Mary, I have come to love that name. It is my name and it is her name – the apostle to the apostles
Mary arrives at the empty tomb
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene John 20:11 – 18
Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked in the tomb and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet. “Woman, why are you crying?” they asked her.
She answered, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!”
Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This means “Teacher.”)
“Do not hold on to me,” Jesus told her, “because I have not yet gone back up to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am returning to him who is my Father and their Father, my God and their God.”
So Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and related to them what he had told her.
Mary, I have come to love that name. It is my name and it is her name – the apostle to the apostles. A voice buried under the rubble of patriarchy and a culture that didn’t want to give her a place to bring deep and intimate truths about her Beloved and His teaching.
I read the words of this passage from John and as Jesus says her name I imagine him looking deeply into her eyes. That one name said with such conviction conveys so much. It tells her – it tells me – that I am seen to the very core of myself, my history, my present and all of my pain held in the gaze he offers. It tells me and all of womankind that we are invited to the table of humanity and to confidently pull up a seat. It reaches into my powerful, vulnerable and holy femininity and draws it out of me like flames spilling from my shoulders, my mouth and my belly. That name tells me that I have a voice and don’t need to apologise for it. It reminds me that I have a place in this world and the gift of myself to bring to it.
Mary Magdalene was the Beloved of Jesus. Theirs was a deeply intimate relationship. She was part of his inner circle. The other disciples didn’t like it – what remains of her gospel tells us that her presence and deep understanding was threatening to them. She carried a wisdom that grew within her relationship to Jesus. He welcomed her femininity, he celebrated it and he drew it out of her. He also knew that to be fully feminine includes being masculine and to be fully masculine includes being feminine.
There is something deeply invitational about his saying her name, let alone that she was the first to encounter him after his resurrection. It invites me also – as His Mary – to live more fully into and from my true self. It invites me to shake off what remains of the patriarchal system I was born into and have lived in my whole life. It invites me to be powerful, brave, real and honest.
Her response “rabboni/ teacher” seems utterly appropriate. I utter those words too – may Jesus continue to be my teacher, guide, companion and intimate friend. May I live fully into the word Mary as she did and welcome the fullness of all that it means.
The Gospel of Mary Magdala is available here