In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!
You know, I said last Sunday (and I often say) how much I love preaching and talking about the lives of the Saints. And that’s true, but typically I wouldn’t preach two Sundays in a row about the lives of the Saints remembered those days. This is different – because today we remember and celebrate the life of St. Mary Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles, and one of the Myrrhbearing women. There’s a lot of garbage, frankly, that’s been said about St. Mary Magdalene over the last decade or so. Every year, even though the big excitement surrounding her has somewhat subsided, around Western Easter every year we get to hear all about these ridiculous theories that claim St. Mary and our Lord were married or carrying on in some kind of relationship, having children and living in earthly bliss. All of that is nonsense, and as Orthodox Christians we know it’s nonsense, but all too often, we don’t actually know what the story of St. Mary is. Also, the Christian Church is constantly accused of being against women, of oppressing women, of holding women back. Again, the life of St. Mary speaks to the point – one of the earliest follows of Christ, a women, celebrated today as Equal to the Apostles.
St. Mary was born in the city of Magdala. We know little of her life before she appears in the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, and it just so happens that she was healed of demon possession, exactly as one of the men was in the Gospel reading this morning. She was healed by our Lord, having 7 demons cast out of her, and from that time on she became His disciple. For clarities sake – somehow, in the West, there was a confusion of St. Mary and another woman who was a prostitute and was forgiven and converted by Christ – but scripturally they are clearly two different women. St. Mary followed Jesus as he traveled around Judea and Galilee, ministering to Him and hearing Him preach the Gospel to the people. She witnessed many of His miracles, and was actually one of a fairly small group who heard a great deal of the teachings of our Lord. She was present during Christ’s procession to His crucifixion, and is also mentioned in the Gospels as being present on Golgotha when our Lord was crucified and died. In other words, she stayed with Him even when His chosen disciples and Apostles had fled. She not only stands out as exceptional among the women following Jesus, but she stands out as exceptional among all of the people following Him and professing to believe in Him as the Messiah promised to Israel. One of the names given to St. Mary is Myrrhbearer, because after the Sabbath, on the morning of the third day, she and several other women gathered the required spices and went to anoint the body of the Lord. This is a wonderful example of the faith of the women that we often don’t think about – His body was guarded and behind an enormous stone in the tomb. The women took no thought for how they were to get to His body, they went in faith, knowing that God would make a way.
And perhaps it was precisely for the unquestioning faith of these holy women that it was revealed to them first that Christ had risen from the dead. The scene then at the tomb with Mary is beautiful – as relayed by the Evangelist Matthew – an angel greeted them at the tomb, telling them that the Lord had risen, and instructing them to go and tell the rest of the disciples what had happened. St. Matthew also relates that on the way to tell the Apostles, the Lord greeted them, and told them to tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. And as the Apostles were later to preach the Risen Lord to the world, St. Mary first delivered this word to the Apostles.
The Holy Scriptures do not tell us the work of St. Mary after the Resurrection and Ascension, but Holy Tradition does. St. Mary also went, as did the Apostles, to preach the Risen Lord to the world. It is said that she ventured as far as pagan Rome, preaching the Risen Lord, and using her own experience as a central point in her preaching. One of the most famous tales from the tradition also related that she visited the Roman Emperor Tiberias, bringing him a red egg and preaching to him Christ is Risen! It is also said that she used the egg to explain to the Emperor the Truth about the living God, the Holy Trinity. As the egg is one yet three (yolk, white, shell), so is our God one in the three Persons.
After Ss. Peter and Paul came to Rome, St. Mary moved on to Ephesus, and labored with the Apostle John who was preaching there. She died in old age in Ephesus, and was buried there. It’s very easy to see why the Church honors her with the title Equal to the Apostles, for she labored with them and along side them, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations.
Our nugget from her life today…as St. Mary lived and preached the Gospel of Christ from her own experience of the Living God, so too, we also live and share the Gospel based on our experience of God. All of the Saints tell us that God is truly made real in our lives by our experience of Him. We can’t share what we don’t know, what we don’t have experience of. The Apostles, and St. Mary, were not simply sharing intellectual knowledge with the masses – they were sharing their personal experience of the living God. And from this experience they could speak the Truth, and words that healed. We meet God in our prayer, in our reading of Scriptures, in the Holy Services, and even in every person that we meet.
May God grant that we nurture this relationship, that we grow to know Him more and more fully and deeply, and from this relationship, like St. Mary, we can be lights to the world.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

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