Saturday, March 30, 2013

I have seen the Lord ... and heard Him and touched Him

Andrea del Sarto (1486 - 1530)
Apparizione di Cristo risorto a Santa Maria Maddalena / The Appearance of the Resurrected Christ to Mary Magdalene
1509 - 1510
Oil on wooden panel
176 x  155 cm
Museo del Cenacolo di Andrea del Sarto, Florence (Now in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence)

Vasari records that this was commissioned for the Church of the Augustinian convent outside  Porta San Gallo. That church was demolished in 1531

It was then moved to the Capella  Morelli in Chiesa di S. Jacopo tra i Fossi where it remained until 1849

It looks like a scene between an ordinary man and a woman somewhere in Tuscany or in Umbria. 

The countryside could well be that of Italy rather than Palestine. There are six other people in the scene. Two groups of three in the distance. Who they are can not be ascertained. We can only speculate

But it is not a garden somewhere in Italy where a woman is entreating a gardener. 

It is the scene described in John 20 just after Mary Magdalene has visited the tomb on Easter day and found it empty.
"11 But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb  
12 and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been.  
13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.”  
14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. 
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”  
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”which means Teacher.  
17 Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 
18 Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her."
In this translation the words of Christ in the Vulgate "Noli me tangere"  are translated as Stop holding on to me as in Mt 28:9, where the women take hold of his feet. This translation is more faithful to the original koine Greek

In Mark, Matthew, and John, all point out and emphasise that Mary Magdalene is the  first human witness to the resurrection. She saw it. She heard it. She touched it. And she announced it.

Unfortunately in accordance with the custom and convention of the time, del Sarto has depicted the Magdalene with long red hair flowing down and past her shoulders. He is perpetuating and reinforcing the early misidentification of Mary Magdalene as a (former) prostitute and adulteress and now penitent 

The Eastern Orthodox Church never made that mistake and regarded her as always being a virtuous woman. They have never celebrated her as a penitent. She is not  the "sinful woman" who anoints Jesus in Luke [Lk 7:36–50]

The exalted role of Mary Magdalene was recognised by Saint Rabanus Maurus Magnentius (c. 780 – 4 February 856), ("Praeceptor Germaniae," or "the teacher of Germany") when he referred to her as "the Apostle to the Apostles", a title which she had since the early Church. 

This title was also repeated by St Thomas Aquinas. 

Both views were cited and approved by Blessed Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem: (italics in the website text)
"The Gospel of John (cf. also Mk 16: 9) emphasizes the special role of Mary Magdalene. She is the first to meet the Risen Christ. At first she thinks he is the gardener; she recognizes him only when he calls her by name: "Jesus said to her, 'Mary'. She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbuni' (which means Teacher). 
Jesus said to her, 'Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God'. Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'; and she to old them that he had said these things to her" (Jn 20:16-18). 
Hence she came to be called "the Apostle of the Apostles". 
38 Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness of the Risen Christ, and for this reason she was also the first to bear witness to him before the Apostles. This event, in a sense, crowns all that has been said previously about Christ entrusting divine truths to women as well as men."
The Latin language version on the Vatican website is perhaps more emphatic and instructive. It does not miss out the footnotes The italicised words are those of His Holiness
"Ioannis autem Evangelium (Cfr. item Marc. 16, 9) extollit praesertim praecipuas Mariae Magdalenae partes. Prima videlicet ea resuscitato obvia fit Christo. Principio eum, quidem hortorum esse arbitratur custodem, quem tunc agnoscit solum, cum nomine ipsam appellat. “Dicit ei Iesus: “Maria!”. Conversa illa dicit ei Hebraice: “Rabbunì”, quod dicitur Magister
Dicit ei Iesus: “Iam noli me tenere, nondum enim ascendi ad Patrem; vade autem ad fratres meos et dic eis: Ascendo ad Patrem meum et Patrem vestrum et Deum meum et Deum vestrum”. Venit Maria Magdalene annuntians discipulis: “Vidi Dominum!” et quia haec dixit ei” (Io. 20, 16-18).  
Quam ob rem nuncupatur quoque illa “apostolorum apostola” (Cfr. RABANI MAURI De vita beatae Mariae Magdalenae, XXVII: «Salvator . . . ascensionis suae eam (=Mariam Magdalenam) ad apostolus instituit apostolam» (PL 112, 1574). «Facta est Apostolorum Apostola, per hoc quod ei committitur ut resurrectionem dominicam discipulis annuntiet»: In Ioannem Evangelistam expositio, C. XX, L. III, 6 (S. THOMAE AQUINATIS, Comment. in Matthaeum et Ioannem Evangelistas), Ed. Parmens, X, 629). 
Etenim iam ipsos ante apostolos fuit Maria Magdalene oculata Christi resuscitati testis ideoque prima etiam testimonium reddidit illi coram apostolis. Certo quodam pacto cumulat hic eventus omnia ea quae prius iam dicta sunt de veritatibus divinis a Christo mulieribus haud secus ac viris concreditis."

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