2020 Feast of Saint Mary of Magdala Celebration

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In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, FutureChurch hosted a virtual liturgy on the Feast Day of Saint Mary of Magdala on Wednesday, July 22nd, bringing more than 500 members of the FutureChurch community around the globe together for a beautiful evening of prayer, reflection, and song. Our celebration consisted of a Liturgy of the Word, inspired preaching from Dr. Him Harris, and a bread-breaking service presided over by lay members of the FutureChurch community. . 

Dr. Harris will blessed us with her gifts of song, story-telling, and preaching bringing the Feast Day into conversation with our current global realities of pandemic and outrage over systemic racism and the killing of black women and men.

Dr. Kim R. Harris is Assistant Professor of African American Thought and Practice in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. While pursuing her PhD at Union Seminary in New York City, Harris composed Welcome Table: A Mass of Spirituals, along with composer M. Roger Holland II. She records and travels the nation, performing concerts, lecturing on the music of African American freedom traditions, and leading music in a variety of liturgical settings.




Our modern, western eyes are accustomed to seeing Mary Magdalene portrayed with long, wavy blonde hair grasping Jesus' feet at the crucifixion; or prostrate, washing his feet begging for forgiveness - misrepresented as Luke's "sinner from the city" (7:36-50); or kneeling before the Risen Christ as he tells her “Don’t hold onto me” (John 20:17). These images derive from scripture, but have been modified and sometimes sexualized based on Pope Gregory I's erroneous merging of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and Luke's sinner in his Homily 33 given in 591. Preachers and monks of the 7th - 13th centuries, embellished Gregory's homily into the Medieval, Provençal Legend. This legend claims that Mary Magdalene's enemies set her and her disciples adrift in a rudderless boat that landed in eastern France. This Mary Magdalene, as Gregory I's "model penitent" of legend,  performed miracles, preached salvation through genuine penitence, and finally retired to a cave in Baume for a life of prayer only to be called out by the people to preach to them again. 

Our first Virtual Art Tour concentrated on two themes popular in Medieval public art: "Mary Magdalene - Model Penitent Preacher" and "Mary Magdalene - Exalted Hermit". We will also examine a theme developed only in private art: "Mary Magdalene Proclaimer of the Resurrection".  Dr. Christine Axen drew on her knowledge of the layers of Medieval spiritual life and symbolism to expand our understanding of the complex imagery used to depict Mary Magdalene of the legends. The tour ncreased our understanding of the high status Mary Magdalene attained as a patron of 14th-16th century Penitential communities. It also opened the door to questions for further exploration: What happened? Why was "Mary Magdalene Proclaimer of the Resurrection” shown only in private art? And, How did Mary Magdalene go from distinguished Medieval preacher and revered hermit to Titian's sixteenth century (and other's) nudes?" 

Dr. Christine Axen is a medievalist with a specialization in French religious history and female religiosity in the Middle Ages.  She received her doctorate from Boston University, and currently teaches at Fordham University in New York.  She also gives guided tours of the Met Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is interested in the depiction of women in medieval art, and the messages that art conveys about social order.