TO THE LADY MAGDALEN HERBERT, OF ST. MARY
by John Donne
HER of your name, whose fair inheritance
Bethina was, and jointure Magdalo,
An active faith so highly did advance,
That she once knew, more than the Church did know,
The Resurrection ; so much good there is
Deliver’d of her, that some Fathers be
Loth to believe one woman could do this ;
But think these Magdalens were two or three.
Increase their number, Lady, and their fame ;
To their devotion add your innocence ;
Take so much of th’ example as of the name,
The latter half ; and in some recompense,
That they did harbour Christ Himself, a guest,
Harbour these hymns, to His dear Name address’d.
The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas reads; “Behold, I shall lead her, that I may make her male, in order that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who makes herself male shall enter into the kingdom of heaven”
This could be meaning, to characteristically transform someone who is of the earthly life (depicted by the fruit of the feminine nature) into that of the spiritual life (depicted by the seed of the male nature). I believe it to be referring to The Good News being shared by Mary Magdalene but under a pseudonym possibly The Gospel of John (so as to be accepted) which of course at the time would have been counter cultural, being a female. Or it could actually be about Mary Magdalene being taught to evangelise and taking on a male role of ‘inseminating’ others with the seed of the kingdom ~ The Word of God.
“When Karen King was translating The Gospel of Mary, she had to determine which Mary was being discussed because the Mary written about had no last name. She identified Mary as Mary Magdalene because twice in the text Mary was described as the woman Jesus loved more than the others. This refrain appears often in the Gnostic texts, and in The Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is described as the “companion” of Jesus. According to different scholars that word, in its original Greek usage has innuendos of something more. Also in The Gospel of Philip are the provocative lines that “Jesus kissed Mary Magdalene upon the …. ” The last word is missing in the papyrus document. Typically the missing word is translated as mouth. In the ABC Frontline special Elaine Pagels interprets this statement as symbolic and indicative of a transmission of knowledge. The Da Vinci Code and its connotations do not interest me. The lessons which Christ shares and with whom (His chosen) does.
Based on the different witness accounts between the Gnostic Text and the Gospels we begin to build a picture, but based on the Gospels alone we know for sure that Mary Magdalene was a trusted companion who accompanied Jesus and the apostles on their travels because it tells us in Luke 8
King James Bible
“And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”
The first disciple to witness the resurrection, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany (Martha’s and Lazarus’ sister) have both been described as separate people and in further readings, as one and the same misinterpreted. Either way in the great mystery she was described as the disciple Jesus was closest to, Loved more than any other (under some controversy, mixed possibly with the beloved disciple John) whom I have also heard to be thought of as the beloved Lazarus. Icon’s show her and Mary Mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross. Either way she was close enough to anoint Him in oils, close enough for Jesus in death to first appear to her, and familiar enough for her to want to reach out ‘and cling unto Him’, and truly special enough to be raised to Sainthood for her conversion, devotion and Love for Him. In which ever way this parting of knowledge was received, it made Mary Magdalene a Saint and companion and beloved of profoundly special importance. Most definitely an intimately physical and spiritually Loving friendship.
I ask you If you were to die, who would you first wish to appear to?
When I die, I would first wish to appear to, the one whom I Love the most.