Iconography is more than an exercise in artistic creativity. It is an exercise in our need for contemplation to bring about a new understanding of who Mary Magdalene is. The next workshop in Atalanta we will be writing Mary Magdalene. Image below. The canons of the Eastern Church tell us that new icons should be based on older icons when possible. In developing an icon of Mary Magdalene Apostle to the Apostles, we first study existing iconography. Contemporary Byzantine icons should always be informed by the ancient images, historical information, and traditions associated with the saint.
Whatever the color of her robe you will be hard-pressed to find an abundance of ancient depictions of this woman. This new icon is intended to visually bring to light part of her story.
In historic icons of Mary Magdalene, she is pictured with Christ in the garden after the resurrection. She is often shown in a green or reddish-brown robe on her knees before the Lord. Guidelines for her garments outlined in An Icon Painter’s Notebook: The Bolshakov Edition, Russian source materials from the 16th -17th century say, “Mary Magdalene has a green cloak, an ocher tunic.
Her hairstyle varies in the old icons. In some images, her hair is covered with a snood, typical of female saints icons. In other images, however, her hair is long and loose, uncommon for icons of women. In Byzantine iconography a woman’s hair is usually covered with a snood as a sign of respect; uncovered hair is considered disrespectful.
When we see Mary standing as an individual she sometimes carries a cross in left hand. Why would Mary hold a cross if it is a symbol of Martyrdom? Yet, we have no evidence she was ever martyred. A jar, flask, or white container is also frequently seen to remind us of the myrrh she carries to the tomb.
Legends about Mary Magdalene
Details of Mary Magdalene’s life and the exact nature of her relationship to Jesus have been lost in history. Many legends have risen about her. One legend that has risen is that Mary Magdalene and Jesus married and had children who became the forerunners of some of the European royal houses. This legend has been rejected because there is no foundation for it. (fictional work The DaVinci Code)
A widely accepted myth in the Roman Catholic Church, is that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Its origin has been traced back to the 6th-century Roman pontiff Pope Gregory the Great’s sermon in 594 naming the woman who came to wash the feet of Jesus as the prostitute named Mary in 1969 the Catholic church retracted this teaching but is still stuck in their minds to the day.
The sexy hair of Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles
An incident from Scripture that occurred at Bethany shortly before Jesus’ death, an incident scholars ascribe to Mary Magdalene. All four Gospels (Matt 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, John 12:1-8) tell us that Jesus was at supper with friends. A woman was bathing his feet with her tears, anointing them with costly oil, and drying them with her hair. When the apostles criticized the extravagance of this action, Jesus reprimanded them, telling them that this anointing was in preparation for his death and that what she had done should be told in remembrance of her.
The long flowing hair of this woman is irrelevant, The great love she had for Him and the courage to show Him is a more important aspect of the story.
In the Western artwork of the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene is provocatively dressed in orange, weeping profusely as a penitent sinful lustful woman, and on her knees. The Eastern Orthodox Church has always held St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles in high respect. Her iconography in the eastern churches is not that of a prostitute, and there is no evidence that her revealed hair was any indication of disrespect.
Two of the Gospels tells us that she and other women went to the tomb early in the morning after the Sabbath to anoint the body of Jesus with spices. We call them the seven myrrh-bearing women. They discovered the empty tomb. In Byzantine images, when Mary Magdalene or any woman is holding a container it is generally thought of as being for the anointing of the dead, specifically Jesus. All four Gospels identify Mary by name as the first witness to the resurrection. It was she who first saw the risen Lord. One of the gospels tells us after the resurrection she is specifically told by Jesus to go and tell the other apostles that He is risen—hence her title, Apostle to the Apostles.
It is an ancient title for her, recognized by all the Christian churches in both the East and the West. In the time of Jesus, women did not go anywhere alone. When these seven women went to the tomb together it stands to reason Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles would not have been the only one sent by Jesus. All of them in earshot of His command would have been called and sent as Apostles to the Apostles.
Mary Magdalene Apostle to the Apostles, pray for us who paint this image in remembrance of you!
WORKSHOP ATLANTA, GEORGIA
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church
October 23th to October 27th, 2023 Monday 9 am till Friday at 3 pm
480.00 USD Information contact Rev Bill Murray firstname.lastname@example.org