywhere. She thought of Him alone, saw Him alone, knew only her Redeemer and her own sins. Jesus frequently addressed to her words of consolation. She was very greatly changed. Her countenance and bearing was still noble and distinguished, though her beauty was destroyed by her penance and tears. She sat almost always alone in her narrow penance chamber, and at times performed the lowest services for the poor and sick” (Vol 3, pp.275-276).
The book describes her conversion from a worldly life to that of a penitent. I was really touched by the accounts of her anointing Jesus. One thing that I found very beautiful was her boldness. It was quite a brave thing to do for a woman at that time who was known to be a “sinner” – as Jesus was asked, why He allows her to touch Him. But St Mary Magdalene continued to love Jesus and followed Him everywhere. It’s so beautiful how she only thought of Him and only saw Him. Often while reading the lives of the Saints, we are inspired but at the same time wonder, – can we really love like this? St Mary Magdalene loved Jesus exceptionally, much more than I do, but one thing that’s encouraging about her is that she loved Him like this even though she had a sinful past – and her life really shows the effect of submitting to God’s grace.
This next quote describes St Mary Magdalene’s second conversion, after she had fallen back into sin. At one point, soon after finding repentance again, St Mary Magdalene was suffering from doubts about her forgiveness. After running through the streets, she ran to Jesus and began weeping and asking if there is still hope for her. She was being tormented by despair. Although the others looked scandalized and asked Jesus how He could stand this woman any longer, He showed her mercy:
“When Jesus returned to His inn with the disciples and some of the Pharisees, and while they were taking some refreshments standing, Magdalen escaped from the holy women, ran with streaming hair and uttering loud lamentations, made her way through the crowd, cast herself at Jesus’ feet, weeping and moaning, and asked if she might still hope for salvation. The Pharisees and disciples, scandalized at the sight, said to Jesus that He should no longer suffer this reprobate woman to create disturbance everywhere, that He should send her away once and for all. But Jesus replied: “Permit her to weep and lament! Ye know not what is passing in her” – and He turned to her with words of consolation. He told her to repent from her heart, to believe and to hope, for that she should soon find peace. Then He bade her depart with confidence.” (Vol. 3, pp. 125-130)
This account really shows Jesus’ mercy and patience. He didn’t send her away, but encouraged her to trust in His forgiveness. What I appreciate about St Mary Magdalene here is that although she was suffering from feelings of despair, she still ran to Jesus and did not run away from Him… she still went to Him to ask for pardon and to ask if there was still hope for her. I think this is a good example for anyone suffering from despair – to not run away from God, but to run towards. It’s also evident here that in her repentance, St Mary Magdalene didn’t think of anything else and was concerned about nothing but finding forgiveness. She showed so much contrition. Later, she found Jesus again:
“The instruction over, Jesus went to a retired place, whither Mary herself and Martha led Magdalen to Him. She fell on her face weeping at His feet, her fair flowing loosely around her. Jesus comforted her. When Mary and Martha had withdrawn, she cried for pardon, confessed her numerous transgressions, and asked over and over: “Lord, is there still salvation for me?” Jesus forgave her sins, and she implored Him to save her from another relapse. He promised to do so, gave her His blessing, and spoke to her of the virtue of purity, also of His Mother, who was pure without stain. He praised Mary highly in terms I had never before heard from His lips, and commanded Magdalen to unite herself closely to her and to seek from her advice and consolation. When Jesus and Magdalen rejoined the holy women, Jesus said to them: “She has been a great sinner, but for all future time, she will be the model of penitents”. (Vol. 3, pp. 125-130)
In reading the book, I saw that the anointing of Jesus that St Mary Magdalene did was not an isolated event, but that she did this several times, maybe many times. People often did not understand but she did not let that discourage her from showing her love for Jesus. He however always accepted her love.
“It was dust before Jesus and the disciples, preceded and followed by crowds of people, started at last down the mountain of Gabara. Magdalen, obeying only her impulse without regard to appearances, followed close after Jesus in the crowd of the disciples, and her four companions, unwilling to separate from her, did the same. She tried to keep as close to Jesus as she possibly could, though such conduct was quite unusual in females. Some of the disciples called Jesus’ attention to the fact, remarking at the same time what I have just observed. But Jesus, turning around to them, replied: “Let them alone! It is not your affair!” (Vol. 2, 477-480).
The visions also describe another time when St Mary Magdalene anointed Our Lord. This was when Jesus went with three of the Apostles to Bethel and stayed at a house. Lazarus and his sisters were there too; seemingly after Lazarus was raised from the dead.
“As Jesus was sitting on the edge of the fountain, Magdalene came forth from the house and poured over His hair a little flat flask of perfume. She did it standing at His back, as she had often done before. I wondered at her boldness.” (Vol. 3. pp. 582-583).
The book tells of St Mary Magdalene’s first anointing of Jesus, which happened before she completely turned to the penitent life, but was drawn to love Him:
“The Pharisees were in animated discussion with Him when Magdalen, who with her companions had approached the entrance, all of a sudden darted into the hall. Inclining humbly, her head veiled, in her hand a little white flask closed with a tiny bunch of aromatic herbs instead of a stopper, she glided quickly into the center of the apartment, went behind Jesus, and poured the contents of her little flask over His head. Then catching up the long end of her veil, she folded it, and with both hands passed it lightly once over Jesus’ head, as it wishing to smooth His hair and to arrest the overflow of the ointment. The whole affair occupied but a few instants, and after it Magdalen retired some steps. The discussion carried on so hotly at the moment suddenly ceased. A hush fell upon the company, and they gazed upon Jesus and the woman. The air was redolent with the fragrance of the ointment. Jesus was silent. Some of the guests put their heads together, glanced indignantly at the Magdelen, and exchanged whispers. Simon Zabulon especially appeared scandalized. At last Jesus said to him: “Simon, I know well of what thou art thinking! Thou thinkest it improper that I should allow this woman to anoint My head. Thou art thinking that she is a sinner, but thou art wrong. She, out of love, has fulfilled what thou didst leave undone. Thou hast not shown Me the honour due to guests”. Then He turned to Magdalen, who was still standing there, and said “Go in peace! Much has been forgiven thee”. (Vol. 2, pp. 477-480).
To put it shortly, I’m very inspired by this book. I love St Mary Magdalene’s boldness, how she was not afraid of losing human respect as she showed her love for Jesus, and how she hoped that He would accept her though others did not. I love her Jesus still accepted her and forgave her, and helped her to become a Saint. This also gives me hope because I can relate to being a sinner. I think her life really shows us that no matter what our past was, we can love Jesus greatly, as long as we don’t place boundaries on our love or are too timid or fearful.
St Mary Magdalene, pray for us!
(If anyone is interested in learning more, the book is available for sale from TAN, or you can find the references in the linked book given above. The book “Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations” is in the public domain and contains all the quotes).