Gender and Sexuality: Week 2
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Today I’ll offer a glimpse into Cynthia Bourgeault’s deep study of Mary Magdalene. Cynthia draws from the unfortunately named “Gnostic” gospels of Mary, Thomas, and Philip. Even though these texts are not part of the biblical canon, I believe they offer wisdom deeper than the merely factual level. I encourage you to read Cynthia’s book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity—with an open mind and heart—to discover even more about this woman.
I’d like to reclaim Mary Magdalene as an apostolic partner of Jesus, as one who ministered in a tradition that was not just about male/female equality. Certainly it was about that, and Jesus was way out in front of the pack; equality was the starting point for everything else. But Mary and Jesus took it a step further, including and transcending the opposites and birthing a new form of person who lived, ministered, and saw out of a new and nondual consciousness. Mary can help us recover Jesus’ teaching and live in holographic unity, the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
In the simplified version of the [Christian] story . . . [these are the] tenets: Jesus came to earth to found a religion called Christianity, called his male-only disciples to be its apostles and priests, and gave them the sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The obvious anomalies are overlooked—why Mary Magdalene, who was specifically given the first apostolic charge by Jesus himself to announce the news of his resurrection, was not included among the apostles, and why Paul, who was not at the Last Supper and never met Jesus in his earthly life, was. But such is the power of blinders.
While [Mary Magdalene] has often been sentimentalized or sexualized, there has not until recently been the slightest threat of her being divinized, and her intact humanness is her saving grace. Now that a new generation of Bible scholarship has corrected the glaring inaccuracy of her earlier portrayal as a prostitute and is steadily laying the groundwork by which she will sooner or later be able to fully reclaim her role as Jesus’ spiritual partner and [wisdom] lineage bearer, what presents itself to us is an accessible and entirely believable portrait of “one who got there.”
Applying the teachings that Jesus showed her, [Mary] did her inner work and emerged through the eye of the needle into singleness. If Jesus shows us what the completed human being looks like in male form, she models it for us in its female version; together they become the Christosophia, the androgynous archetype of human wholeness. And because her human heart and lover’s passion are so central to this transformation, she teaches us that we need not be afraid of these things in our own spiritual striving; the path to the fullness of being lies through human intimacy, not away from it. She binds the icon of the human heart to the angel of Holy Sophia.
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Shambhala: 2010), 32, 179-180; and
God As Us, disc 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2011), DVD, CD, MP3 download.