July 22nd is no ordinary day in the Orthodox Church. It is holy because it belongs to an extraordinary woman. For over one thousand years, the name of St. Mary Magdalene has marked this day in the ancient calendar of our Church. Around the world Orthodox Christians in many lands celebrate this woman who stood with Christ at the Cross and beyond.
The gospels record that she was a remarkable woman. Mary of Magdala claimed dignity and independence for herself at a time when women counted for little or nothing. Defying restrictive laws and customs, she walked with Jesus all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem. In town and countryside, this fearless, loyal woman disciple shared His healing ministry of love and reconciliation. She stood with Jesus in the struggle against hatred and violence, against sexist, racist and religious prejudices.
The struggle was never easy. It was often dangerous. And one day Jesus died on the Cross. Thinking that the end had come, the male disciples ran and hid. Already one had betrayed and another had denied Him three times. But Mary Magdalene, with other women disciples, remained in Jerusalem, watching, waiting and weeping. Three days later joy replaced sorrow and tears when Mary of Magdala heard her Teacher call her name and experienced the Resurrection. She was the first to see and speak with the Risen Lord. On that first Easter morning God exalted this woman above all the other disciples. God commanded her to go and tell what she had witnessed, empowering her to become the apostle to the apostles. From a woman's lips first came the good news of love's triumph over evil and death, the good news of life and liberation for all of God's children.
Christianity's first apostle, a leader in the primitive Christian Church, a pioneer in the struggle to build a new earth, St. Mary Magdalene wears the brightest of halos. Let us honor the memory of our foresister by pledging ourselves to stand fast, securing justice for the weak and proclaiming liberty to captives; setting the downtrodden free and binding up hearts that are broken.
Most holy and glorious Mary Magdalene, on this your feast day, bless and strengthen us here and everywhere, now and forever and ever. Amen.
Given July 22, 1984, Ecumenical Assembly of Church Women United, Purdue University.
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