The great and holy myrrh-bearer Mary Magdalene, Equal of the Apostles, was a disciple of Jesus named Mary from Magdala, a town in Galilee. Her feast is celebrated on July 22, and she is also remembered on the Sunday of Myrrh-bearing Women. She is known in some traditions as the Apostle to the Apostles because she was the one who announced the resurrection of Christ to the Eleven. She has an Akathist hymn dedicated to her.1
Some of her titles include:
- Apostle to the Apostles - "The apostles proclaimed the resurrection of Christ to the whole world. But Mary proclaimed the resurrection of Christ to the apostles themselves: she was an apostle to the apostles!"1 p.15
- Equal-to-the-Apostles - "Mary Magdalen is held by the Christian Church to be an 'equal of the apostles': because she was the first messenger sent by the Lord Himself to announce His resurrection."1 p.14
- Myrrh-bearer - "She purchased myrrh and spices to anoint the body of the buried Christ, and to accord Him, following Jewish custom, as much honor as possible. This undertaking, which is the reason for which Mary Magdalen has come to be known as a myrrh-bearer, was fitting for her, since two of the evangelists again place her as first among several other women who followed her in doing likewise, and a third identifies only her as performing that noble deed (cf. Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Jn 20:1)."1 p.9
She is often confused with other women of the New Testament.
Frederica Mathewes-Green2 writes: "She is not Mary of Bethany (a city south of Jerusalem), the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who anointed Jesus' head. She is not the prostitute who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair. These two understandably get confused, and historically in the West all three women are lumped together under Mary Magdalene's name, a confusion continued in the Last Temptation of Christ, The DaVinci Code, and other works."
Karen Rae Keck (cf. External links) writes: "St. Gregory the Dialogist (Pope Gregory the Great) is believed to have begun the tradition in the Western Church, not accepted in the Eastern Church, which identified St. Mary with the 'sinful woman' in the seventh chapter of Luke."
- Delivered from seven demons; supports Christ's ministry
- Present at crucifixion and burial
- Matt 27:55-61: "55 And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons. 57 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock, and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb."
- First to see the risen Lord
- Mark 16:1-10: "1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, 'Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?' 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away--for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.' 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. 9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. 12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. 14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues, 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.' 19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen."
- John 20:1-18: "1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, 'They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where thy have laid Him.' 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying ther, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. 11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.' 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?' She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, 'Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.' 16 Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to Him, 'Rabboni!' (which is to say, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God."' 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her."
According to tradition, during a dinner with the emperor Tiberius Caesar, Mary Magdalene was speaking about Christ's Resurrection. Caesar scoffed at her, saying that a man could rise from the dead no more than the egg in her hand could turn red. Immediately, the egg turned red. Because of this, icons of Mary Magdalene sometimes depict her holding a red egg. Also, this is believed to be an explanation for dyeing eggs red at Pascha.
"In Ephesus, according to the tradition and testimony of many of the holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, the holy Mary Magdalen assisted the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian in his evangelical labors, remaining there until she herself reposed in peace and was buried in that city."1 p.23
Troparion (Tone 1)
- In keeping His commandments and laws, O holy Mary Magdalene,
- You followed Christ, who for our sake was born of a virgin,
- And in celebrating your most holy memory today,
- We receive forgiveness of sins by your prayers!
Kontakion (Tone 4)
- When God, who is transcendent in essence,
- Came with flesh into the world, O Myrrhbearer,
- He received you as a true disciple, for you turned all your love toward Him;
- Henceforth you would yourself work many healings.
- Now that you have passed into heaven, never cease to intercede for the world!
Kontakion (Tone 3)
- Standing before the Cross of the Savior,
- Suffering with the Mother of the Lord,
- The most glorious Mary Magdalene offered praise with tears.
- She cried out: What is this strange wonder?
- He who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer:
- Glory, O Lord to Your power!
¹ Holy Myrrh-Bearer Mary Magdalene: Equal of the Apostles: Life, Liturgical Service, & Akathist Hymn. Translated by Reader Isaac E. Lambertsen. Liberty, TN: The Saint John of Kronstadt Press, 1999.
³ Orthodox Study Bible: New Testament and Psalms. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993. Concordance, p. 110.
- Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.