Friday, July 22, 2016

Saint Mary Magdalene

The saints of the church do not often appear in the modern day 24 hour news cycle, yet Mary Magdalene, whom we commemorate today on the calendar of saints, was the topic of several articles last month when the Roman Catholic church raised the classification of her day from "memorial" to "feast," on par with the twelve apostles. She was described as "an example of true and authentic evangelization; she is an evangelist who announces the joyful central message of Easter."  Or, as she was described by Saint Thomas Aquinas, "apostle to the Apostles."

In fact, she is more well-known than several of the other apostles, about whom little is actually told in scripture, though it is only in recent years that scholars have untangled her story, rejecting the characterization of her as a prostitute, or "fallen woman."  Also, that she is not the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus' feet and wipes them with her hair (Luke 7: 36-50). 

Today's hymn comes from John Newton (whose birthday is coming up this Sunday), telling of Mary's joyful reunion with Jesus on Easter morning.

Mary to her Savior’s tomb
Hastened at the early dawn;
Spice she brought, and sweet perfume,
But her Lord, the Loved, was gone.
For awhile she weeping stood,
Struck with sorrow and surprise;
Shedding tears, a plenteous flood,
For her heart supplied her eyes.

Jesus, who is always near,
Though too often unperceived
Came, his suff'ring child to cheer,
And inquired why she grieved?
Though at first she knew him not,
When he called her by her name,
Then her griefs were all forgot,
For she found he was the same.

Christ, who came to comfort her,
When she thought her all was lost;
Will for your relief appear,
Though you now are tempest-tossed:
On his Word your burden cast,
On his love your thoughts employ;
Weeping for awhile may last,
But the morning brings new joy.

John Newton, 1779; alt.
Joseph Parry, 1876

In stanza 2, the word "inquired" should probably be pronounced "in - qui - red" (like the color) - rather than "in - qui - ured."

I could wish that Newton had gone a bit farther in the story, incorporating the "apostle to the Apostles" theme (as Charles Wesley did), but at least there's no "fallen woman" language, which often appeared in older hymns.  Modern hymnwriters are writing new texts about Mary Magdalene, leaving out the now-discredited parts of her story.

Eight Years Ago: Saint Mary Magdalene

Seven Years Ago: Emily E. S. Elliott 

Six Years Ago: Saint Mary Magdalene

Four Years Ago: Saint Mary Magdalene

Three Years Ago: Saint Mary Magdalene

Other Mary Magdalene Hymns:

Lift your voice rejoicing, Mary
Resting from his work today

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