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Recently I watched a documentary on art, specifically the evolution of Mary Magdalene in the human imagination. She is a woman who doesn’t even exist.

Don’t get me wrong here, she is briefly mentioned 4 times in the bible, and I feel certain she is very important to the story and quite real. It is just that 99% of what we think we know about Mary is completely made up, figments of our imagination, our misunderstandings,  and our projections.

How like us humans to simply project ourselves onto others, define them through our own dysfunction,  and then make up a totally imaginary character…… who still falls short and fails to live up to our expectations. 

Mary Magdalene as we know her, is a woman who doesn’t even exist, and yet she has had a powerful impact on us, shaped our culture and our faith for a few thousand years.

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She has been painted and sculpted, objectified and sexualized, portrayed as both the bold harlot and the repenting sinner. What fascinates me is some of the paintings of her pregnant, perhaps not in a literal sense, but offered to us as symbolism, as a metaphor or an allegory. She is pregnant, but with what?? What is she about to give birth to??

I rather like the idea that she is the essence of the church, the spirit of the church, a kind of barometer so to speak, that reflects what is going on within us as a people. Mary Magdalene in our art, in our imagination, is a reflection of who we are, of what we see in ourselves…….projected onto this woman we know almost nothing about.

She is the  Lady in Red who doesn’t even exist.

I’m rather enchanted by the invisible woman, by her superpowers of non existence, by her grace, and by the gift of acceptance she has granted us all. Had you painted me half naked for hundreds of years, lusted after me, forced me to then be repentant for your own transgressions, I would likely come marching down here with a flaming sword to just lop some people’s ears off.

Mary Magdalene however, just rests there in that state of grace, granting us the gift of acceptance, and waiting patiently to see what we will give birth to next.

underwater photo of a woman

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