Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Pssst. C'mere. I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. I've always had a theory about Mary Magdalene that isn't exactly orthodox. Now, we're not talking Da Vinci Code stuff, here, and we're not talking the view that arose from the medieval Church that she was a loose woman, or any of that stuff. My theory is totally different. That's why I used a very "plain" representation of her in my post.

My theory is based on a quote by one of my all-time heroines, Katharine Hepburn:

"Plain women know more about men than beautiful ones do. But beautiful women don't need to know about men."

I've always wondered if maybe, JUST MAYBE, Mary Magdalene wasn't a very ordinary, understated, "plain" woman--maybe even a little "butch" looking by the standards of the day--who always enjoyed "hanging out with the guys" more than she did "hanging out with the gals." I say that because women in that category seem to be able to generate a special sort of loyalty and empathy for their male friends that is unique. I say that because all my years of working in a "man's world" and spending countless hours of my life on golf courses with guys for 4.5 hours at a pop has taught me a lot about that.

I mean, think about it. The culture of the day would not have handled a woman like that very well. Women were pretty segregated beings in society in New Testament days. There was an awful lot to do to keep a household running. Women and men really didn't get to know or understand each other much, unless by sheer personality match, a couple really learned to bond. The life expectancy of the day didn't leave nearly as many years to do that.

It would have been very easy to dump a woman like Mary Magdalene into the urban legend that the Church pinned on her, as a "fallen woman" because maybe, back in those days, the bulk of women who really got a chance to understand men, in that "working in a man's world way", WERE women in the sex trade. It wouldn't have been conceivable for a woman to psychologically "get it" any other way in the minds of most people.

So, for years, in my mind's eye, I have often thought about Mary Magdalene. I don't think there was anyone more loyal to Jesus--or to the rest of the disciples, for that matter. She had to be tough, to endure "life on the road." I doubt she got much "special treatment." It always seemed to me in the Gospels that the "boys in the band" kind of gave her hell now and then, but they certainly weren't chasing her away, either. I sort of envision there were aspects of how guys treat their sister in that relationship--getting her goat now and then, but sticking up for her when the chips are down.

She is really such an enigma in history--so much so, we've spent a lot of time and killed a lot of trees to figure her out. But what always stuck out for me is her presence seems a lot like how my former associate in the office and I were, or how I am with my golf buddies--a special bond that is hard to explain, because to even start to explain it, one has to admit a tiny sliver of low-level sexual tension, but with the understanding that the only function the sexual tension has is to set the boundaries. Those moments where guys and gals who are good friends in the workplace look at each other askance, and for that brief few seconds think, "What if?" "D'ya think?", then quickly go, "Nah. I wouldn't want to mess this up. It's too good as it is."

But there is a real love that comes out of those relationships that is hard to explain, and did not fit in the boxes of "relationships" in New Testament times, any more than it fits in the boxes of our notions of "relationships" today. We don't give much credit to that kind of love. We almost pretend it doesn't exist.

In that sense, Mary Magdalene has been an iconic figure for me.

When I went to bed last night, I had gotten an e-mail from a friend of mine who has been my friend for over 30 years, although we seldom get a chance to catch up to each other. His daughter describes me as "One of my dad's favorite people in the whole world." He and I were buddies at a time he needed a "soulmate but not a girlfriend." There was tension when he did find the love of his life, and I don't deny having felt some serious loss about that. It meant I had to give up some of my psychological intimacy to someone else. But I could tell this was the "real deal" for him, when he found her, so in the end I had no choice but to cheer him on. As it turned out, it opened a door for his wife and me. She found she could share with me things she might not have shared with other women, and get validation for it. She knew I would always want what was best for both of them.

I think about all those people in our lives, where we'll never "make their obituary." We're not blood kin. We're not "significant others." But we have love for those people that is very real. Sometimes that love lives on the edge of tension, depending what sex one is, what sex they are, and what the sexual orientation of both people are. That love may at times make us look askance at our own motives, or even our own sexual orientation, but in healthy forms of these relationships, we always seem to go, "Nah. We're good. It's good as is."

One of the biggest blessings of my life "as is", is that I have had no shortage of these people--men AND women. It's not that their love--and mine--hasen't given me sleepless moments. That love has made me question a lot of things, staring at the ceiling at 1 a.m. But in the end, I realize they have all taught me the meaning of "Agape"--that business of seeing something beautiful and holy inside of them.

For me, that is who Mary Magdalene represents. She is an icon for me of what the power and the value of "agape" is in our lives with others. I like to think maybe she got the last laugh in this. Maybe that is why I like to think, that in real life, she was this very plain, understated woman, because over the course of history, artist after artist made her physically beautiful. In doing that, perhaps they have rendered the beauty in my own very plain, understated self. Perhaps these artists are rendering the thing I most desire others to see in me. So if she got the last laugh on this, I am definitely laughing alongside of her!


something about beauty in the eye of the beholder?

Yes, a whole other ¨class¨ of that is genuine and free (mostly) of cluttered sexual motives and trustworthy...earned or a given?

"Earned or given"--what a wonderful question! In my mind, some of both. "Given," in the sense that I really think this is what our Baptismal Covenant is about. "Earned," in that the number of people who can "see" this form of love are few and far between, both in the giving and the receiving.

The part I have had to learn myself in it, is the willingness to let go when letting go is right. I think about this with each class of my medical students. There will be about five or six in each class, that I truly grow to love. But then I have to let them go off on their rotations. But in almost 20 years of that, I still feel a lot of love there, as they go off to their careers!

All i can say is wow. This resonates with me -- bigtime. Thanks.


I relate to this too. I've always enjoyed working with men more than women; And also, i'm fairly in touch with "my masculine side" as they say. Anyway, I love the picture of Mary Magdalene you paint here.

Oh this really is good. It says so many things and it says them all so very well.

As someone often accused of being "too bossy" (read - too much like a guy) I relate!

Mary Magdalene has been made into so many things by so many people over the centuries, but today you have hit on something quite remarkable. Thank you!

And I loved Leonardo's question too- earned or given. That could be a blogpost all its own. Start writing Kirkepsicatoid!

Well, and look at our friends in the blogosphere we've never met. Double dog dare you to say you don't love 'em, Fran. You know as well as I can, we can't do it. We DO love them. Big ol' fat weird love.

I think about meeting Robert at the airport, first time I ever laid eyes on him. First ten seconds; dropped my bags and hugged the living crap out of him. If that ain't love, what is?

Interesting insight, Kirk. Several insights, actually. Thanks for this great post.

Hmmmmm . . . Three Marys - one a virgin, one a whore and one who 'chose the better portion'. I'm thinking none of them were completely accurate. More like male fantasy. Your portrait of this Mary makes more sense than the one we've been given in scripture.

Well, I have just always thought there is a whole lot more to Mary M. than we've been led to believe--and what she has led to me to believe is all those forms of love that honor our Baptismal Covenant that do not fit neatly into little boxes are very real, and need to be honored in their own ways.

I find myself time and time again struggling with "loving my neighbor as myself." It means I have to love people "the best I can, with what I have to work with." This is NOT easy for such a simple commandment! Love means leaving room for the impossible. Love means never shutting the door on the improbable. Love means maybe changing over to a way of thinking that seems so "not likely" knowing yourself the way you do. Love means "letting go when it's time." This is not the stuff pop culture love even acknowledges. This is "scary love." Whoa!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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