I don’t know what images come to mind when you think of Mary Magdalene: perhaps it is the red hair she is often depicted with in works of art, perhaps it is a picture of a deeply fallen woman, for the early church, without a scrap of evidence, chose to write some fairly sordid details into their account of Mary’s life. Or just maybe your mental image is of a small group of women, including Mary Magdalene, standing loyally at the foot of the cross, or perhaps you have some vague and fuzzy image of Mary on that first Easter morning? Or, if you don’t really have an image of Mary Magdalene, perhaps you have a word that you would associate with her. If I was to say Mary Magdalene, I wonder what would be your spontaneous response?
I think that if I were to give a one-word response it would be this: adoration. Mary Magdalene, for me, stands apart from the other apostles – for she has been described as ‘The Apostle to the Apostles’ – and disciples because she dared to adore Jesus, for his own sake. For sure, the other apostles may have liked and even loved Jesus, but it always seems to me that they did so with some element of ulterior motive. James and John sought preferment, wanting to sit at His left and right hand in heaven. Peter wanted Jesus to be his uniquely best friend - he was extremely jealous of the beloved disciple, John. Simon the Zealot’s primary reason for liking Jesus was that he thought that he was the man to get rid of those despised Romans. I could go on.
Mary Magdalene, however, simply adored Jesus and I believe that today – as a member of the Communion of Saints – she is imploring us to make sure that we spend time in adoration. Mary Magdalene reminds us that adoration should be our first response to the name of Jesus. We should, as part of our daily pattern of prayer, make sure that we spend some time in adoration. In fact, one model of prayer, the so-called ACTS model, suggests that adoration should precede contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Adoration should be our primal Christian instinct.
Intellectually and liturgically, I suspect that we already know this to be true: think of the pattern of Eucharistic worship where the Gloria (though not in the Book of Common Prayer) comes close to the beginning of the service. Or what about the greatest and most welcoming of Christmas carols, O Come all you Faithful, which rightly insists that our response to the birth of the Christ-Child should be to ‘come let us adore Him.’
But why is adoration so important, and why might Mary Magdalene be beckoning us today into ever deeper lives of adoration? Well, one reason may be that adoration takes us out of ourselves and the immediate and perhaps smallness of our world and towards God. Adoration gives us a bigger view of things - not simply a changed world view but a cosmic and eternal view. Another reason might be that it is through adoration that the dots get joined up. Adoration invites us to give thanks for the redemptive work of God as we have experienced it in our lives, whilst also looking forward in faith, hope and love to a better future.
When we look on Jesus with adoration, like Mary Magdalene, we are changed - we start to grow into the absolute best selves we can be. Adoration is all about coming to God, coming to Jesus, with a grateful heart, so, in the words of that great hymn Love Divine, we might be ‘changed from glory into glory, ‘til in heaven we see His face.’
So my encouragement to all of us, inspired by Mary Magdalene, is simply this: let’s make sure that each and every day, we spend just a little time in adoration, in that sacred space where we find ourselves ‘lost in wonder, love and praise,’ so that, like Mary Magdalene, we may find ourselves truly found, Amen.