Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mary Magdalene

It's still the 22nd day of July (New Calendar), not too late to post something about Mary Magdalene, whose feast-day is today, even though it is already after sunset. I think it's worth remembering. Mary of Magdala is an ‘isapostolos,’ that is, ‘equal-to-the-apostles’, and well should she be called, since she is the first witness of the Resurrection. This post was originally written and published with the title The origins of the Church at Rome.

Shortly after the ascension of our Lord and after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Mary Magdalene received the strong desire to go to Rome to expose the unjust actions of the Governor Pilate and the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas. She obtained permission from the Theotokos [the Mother of Jesus] and booked a sailing vessel for Rome. Once in Rome she went immediately to the palace of Caesar. There she was initially refused but as she was about to depart up came a high ranking official Puplius who was very familiar with the situation. He showed her a letter that he wrote to Caesar.
In part it read,

‘The truth be told, there are some astonishing things concerning this Christ. Miracles abound. He raises the dead and heals the sick with but a word. He is a man of average height, handsome of countenance with an air of majesty. Those that encounter him are enjoined either to love him or fear him. His hair is the color of walnut, which extends to his shoulders and glistens. He belongs to the group known as Nazarenes. His forehead is smooth and calm. His face is without wrinkles or blemishes. His nose and lips are regular. His beard is dense and the same color as his hair. It is not long, but it separates in two at the middle. He has a serious look that can excite fear. He possesses a power like a ray of the sun...

‘His manner of addressing is pleasing...

‘He often walks barefooted and without a head covering. Some laugh at him, while others tremble in his presence from their astonishment. He never preaches anything to promote himself in the world...

‘This Christ has never urged anyone to do anything displeasing, but rather he exhorts the people to perform good deeds…’

His knowledge of the situation led Mary to tears. He told her that Caesar had received his letter and that even Caesar respected Jesus.

After hearing Mary’s plea for justice in this matter Puplius committed to have Caesar to issue an order to call Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas to Rome for a trial. He asked her to give him two months to recall them. Mary thanked him and took up residence in Rome establishing the first house church there where they gathered almost every night praying and discoursing.

Three months after her first arrival the trial was set to begin. It was known that Caesar was incensed with the three who had been recalled because they killed a wonderful man who worked many miracles to benefit the people. As the trial began Mary appeared marvelous as she walked in the midst of the court toward the autocrat. She was clad in a brown tunic, with a leather belt. She wore a long orange-colored veil the inner kerchief was a deep orange. Her whole appearance created a marvelous impression.

Orthodox tradition and iconography also maintains that when Saint Mary appeared before Tiberius Caesar Augustus, she presented him with an egg dyed red, greeting him with the words: Christ is risen! This is a custom that has since spread among Orthodox Christians throughout the world. The prayer read at the blessing of the eggs says near the end, ‘Thus have we received from the holy fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy apostles; therefore the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering.’

The trial proceeded and Mary clearly explained how Pilate had conducted the trial in Jerusalem against Jesus Christ. On hearing the case Caesar said, ‘Those who are guilty will be punished.’ Caesar asked for advice from his counsel Claudius who confirmed that he [Pilate ] ‘acted not only in an irregular manner but even unlawfully by condemning to death this man whom he found no reason in our penal code that deserved death.’

Mary then gave further testimony about the tortures that took place. She said, ‘When they arrested my Teacher in the garden on the mount of Olives, they brought him bound to Annas, and then to Caiaphas... They thrashed Jesus pitilessly and inhumanely throughout His holy body. They brought him to the Praetorium, to the Roman Governor Pilate…’

She continued,
The instruments of torture, O Caesar, they used to scourge my Teacher was a bull-whip, rods with knots, and ropes with iron stars and hooks positioned at a short distance from each other. These lacerated His flesh to the bones. Sixty soldiers struck again and again. The virginal and noble flesh of the God-Man was shred to pieces… when they saw His bones and blood running like a river from His veins, they were rejoicing and laughing among themselves with inexplicable satisfaction... The executioners were as dogs, bulls, tigers, and wild animals.’

And she went describing the horrible treatment He had received. As she finished, the crowd at the trial began to chant, ‘Death! Death to the god-slayers! Death!’

Caiaphas never made it to the trial as he died on the trip to Rome. Tiberius Caesar sentenced Annas to a tortuous death and imprisoned Pilate who was eventually killed. Mary Magdalene remained in Rome for several years until the death of Pilate. She then returned to Jerusalem after having established an energetic church in Rome.

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