What would Jesus think of this image of his friend being portrayed like this today? She was a Disciple and Apostle of Christ. I represented her in priestly robes, with crosses on her omophorion. But who defines Mary Magdalene as the mystic, apostle and disciple? They did not give her any priestly rank because she was a woman in a Jewish society. As women find their voices in society, mysterious Mary Magdalene is being embraced by spiritual women. To expand our gender bias, we have to go further and risk the closed minds some may have in protecting what authorities have said can never change. I posted the Mary Magdalene icon below on several Orthodox Facebook sites and received a storm of criticism. What follows are some chief points and conservative attitudes concerning who was this mysterious Mary Magdalene.
The icon in question has a quote written on a scroll from the Mary Magdalene Gospel. It says, “All that is born, all that is created, all of nature are interwoven, and united in one another.”
UNTIL YOUR “PAINTING”, I HAVE NEVER SEEN HER REPRESENTED AS A BISHOP OF THE CHURCH
The Orthodox COMMENT: St Mary Magdalene was indeed “sent” by the Lord to proclaim His resurrection. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent”. Our Lord sent the 12 Apostles, so too St Mary is sent to proclaim the resurrection to the Apostles. The Church called her: “apostle to the Apostles” and styled her without authority. Because of her “apostolic” zeal. Proclaiming the resurrection to the Apostles, the Church has given her the title of “EQUAL to the Apostles,” but not “Apostle.”
Mary Jane The Church stylized her as the apostle Equal to the Apostles. Her zeal is obvious from the biblical text, she had no fear of Death. Going to the tomb to look for her beloved teacher is dedication. She needs to be recognized as an authority, a mystic, healer, and teacher (even if only for women).
The Orthodox COMMENT: The omophorion you have here is the Bishop’s vestment that symbolizes the male pastoral duties as their chief shepherd. The 12 Apostles became bishops of the Church. St. Mary Magdalene was not a bishop, nor, as far as we know, did she have any pastoral oversight of any Christian community of her time?
Mary Jane, I am not sure about all apostles becoming bishops read more And I am not sure women had no pastoral oversight of any Christian community. My question is, could they could have sent her as an Apostle to proclaim the Gospel and baptize nations before the organized church authorities took away her role and voice? I want Orthodox believers to explain where this word game leaves women? Will we ever have a place at the table or will be forever unmentioned, unnamed servants?
The Orthodox COMMENT: Her hand position in this icon suggests priestly blessing. This isn’t under the tradition and teachings of the Church.
Mary Jane Lots of saints depicted in icons use this hand position and sometimes with inaccuracy. However, it brings to light the teaching that we are followers of Jesus Christ and have the right and privilege to perform a priestly blessing upon anyone. I think the discussion over the icon triggered an important discussion. The issue of women still do not having a place in the church. We must, as followers, calibrate the teachings of Christ and recognize the gender bias is no longer appropriate for the era we live in, for either gender. Biblical history is a manual for formatting our society. It may be Gods word but it humanities interpretation of the word that is inflexible. When this happens we cease to grow in the message of love, tolerance, and forgiveness.
MORE DEBATE ABOUT MARY MAGDALENE
The Orthodox COMMENT: Canons are rather specific about how Mary Magdalene is to be portrayed; your portrayal of Mary Magdalene has nothing canonical for iconography. It is a fantasy. Mary Jane Miller must have followed the advice of theologian and cleric who blessed her imagination. The canons do not need to be reopened. We do not need to retrofit our images to fit our own imagination, vanity, and choices. Mary Jane, you suggest we open our minds? Please Open the scriptures and Holy Tradition.
Mary Jane Can you open yourselves to the idea we know very little about Mary Magdalene? She is refereed to as the apostle to the Apostles. How many icons of Mary that are not canonical? I welcome in the comment section for someone to tell us the written canon about Mary Magdalene iconography? Would you prefer these images? Does it include a red egg, pearls, a pentagon, long hair, finger position, flower, and /or scull. These attributes are frequently used, but only in the past 40 years. I suggest other than the spice jar their addition is contemporary interpretation and not canonical. According to the icon police, these attributes have absolutely nothing to do with canonical iconography. I can see a spice jar as the one attribute consistent with scripture.
Iconographers around the world base their work on non-canonical texts and images. Look at all the icons of saints whose names we cannot pronounce or identify clearly. The worldwide web has corrupted iconography styles and influenced interpretations of church art and its message. This is not a tragedy, it is growth.
The orthodox tradition is not art, they base it on prayer and spirit and inspired mind. Look at the canonical icon of St Luke the Evangelist painting Mary. Its inspiration, beauty, and interpretation cannot be controlled.
Women have taken up the art form, discipline, and practice as individuals and teachers. 1,500 years ago this could not have been allowed. This I believe is a good thing. They are keeping the tradition alive, but it is indeed changing. New contemporary iconic expression is changing the tradition. We need an open mind, a loving heart, and less judgment to preserve the beauty of Jesus’ teaching.
Her book, In Light of Women: One Woman’s journey with Icons by Mary Jane Miller https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/mary-jane-miller/in-light-of-women/paperback/product-1rv4q95m.html?page=1&pageSize=4