St Mary Magdalene - “the sinner from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons”
Born into a wealthy family, in fact, she was royalty, with her parents and brother Lazarus and Sister Martha, they owned, and lived in a castle, just two miles from the Sea Genezareth. They also owned the village of Bethany, near Jerusalem.
Like all wealthy people of the time, they indulged in carnal pleasures, gluttony and other earthly sins.
Mary was known to enjoy the bodily pleasures her wealth and beauty brought her, and through her constant quest for pleasure, soon found her good name gone, to be replaced in the streets as merely “The Sinner”.
Mary soon became a lady of the streets, and in time found herself in the house of Simon the Leper as Jesus himself visited. Mary, not wanting to sit amongst the just, Mary walked up to Jesus, washed his feet with her tears, dried his feet with her hair and anointed them.
Jesus gave much to Mary Magdalene, he expelled seven evil spirits from her. She became a loyal friend and supporter and helped Jesus upon his journey. He defended her against the Pharisee who called her impure, against her own sister who accused her of being idle, and against Judas, her accused Mary of being a spendthrift.
Jesus also raised her brother Lazarus from the grave, four days after his death, and cured her sister Martha of hemorrhages that had plagued her for seven years
Mary followed Jesus from Magdala in Galilee to Bethany in Judea, and later to Cavalry, where she watched on as our Lord was forced to bear his cross, and then was crucified. She sat at the foot of his cross as he suffered for our sins. She was it his tomb when he was buried and was the last to leave.
Mary was also the first person to which Jesus appeared upon his resurrection on Easter Sunday – and was heard to utter “Christ Has Risen!” – Which still echoes through time today for all Christians
Mary Magdalene went from the great sinner to Saint, and the “Apostles of the Apostles”, and after the resurrection of Jesus, she continued to preach his word.
When the persecutions started around 42 AD, the people of the Church of Jerusalem scattered amongst the Roman Empire around the Mediterranean Sea, into Greece, Italy Spain and Gaul (France).
Mary, Lazarus, Mary Salome and Mary Jacoby, disciples Maximin and Sidonius were all forced onto a ship with no sails, oars or supplies and set to sea. The ship floated across the Mediterranean Sea and eventually found its way a port called Rha (France) that later became known as Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (Holy Marys of the Sea).
The group continued to deliver the gospel in their new found home, with Lazarus baptizing new Christians at every chance.
Soon the group split up with Mary Salome, Mary Jacoby and Marcella remaining in Rha while the others made their way overland to Massilia (Marseille). Martha soon left for Tarascon, and Maximin for Aix.
Lazarus would remain in Massilia, eventually becoming the cities first Bishop, whilst Mary and Sidonius travelled to La Sainte Baume.
Mary and Sidonius discovered a large natural cave in La Saint Baume, which they would make their home, and where Mary Magdalene would see out her final days in Penance.
Mary would spend the next 30 years meditating in solitude, other than the seven angels who would visit her daily. The Angles would take Mary to the top of the mountain she was living under, to hear the sounds of music from heaven, and to take in the view that allowed her to see out to the Mediterranean Sea. It is said in the 30 years she spent in the cave, Mary did not drink water, nor eat.
After 30 years of longing to be reunited with Jesus, the day finally came when the Lord enlightened her that her death was near. The Lord guided her to the village of Villalta, and along the way, she was met by Maximin, who had been divinely inspired to meet her and lead her Church. At the very spot they met, there was a pillar – which still stands today.
Mary Magdalene received Holy Communion from Maximin in the new Church, and fell lifeless, before him at the altar. The year was 72 AD.
Mary was buried with great pomp and dignity in an alabaster tomb near the Church, upon her death it was noted the Church, and her body gave pf a sweet perfume – this is often associated with the holiest of people and incorruptible bodies.
A century and more passed, and in 1279, an excavation of a crypt under St Maximin in France, Charles II, The Count of Province, discovered a sarcophagus made of marble, which upon opening smelled distinctly perfumed which the Count believed may have been something similar to the perfume Mary Magdalene had anointed the feet of Jesus with.
The skeletal remains were missing the lower leg bones and the jaw, and were found with a note on papyrus which read:
The year of the birth of the Lord 710, the sixth day of December, at night and very secretly, under the reign of the very pious Eudes, king of the Franks, during the time of the ravages of the treacherous nation of the Saracens, the body of the dear and venerable St. Mary Magdalene was, for fear of the said treacherous nation, moved from her alabaster tomb to the marble tomb, after having removed the body of Sidonius, because it was more hidden.
To honour his great find, Charles II built the Basilica; “Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume”, in place of the old church. The relics of Saint Mary, including her jawbone, which had been venerated in Rome for the previous Millennia, and returned by Pope Boniface VIII, were put on display in a unique gold reliquary
Every year, on Sunday closest to the 22nd of July, Saint Mary Magdalene’s remains, affixed with a gold mask upon the reliquary, are carried around the town to celebrate her life and her sacrifices to Jesus.
Another Holy Relic of Saint Mary Magdalene is one of her teeth, displayed in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art