O lamp of the world and shining pearl,
you were worthy to become the Apostle to the apostles
by announcing the resurrection of Christ:
O Mary Magdalen, be for us always a holy intercessor with God who chose you.
“Sing we now the praise of Mary!”
Today the Church Universal observes the feast of St. Mary Magdalen, and in its own celebrations the Order of Preachers honors one of its patronesses. For centuries, Dominicans have revered the Magdalen as an icon of preaching and a model of penitence. Accordingly, her feast is described in the Dominican Ordo as follows:
Mary Magdalen, who was healed by the Lord Jesus, followed him with great love and ministered to him (Luke 8:3). Later when the disciples fled, Mary Madgalen stood at the cross with the Mother of the Lord, John and some of the women (John 19:25). On Easter morning Jesus appeared to her and sent her to announce the news of his resurrection to the disciples (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18).
Her cult spread throughout the western Church, especially in the eleventh century, and flourished in the Order of Preachers. As Humbert of Romans attests: “After Magdalen was converted to penitence the Lord bestowed such great grace upon her tha tafter the Blessed Virgin no woman could be found to whom greater reverence should be shown in this world and greater glory in heaven.”
The Order of Preachers numbers her among its patrons. Its brothers and sisters of every age have honored her as the “Apostle to the Apostles”—for thus is she celebrated in the Byzantine liturgy—and have compared the mission of the Magdalen in announcing the resurrection to their own mission.
The Church’s musical treasury contains many beautiful hymns to the Magdalen. The following text was written by Philip the Chancellor (+1236) and published in the 14th-century Sarum Breviary. The English translation below was prepared by Fr. Becket Soule, OP. It can be sung to the familiar Pange lingua tune (or to any Long Meter melody).
PANGE LINGUA MAGDALENAE
Sing, we now the praise of Mary,
All her tears, her joy, her love;
High in laud we raise our voices,
While our hearts accordant move;
So the nightingale descanteth
Sweetly to the plaintive dove.
Nought the number of the feaster,
Seeking Jesus, did she fear;
She her Master’s feet anointed,
Washed them with her falling tear,
Wiped them with her tresses, gaining
Pardon through her love sincere.
Lo, the cleansed doth wash the Cleanser,
Stream to Fountain floweth fain;
Balm that from the flow’r distilleth,
Fragrance sheds on flower again;
And the dew from earth ascendeth
To the heav’n that gave the rain.
Spikenard in the alabaster
Is her off’ring pure and rare;
She, in pouring of the ointment,
Doth a mystic sign declare;
Sick, anointeth her Physician,
To receive his healing care.
Gazed the Lord with special favor
Down on Mary tenderly;
Much she loves; her sins, though many,
Have forgiveness full and free;
On the Resurrection morning
She shall Jesus’ herald be.
Glory be to God, and honor,
Who the Paschal victim gave,
Lamb in death, in fight a lion,
On the third day from the grave
Carrying the spoils of Hades
Rose again mankind to save. Amen.
The Dominican friars of the Toulouse Province have custody of the Grotto of St. Mary Magdalen, known as La Sainte Baume, where tradition has it the Magdalen spent the last thirty years of her life. Click here for the shrine’s homepage.
After the break you will find another of Philip’s hymns, and also several depictions of Mary Magdalen in classical art. Enjoy, and please continue to ask the Magdalen’s intercession for the Order of Preachers!
your only begotten Son
entrusted the joyful news of his resurrection
to Mary Magdalen before all others;
by her prayers and example,
grant, we beseech you,
that we may proclaim the living Christ
and may see him reigning in glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Also taken from the Sarum Breviary, the following hymn ponders the interior mysteries revealed in Mary’s encounter with the Risen Christ. This too is Fr. Soule’s translation. The meter is 87.87.87, which fits the familiar “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent.”
As the gardener Christ addressing,
Well and rightly she believed:
He, the Sower, gave his blessing
To the seed her heart received:
Not as first his form confessing,
Soon his voice her soul perceived.
She beheld, as yet not knowing,
In the mystical disguise,
Christ, that in her breast was sowing
Deep and heav’nly mysteries:
Till his voice, her name bestowing,
Bade her hear and recognize.
She to Jesus, “Jesus,” weepeth,
Of her Lord removed complains;
Jesus in her breast she keepeth;
Jesus seeks, yet still retains:
He that soweth, he that reapeth
All her heart, unknown remains.
Why, kind Jesus, why thus hiding,
When thyself though wouldest reveal?
Why, in Mary’s breast abiding,
From her love thyself conceal?
Why, true Light, in her residing,
Can she not its radiance feel?
O how strangely thou eludest
Souls that on thee have believed!
But eluding, ne’er deludest,
Nor deceiving, nor deceived;
But including, still excludest;
Fully known, yet not perceived.
Glory be to thee, and honor,
Hope and life, the soul’s true Light:
Through whom who so e’er believeth
Stands redeemed from death’s dark might;
Grant that in the rolls of heaven
Mary’s tears our names may write.