You are invited to a Celebration of the Feast of Mary Magdalene.
When: Monday evening July 23, 2012 at 7:00pm.
Where: Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary, 959 Madison Ave, Albany, NY (map)
Contact: Steve at (518) 370-1615 or Ellen at (518) 462-2299
Why this Celebration? See below:
Suppressed Mary Magdala Story One of Many
By Chris Schenk
Official Lectionary Omits Women’s Stories
In February 2007, Pope Benedict spoke feelingly about early Christian women leaders, “The history of Christianity would have developed quite differently without the generous contribution of many women…” The Pope even acknowledged that unlike the apostles, women “ did not abandon Jesus at the hour of his passion. . . Outstanding among them was Mary Magdalene, who was the first witness of the Resurrection and announced it to the others.”
Yet how many of us knew about Mary Magdalene’s leadership until the DaVinci Code? Even then Dan Brown got it only part right, to the great consternation of Church leaders who have only themselves to blame.
For centuries Mary of Magdala’s story, like those of many other biblical women, has been minimized or excised from the official lectionary used in both Catholic and Protestant churches. A fascinating 1996 analysis by Sr. Ruth Fox OSB, found a disproportionate number of passages about women had been deleted from the lectionary, a book of biblical passages carefully chosen for Church proclamation.
For example, Jesus’ appearance to Mary of Magdala in the garden and his command to “go and tell my brothers” is never read on any Sunday in the Easter season, or any Sunday at all in U.S. Churches. Instead, the lectionary account from the Gospel of John, inexplicably stops just before this beautiful commissioning, Matthew’s Palm Sunday lectionary text deletes the story of the unnamed woman disciple who anoints
Jesus. (26:6-13). Unlike the male disciple who criticized her, this woman affirmed Jesus’ prophetic and kingly role. Yet her story is never told, though Jesus himself promised: “…wherever the good news is proclaimed…what she did will be told in memory of her.” (Mt 26:13).
Another obvious example is the Roman’s 16 reading where verses about Phoebe, the woman deacon who carried Paul’s letter to the Romans, are completely excised. We never hear Paul’s praise of this important woman leader: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe who is a deacon of Church at Cenchreae. Please welcome her…she has been of help to many, including myself.” (Romans 16: 1)
Stories of women from the Hebrew scriptures are also omitted, perhaps most notably that of Shiprah and Puah, two Hebrew midwives. The Exodus 1:8-22 weekday reading skips from verse 14 to verse 22, eliminating the story of their brave nonviolent resistance to a command from Pharoah to kill all male Hebrews at birth. Had the midwives obeyed, Moses and many other Hebrew men would never have seen adulthood. Yet our sons and daughters never hear about the brave women who saved a
nation because they obeyed God over an unjust government.
In his February 2007 address, Benedict also openly countered centuries of literal biblical interpretation by pointing to Paul’s writings where it is normal for early Christian women to edify the assembly with prophetic utterances. The Pope concluded: “Therefore St Paul’s subsequent assertion that ‘women should be silent in the churches must be relativized.’.” The Pope and Synod Bishops must encourage and invite women to serve as preachers and proclaimers in our Catholic churches.
Only through concrete actions such as these will Catholicism begin to heal centuries of silencing and suppression of women leaders who seek only to witness publicly to Christ. Then, perhaps we will be closer to Paul’s ideal community where: “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28).
Chris Schenk is the Director of FutureChurch, a national coalition of parish centered Catholics working for full participation of all Catholics in the life of the Church. She holds Master’s degrees in Theology and Midwifery.
The Mary of Magdala Project was developed and is administered by FutureChurch.