Happy feast of St. Mary Magdalen!
Known as the Apostle to the Apostles for her role in bearing the news of Jesus’ Resurrection, St. Mary Magdalen is a patroness of the Order of Preachers. As we ponder her story today through the readings at Holy Mass and in the Divine Office, we see her also as a model for us Dominican Nuns in persevering in our vocation to “Seek God,” and for those young women who are seeking His will for their lives.
Upon my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.
“I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.” I sought him, but found him not.
The watchmen found me, as they went about in the city.
“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house,
and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
Song of Solomon 3:1-4 (First Option for the First Reading at Mass)
First St. Mary Magdalen sought the Lord. In the Gospel reading, St. John says that she “came to the tomb early, while it was still dark.” After running to inform the disciples, Mary follows them back to the tomb; but after they leave, she remains. If she had sought, but not remained; or remained where she was without seeking, she could never have encountered the Lord, Who invites us to encounter Him through our very desires.
In the Second Lesson from the Office of Readings, Pope St. Gregory the Great ponders the Gospel passage (John 20:1-18):
We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.
Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.
Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.
Jesus calls each of us by name.
He calls each of us nuns to continue to seek Him in every aspect of our Dominican monastic vocation. There is a wonderful sentence in our Constitutions which begins by saying, “The nuns seek God . . . ” and continues by listing all areas of our monastic vocation: “. . . by observing the norms of the purely contemplative life, by maintaining their withdrawal from the world by enclosure and silence, by working diligently, studying the truth eagerly, searching the scriptures with ardent heart, praying intently, willingly practicing penance, pursuing communion through their manner of government, in purity of conscience and the joy of sisterly concord, ‘in freedom of spirit.” We know He desires to fulfill all the desires of our heart: in the words of the Psalm, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires”—Himself.
For those young women who are seeking God’s will and growing in their desire to live for Him, we encourage you to ask St. Mary Magdalen to pray for you today. May she encourage you to persevere in seeking the Lord, and obtain for you that encounter with Jesus Who desires to be both your Teacher and your Beloved.
(Could you be called to seek Him in the contemplative life at the heart of the Holy Preaching of the Dominican Order? Contact our Vocation Directress.)
It seems fitting to conclude with today’s Magnificat antiphon, chanted at Vespers, the text of which is a prayer to St. Mary Magdalen.
O lamp of the world, and bright-shining pearl,
who by announcing the Resurrection of Christ,
didst merit to become the Apostle of the Apostles!
Mary Magdalen, of thy kindness stand thou ever before God, Who chose thee,
to entreat Him for us.