Mary Magdalene, called “the penitent”, was a woman of great beauty who was known as a sinner, but was touched in her soul by the merciful power of Our Lord Jesus Christ and made a great conversion. Scriptures speak of the Lord driving out “seven demons” from her, symbolic of the seven capital sins (Mark 16:9).
Thinking to trick Our Lord, she had been presented to Him by the Scribes and Pharisees whilst He was teaching in the temple. Mary Magdalene had been caught in adultery and the Law of Moses was quite clear as to its punishment: death by stoning. In silence, Our Lord began to write with His finger on the ground.
At their persistent questioning, He lifted Himself up and replied: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone,” and stooping down, He returned to His writing in the dust.
One by one they left until none remained but the Judge and the Accused. “Then Jesus lifting up Himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more” (John 8:10-11).
From that moment onwards, her heart was won over completely.
At the house of Simon the Pharisee, the repentant Magdalene poured costly ointments on Jesus’ feet and then dried them with her hair (John 7:38).
On her action being censured by the host, Our Lord said in her defence: “Many sins are forgiven her because she has loved much” (John 7:47).
Mary Magdalene was the sister of Martha and Lazarus of Bethany whom the Lord raised from the dead after four days.
She along with the Lord’s Mother and other holy women stood at the foot of the cross unafraid for herself. It was also she that, along with others, first discovered the empty tomb after the Lord’s Resurrection. And it was to Mary Magdalene that the Lord first appeared after He was risen.
After the martyrdom of the Apostle James in Jerusalem, as persecution intensified, tradition says that Lazarus, Martha and Mary Magdalene, along with others, were placed in a boat and set out to sea. This boat landed on the southern shore of France. While Lazarus and Martha went on to evangelize Provence, a fact claimed in French history, Mary retired to a cave in a mountain, known as La Sainte-Baume, or The Holy Cave.
In this cave she lived the life of a penitent for thirty years until her death. Today, at this site, there is a shrine where her relics are venerated. Her feast day is 22 July.
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