Saint Mary Magdalene, artwork by Marcie Bircher
Feast of St. Mary Magdalene is July 22nd.
“If I were pressed to say why I love him,” Montaigne wrote of his deceased friend Etienne de Boetie, “I feel my only reply could be, ‘Because it was he, because it was I.’” Friendship, real friendship, in other words, is the blurring of two souls into one where it was thought two had been. No price exacted. No interest paid.
Friendship is the linking of stories. It is a spiritual act, not a social one. It is the finding of the remainder of the self. It is knowing a person before you even meet them. I am not so sure, then, that we so much find a friend as it is that friendship, the deathless search of the soul for itself, finds us. Then the memory of Mary Magdalene becomes clear, becomes the bellwether of the real relationship.
Mary Magdalene is the woman whom scripture calls by name in a time when women were seldom named in public documents at all. She is, in fact, named fourteen times—more than any other woman in the New Testament except Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, herself. She is clearly a very important, and apparently a very wealthy woman. Most of all, she understood who Jesus was long before anyone else did and she supported him in his wild, free ranging, revolutionary approach to life and state and synagogue. She was, it seems, the leader of a group of women who “supported Jesus out of their own resources.” And she never left his side for the rest of his life.
She was there at the beginning of the ministry. And she was there at the end. She was there when they were following him in cheering throngs. And she was there when they were taking his entire life, dashing it against the stone of synagogue and state, turning on him, jeering at him, shouting for his death, standing by while soldiers poked and prodded him to ignominy. She tended his grave and shouted his dying glory and clung to his soul. She knew him and she did not flinch from the knowing.
The Magdalene factor in friendship is the ability to know everything there is to know about a person, to celebrate their fortunes, to weather their straits, to chance their enemies, to accompany them in their pain and to be faithful to the end, whatever its glory, whatever its grief. The Magdalene factor is intimacy, that unshakeable immersion in the life of the other to the peak of ecstasy, to the depths of hell.
—from The Friendship of Women by Joan Chittister, icon by Marcie Bircher (BlueBridge)