On recent trips to Greece to study ancient Byzantine icon paintings, I was inspired to Paint one of my favorite modern icon paintings, Mary Magdalene Gospel and St. Andrew. Here is why:
GOSPEL of MARY TEXT
After Mary had said these things, she was silent, since it was up to this point that the Savior had spoken to her.
Andrew responded, addressing the brothers and sisters, “Say what you will about the things she has said, but I do not believe that the Savior said these things, for indeed these teachings are strange ideas.”
Peter responded questioning them about the Savior: “Did he, then, speak with a woman in private without our knowing about it? Are we to turn around and listen to her? Did he choose her over us?”
Levi answered, “Peter, you have always been a wrathful person. Now I see you contending against the woman like the Adversaries. For if the Savior made her worthy, who are you then for your part to reject her? Assuredly the Savior’s knowledge of her is completely reliable. That is why he loved her more than us.
“Rather we should be ashamed. We should clothe ourselves with the perfect Human, acquire it for ourselves as he commanded us, and announce the good news, not laying down any other rule or law that differs from what the Savior said.”
This new icon painting was inspired by the Mary Magdalene Gospel and St Andrew above.
Mary Magdalene has just come from the empty tomb somewhat confused but altogether excited having spoken with Jesus. She discovers the disciples have only questions and when she answers they are suspicious of what she has understood. Notice, after Mary had said these things, she was silent. Andrew, Levi and Peter are filled with doubt and unable to listen intently to Mary, the one he loved more than us.
In the icon painting of Peter and Andrew, the fishermen, represent orthodox positions which deny the validity of esoteric revelation (the gospel of Mary found in Egypt) and reject the authority of women to teach.
Peter, Andrew and Levi
The tax collector Levi acknowledge she is the Savior’s beloved, but cannot command any knowledge or teaching superior their own. Elaine Pagels, a religious scholar has argued that the controversy here among disciples reflects the tensions and conflicts in ideology as the new church was forming. Andrew, Peter and Levi represent a soon to be male only discipleship. The prophetic revelations, spiritual gifts, visions and/or divine inspiration of women were in large part rendered silent.
Sadly ,…after Mary had said these things, she was silent, in part women have chosen not to speak, many voices of women have been banished, suppressed, reprimanded, diminished, forgotten,rejected, etc. They do not want to fight to be heard, demand their say or manipulate to get their way. They want to be understood and it is often simply easier to be silent.
In the icon Mary has a rolled up scroll, indicating her yet unheard gospel; Levi has an empty open scroll indicating what text has yet to be chosen. The icon evokes the vision of new positions women will have in the hierarchy and theological discussions of the church. I hope the image provokes some curiosity as to what will be written on the scroll Mary holds. Peter is there with bound feet, incense and a small red box for the collection, he represents the established church. Andrew stands at the side with his hands crossed over his heart as if holding on to himself, he a sensitive man seeing the jealous reaction of his companions. St Andrew perhaps became a friend to Mary Magdalene. New Book that tells more.