July 22nd is the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, possibly the most misrepresented woman in history. In later centuries the church would present her as a “fallen woman” rescued by Jesus. There is not one shred of Biblical evidence that Mary was a prostitute, the tradition arises from the conflation of references to her with the story of a “sinful woman”, nor are there grounds for the association of her name with the dreadful laundries where girls adjudged to be “fallen” were treated like prisoners until late in the 20th Century.
Here is a reposting of a monologue I wrote for Holy Week, an attempt to understand the real Mary,
Hello, my name is Mary.
I wish to tell my story because if I do not tell it, then it will be told by someone else, and they may not tell the truth. If you hear stories of me that are untrue, I trust that you will put them right. I do not want any fame, but I would not want the name of my family or my community to be slurred by the things that people have imagined.
I come from a small lakeside village. We were not rich people, but we had enough.
I was able to live my own life without needing to work; I was even able to give money away.
Since I was young I was troubled by dark moods, I would be fine one moment and then the darkness would come. I would cut myself off. I would cry. I would be angry. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I didn’t speak. I hated myself. The blackness seemed to be all around me. The people of the village said it was demons.
It all changed in a day. A stranger came into the village and saw me and said that the darkness would go away, if I believed him. It sounds a cliché, but life was never the same again.
I had no ties to the village. I was an only child and both of my parents had died. I could spend my time sitting alone watching that lake each evening, or I could do something.
I decided to do something, to set out to follow the stranger. Who knew where it would take me? It would take me away from the village where the people said I had demons. It would take me away from the village gossips and those who despised me because I was a woman with money.
We saw things that people could not have imagined, we heard words that no-one had ever spoken before. There was such excitement, such optimism, such a feeling that all would be well.
I took what happened badly. But then so did all those who were like me. He had become our whole life. What had I to go back to? What had any of us to go back to?
Going home and picking up our lives wasn’t an option for any of us. Even after he died, we just stayed on in the city. Where would we have gone? What else would we have done?
Those hours just sitting and pondering all that had taken place; we didn’t even talk, there was no need, they were memories we all shared.
I can still recall every minute of that morning. Going out into the dark and reaching the garden while it was still only half-light and meeting him there.
Would anyone believe our story? It didn’t matter what other people believed, all that mattered was what we knew; all that mattered is what was true.
There will be stories, stories like those made up by the village gossips. Please make sure that the truth is told. Tell the truth about Jesus and, if there is a chance, please, tell the truth about me.
My name is Mary.