22 July: St. Mary Magdalene (and homonymous cookies!)

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.

The 3rd c. writer Hippolytus in his Commentary on Song of Songs identifies Mary Magdalene with both Mary of Bethany the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Luke 10:38-42; John 1:10) and also the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet (Luke 7:36-50)

Mary Magdalene and/or Mary of Bethany are often identified as sinners. Pope Gregory I “the Great” called her a peccatrix, “sinner”. Eventually she came to be called meretrix, “prostitute”.

There is no way to arrive definitively at the identity of the figure of Mary Magdelene. It is possible that Mary Magdalene was none of these women. The Catholic Church has no position about this. Commonly, however, Catholics sometimes identify all three women as the same Mary.

There is also another version, namely that Mary Magdalene was the woman Jesus saved from stoning after being caught in adultery. This is the tradition referenced in Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. Scholars however believe that Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, the woman Jesus rescued, and the woman who anointed His feet are all different women.

We know from Scripture that Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James came to Jesus’ tomb to anoint the body (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2). Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the empty tomb, went to tell Apostles (John 20:1-2). So, she is called “the apostle to the apostles”. At first Mary did not recognize Jesus, but when He said her name, she saw who He was and tried to cling to him. Christ forbade her to touch Him (Noli me tangere John 20:17) saying “I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”

What became of Mary Magdelene? We don’t know for sure. Here is what the old Catholic Encyclopedia says, for what it is worth:

The Greek Church maintains that the saint retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin and there died, that her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are there preserved. Gregory of Tours (De miraculis, I, xxx) supports the statement that she went to Ephesus. However, according to a French tradition (see SAINT LAZARUS OF BETHANY), Mary, Lazarus, and some companions came to Marseilles and converted the whole of Provence. Magdalen is said to have retired to a hill, La Sainte-Baume, near by, where she gave herself up to a life of penance for thirty years. When the time of her death arrived she was carried by angels to Aix and into the oratory of St. Maximinus, where she received the viaticum; her body was then laid in an oratory constructed by St. Maximinus at Villa Lata, afterwards called St. Maximin. History is silent about these relics till 745, when according to the chronicler Sigebert, they were removed to Vézelay through fear of the Saracens. No record is preserved of their return, but in 1279, when Charles II, King of Naples, erected a convent at La Sainte-Baume for the Dominicans, the shrine was found intact, with an inscription stating why they were hidden. In 1600 the relics were placed in a sarcophagus sent by Clement VIII, the head being placed in a separate vessel. In 1814 the church of La Sainte-Baume, wrecked during the Revolution, was restored, and in 1822 the grotto was consecrated afresh. The head of the saint now lies there, where it has lain so long, and where it has been the centre of so many pilgrimages.

 

And let us not forget the cookies called Madeleines of which Marcel Proust wrote so elegantly.

In Patricia Bunning Stevens’ work Rare Bits: Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes we read:

“In culinary lore, Madeleines are always associated with Marcel Proust, whose autobiographical novel, Remembrance of Things Past, begins as his mother serves him tea and “those short, plump little cakes called petits Madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell.” The narrator dips a corner of a little cake into the tea and then is overwhelmed by memories; he realizes that the Madeleines bore “in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.” …But Madeleines had existed long before Proust’s boyhood. Numerous stories, none very convincing, attribute their invention to a host of different pastry cooks, each of whom supposedly named them for some particular young woman. Only three things are known for sure. One is that Madeleine is a French form of Magdalen (Mary Magdalen, a disciple of Jesus, is mentioned in all four gospels). Another is that Madeleines are always associated with the little French town of Commercy, whose bakers were said to have once, long ago, paid a “very large sum” for the recipe and sold the little cakes packed in oval boxes as a specialty in the area. Finally, it is alow known that nuns in eighteenth-century France frequently supported themselves and their schools by making and selling a particular sweet… Commercy once had a convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdelen, and the nuns, probably when all the convents and monastaries of France were abolished during the French Revolution, sold their recipe to the bakers for an amount that grew larger with each telling.”

Here are links for recipes: NB: This requires a special mold:

1 stick (1/4 lb.) unsalted butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 lemon
2/3 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
butter (at room temperature) for the madeleine pan molds

CLICK

Butter 2 madeleine molds (molds of 12) and put into the refrigerator. Butter them again in 15 minutes, making sure the butter coats the indentations on the top. Chill molds until ready to use.

Grate the zest from 1/2 of the lemon and reserve. Squeeze the lemon and reserve the juice. Whisk the flour and baking powder together. Melt the butter and set aside. Whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice together for about 30 seconds. Don’t overmix.

Thin the mixture with 1/2 cup of the milk. Add the flour all at once and, using a whisk, blend just long enough to eliminate lumps. Gently stir in the rest of the milk and the melted butter.

Refrigerate the batter for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°. Spoon the batter into the shell-shaped molds and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the pans halfway through the cooking time so they bake evenly. Immediately remove the cookies from the molds and allow to cool on racks. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving (not when hot!).

It would be remise not to include something tasty for the mouth of the soul as well, which is always ready to bite into something chewy and substantive from the Fathers. Here, patristibloggers, is a piece from St. Augustine’s Tractate on the Gospel on John 131. There are nice bits here as, for example, recounting that Mary mistook the Risen Lord for a gardener and Augustine makes Him into the Gardener of her soul!

3. “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.” There are points in these words which we must examine with brevity indeed, but with somewhat more than ordinary attention. for Jesus was giving a lesson in faith to the woman, who had recognized Him as her Master, and called Him so in her reply; and this gardener was sowing in her heart, as in His own garden, the grain of mustard seed.

What then is meant by “Touch me not”? and just as if the reason of such a prohibition would be sought, He added, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” What does this mean? if, while standing on earth, He is not to be touched, how could He be touched by men when sitting in heaven? for certainly, before He ascended, He presented Himself to the touch of the disciples, when He said, as testified by the evangelist Luke, “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have;” or when He said to Thomas the disciple, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and put forth thy hand, and thrust it into my side.” and who could be so absurd as to affirm that He was willing indeed to be touched by the disciples before He ascended to the Father, but refused it in the case of women till after His ascension?

But no one, even had any the will, was to be allowed to run into such folly, for we read that women also, after His resurrection and before His ascension to the Father, touched Jesus, among whom was Mary Magdalene herself; for it is related by Matthew that Jesus met them, and said, “All hail. And they approached, and held Him by the feet, and worshiped Him.” This was passed over by John, but declared as the truth by Matthew.

It remains, therefore, that some sacred mystery must lie concealed in these words; and whether we discover it or utterly fail to do so, yet we ought to be in no doubt as to its actual existence. Accordingly, either the words, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father,” had this meaning, that by this woman the Church of the Gentiles was symbolized, which did not believe on Christ till He had actually ascended to the Father, or that in this way Christ wished Himself to be believed on; in other words, to be touched spiritually, that He and the Father are one. for He has in a manner ascended to the Father, to the inward perception of him who has made such progress in the knowledge of Christ that he acknowledges Him as equal with the Father: in any other way He is not rightly touched, that is to say, in any other way He is not rightly believed on. But Mary might have still so believed as to account Him unequal with the Father, and this certainly is forbidden her by the words, “Touch me not;” that is, Believe not thus on me according to thy present notions; let not your thoughts stretch outwards to what I have been made in thy behalf, without passing beyond to that whereby thou hast thyself been made. for how could it be otherwise than carnally that she still believed on Him whom she was weeping over as a man? “For I am not yet ascended,” He says, “to my Father:” there shalt thou touch me, when thou believest me to be God, in no wise unequal with the Father. “But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father.” He saith not, Our Father: in one sense, therefore, is He mine, in another sense, yours; by nature mine, by grace yours. “and my God, and your God.” Nor did He say here, Our God: here, therefore, also is He in one sense mine, in another sense yours: my God; under whom I also am as man; your God, between whom and you I am mediator.

You can buy a madaleine cookie mould HERE.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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7 Responses to 22 July: St. Mary Magdalene (and homonymous cookies!)

  1. Cantor says:

    Don’t sell yourself short here, Father Z. Those Madeleine mold pans are available through Amazon and your handy dandy link!

  2. albizzi says:

    I am living about 20 miles from St Mary Magdalene’s grotto in la Ste Baume. This grotto was visited continuously for 20 centuries by tens of millions of pilgrims, among them a lot of popes and prelates, of french and european kings with their followers.
    There is a chapel and a small monastery with a few “domini canes” fathers close to the grotto. The mass is said daily at 11:00 AM and on sundays, same hour.
    It is better to come here in winter when the tourists are gone. The panorama on the nearby snowy mountains of the French Alps is magnificent.

  3. Michaelus says:

    Many, many thanks for the passage from Augustine. The noli me tangere has always been a conundrum for me.

  4. Priam1184 says:

    Very beautiful Father thank you. And thanks for the Madeline recipe. I will try that after I get my Christmas fruit cake soaking in some Filipino rum this week.

    I often wondered whether or not the ‘noli me tangere’ bit didn’t have something to do with trying to hold on too much to the visible Christ, the Christ who was visibly present in the world. Our Lord Himself stated I believe on one occasion that if He stayed in the world as He was then the Holy Spirit could never come and found the Church. I have wondered whether or not He was saying there something like: “don’t hold onto me; I will always be with you but once I ascend to my Father something incredible is going to come back down to you.”

  5. Gratias says:

    Merci Père pour les madelaines. They are delicious.

    My EF parish is St Mary Magdalen in Camarillo. We have developed a most useful custom by which we read each other the readings outloud the day before before going to sleep. We have the fabulous 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal from Angelus Press. It has changed our lives. Helps us enjoy the Mass so much more. So we went to Mass expecting the 6th Sunday of Pentecost and were surprised to hear entirely different readings. During the homily it became apparent we were celebrating Mary Magdalen and how she anointed Christ’s feet, cried over them and dried them with her hair. She repented and was forgiven. Nota Bene, forgiveness of sins requires repentance. Father went on to explain, as mentioned above, that Mary Magdalene was Apostle to the Apostles.

  6. ajf1984 says:

    At Mass yesterday, our priest made a comment in his homily that I rather enjoyed, never having heard it or considered it before. Paraphrasing, he said that from the moment the Magdalene’s eyes were opened and she recognized Jesus to the moment when she carried out her divine mandate to spread word of the Resurrection to the Apostles, St. Mary Magdalene was the Church, at least here on Earth, the first person attested to in the Scriptures to have seen the Lord after His Resurrection and to have certain knowledge of it.

    And people say the Church views women negatively…

  7. kay says:

    I’ve never had a problem with Genesis and 6 days, I don’t have a problem with Mary Magdeline and the contortions of ‘don’t touch’ vs. the apostles. Call me the child who just believes.