Celebrating Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles

Posted by Carolyn Pirtle on Jul 22, 2020 8:00:00 AM
Carolyn Pirtle

Pirtle Mary Magdalene title

In 2016, Pope Francis raised the rank of today’s celebration of Mary Magdalene from Memorial to Feast in the liturgical calendar. This means that not only will the special readings for the day be proclaimed, but the Gloria will be prayed, and, for the first time ever, a special Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer will be included in the celebration of the Mass.

The Preface is entitled “Apostle to the Apostles,” the honorific bestowed upon Mary Magdalene. Recalling that “apostle” means “sent,” one can easily see not only the aptness but the beauty of this title: all four Gospels record that Mary Magdalene was at the tomb that first Easter Sunday morning, and that she was sent to share the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection to the eleven remaining Apostles, who had locked themselves in the upper room. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John may not have concurred with one another on every detail in their accounts of Jesus’ life, but they were unanimous on this. Mary Magdalene was there.

In John’s Gospel, we read that Jesus himself appeared to Mary Magdalene, who was weeping at the tomb in grief and confusion, all while perhaps the flame of hope still flickered in her heart. She went to the tomb, as we may hear in the First Reading from the Song of Songs, “searching for him whom [her] heart loves.” She begs the One she believes to be the gardener: “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” And no sooner did she ask to be led to her Christ than he revealed himself to her by speaking her name: “Mary.”

With poetic elegance and simplicity, the newly-composed Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer for today’s Feast sums up this transformative episode in Mary Magdalene’s life:

He appeared in the garden
and revealed himself to Mary Magdalene,
who had loved him in life,
witnessed him dying on the Cross,
sought him as he lay in the tomb,
and was the first to adore him, newly risen from the dead.
He honored her with the office of being an apostle to the Apostles,
so that the good news of new life
might reach the ends of the earth.

To hearts who love, witness, seek, and adore him, Christ appears and reveals himself, so that all might become apostles, sent to proclaim the Good News of new life to the ends of the earth. Like Mary Magdalene, we may be met with disbelief. We may even be met with derision or hatred. But as St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians (the other option for today’s First Reading), “The love of Christ impels us” to share the Good News that Jesus is alive. He is risen. Now and for all eternity. May this reality sink into our hearts a little more deeply today as we contemplate how Mary Magdalene’s life was transformed by the Resurrection of Christ, and may we open our hearts in turn to love, witness, seek, and adore the Risen One every day of our own lives.

St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, pray for us.

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Featured image: Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene (Noli me tangere) (1651) by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669); PD-Old.

Topics: evangelization, Gospel, Mary Magdalene, liturgical year

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