The Grail Code 
Mary Magdalene again

We’re celebrating Mary Magdalene today, who’s certainly worth celebrating. More than a dozen people are counted as “apostles” in the Bible, but there’s only one “apostle to the apostles”: the woman Christ chose out of all his followers to carry the message that he had risen.

Of course, Mary Magdalene has a big place in revisionist Grail-as-bloodline lore as the wife of Christ who bore his son, and thus was the real Holy Grail. The people who hold this theory, like Dan Brown for instance (one of the wonderful things about all this Harry Potter hoopla is that nobody has to talk about Dan Brown anymore), tell us that the evil Church establishment slandered Mary Magdalene by calling her a former prostitute and so on. It certainly is true that tradition identified–and perhaps misidentified–her as a former prostitute, but was that a slander? If you think it was, you don’t understand much about Christianity, and especially early Christianity.

If the early Christians allowed themselves any pride at all, it was usually in the contrast between their former lives and the lives they led as Christians. Paul called himself the greatest of sinners, and he had some right to the title. There were plenty of murderers walking around, but Paul had made it his business to murder people specifically because they were followers of Christ. He still carried with him the memory of watching Stephen die–Stephen the first martyr, whose death Paul had specifically approved of.

So if Mary Magdalene escaped from sin to become a saint, that was no slander: it was the highest possible praise one Christian could give another. As for the supposed attempt of the Church to suppress the memory of Mary Magdalene, a brief survey of the enormous number of medieval churches dedicated to her quickly pops that balloon. After Mary the Mother of Jesus, it would be hard to find a more popular saint, or one whose cult was more enthusiastically encouraged by that nasty old patriarchal establishment. (We talked a little about that more than a year ago.)

So happy Mary Magdalene day, everyone, and don’t be afraid to celebrate it in a perfectly orthodox way. How should we celebrate? Oh, I know: we could imitate her example and bring the good news of Christ’s resurrection to tired old Christians who are sinking into despair! Or we could have cookies.

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(C) 2006 Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey