The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and Excerpts from Interior Castle by Mirabai Starr
October 29th, 2023
By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Welcome again on and what is in our tradition the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost! And welcome to the many joining on the livestream. I give thanks that with so much of the world in a tough spot, in so many places where it seems like we humans are stuck, nature is never stuck! I just found that peaceful. On the seasons go, as we turn into the blanket of winter. So let us take some deeper breathes, tuning into whatever word God has for us today and to deeper things. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Some are calling this the Sophia Century. And many have this is defined to mean the time when women are coming into co-equal partnership and claiming leadership roles. Lynn Twist writes of women-led movements around the world- Visionary leaders building the clean energy revolution in Africa, defending the Amazonian rainforest, and making peace in Liberia. And as I learned two weeks ago, the screening of the documentary Fracking the System, women are leading the way in ending fracking in CO. As Lilly Vakili writes in a piece called, The Sophia Century And CreatingANewWorld, “Almost all human systems are broken down and everything starts to disintegrate and fall apart, whether it is our healthcare system, political system, educational systems or economy as well as societal conditioning…We are in an extra-ordinary era…”
Feminine energy is needed. Women are needed. And this doesn’t mean that men aren’t. I just want to start right there. What I mean is that it of this needs to be integrated, the masculine and the feminine so we can co-create and co-labor.
I understand that some men and male identified people feel confused or feel a sense of wondering where they fit in all of this. So for example, challenging toxic masculinity, which is confronting and shifting the constellation of socially regressive male traits that support domination, devaluation, homophobia, transphobia, domination and violence, challenging that doesn’t mean, we are challenging all men, it means we are challenging anyone who participates in those things and wow, yes women can do that too.
So part of the Divine Feminine is to include and integrate, to build and birth. As Shari Mitchell writes in Sacred Instructions, “The feminine needs the masculine to take its intuitive, heart-based ideas and manifest them in the outer world. And the masculine needs the heart-based wisdom of the feminine to ensure that those actions honor and preserve life.”
I was sharing yesterday at our mini-retreat how excited I am and grateful to be alive for this time, for this rising of the feminine voice for this Sophia Century, for the uncovering of what was there all along, like what we read in the Gospel of Mary.
Around 2014 or 15 I was some years and lots of tears into doing what was then a new church start, it is now called Urban Sanctuary San Jose and I was weary. I had given it everything and what I was trying wasn’t going as planned. I had taken classes, had a cohort of other innovators, received fellowships and more and I had ended up replicating something old basically. And I reached a point where the only other thing I could figure out how to do was to stop and sit in silence. And I met people who wanted to do that too.
And it was as if new worlds opened up in ways, interior cosmos, and I found the writings of Richard Rohr and from him I learned of Cynthia Bourgeault and her book the Meaning of Mary Magdalene and on the adventure went. I couldn’t believe what I was reading!
If you are thinking DaVinci Code, the book or the movie, let that go. Maybe Jesus had a wife or a partner? Maybe he didn’t? But it would have been odd for a man of his time not to. But that’s not the point. The point is though that I invite us all to start to let go of our preconceived ideas about the Divine Feminine, about Sophia and Mary and her Gospel.
You might remember that the word Sophia, is Divine Wisdom and it has a feminine flavor and in more than one religious tradition and it is connected to the concept of the Logos resulted in the interpretation of “Holy Wisdom” (Hagia Sophia) as an aspect of Christ the Logos.
And in the Christian tradition we say that Logos, which is word in Greek, Logos, word was there from the start, which means to me that our words are part of what actually starts worlds in the first place, what’s gets our ways of thinking and being into form. As you might remember in the Gospel of John, we read that “In the beginning was the word and the word was God…”
I believe that words build worlds…We build realities and shape culture by the words we use and how we talk about what is and what we want to be, by the stories we tell and live by.
And of course like any religious system, Christianity has been built around certain words, certain stories, and then communities built around those stories and the ones that were included in the canon, are what we know now as the Bible. But part of this moment, part of this century, part of why you should care about the Divine Feminine is that what was presented to us is incomplete. And things aren’t as they should be and it’s out of balance and we can be a part of the turn. Mary’s Gospel was excluded because it was very different from the others and because of course it was from a woman’s experience. We would have lost her entirely, except for the fact that she was core to the Jesus Journey and they just couldn’t get rid of her. She’s the only one in all of the canonical Gospels, identified as the one to be there for the crucifixion, the burial and the one to see him in a new form. She seems to have understood something, which is maybe why he told her things that he didn’t tell the others. Some the male disciples clearly just didn’t get it and the early Christian community wasn’t sure what to do with that.
As you heard, she captures Jesus saying clearly that what he was offering was available within each of us and could be found by every human being and that peace can be sought and uncovered internally and to be cautious around people who tell you that you what you need is somewhere else. As you heard, her Gospel captures Jesus saying, “Be careful not to let anyone mislead you by saying, ‘Look over here!’ or ‘Look over there!’ Because it’s here.
It was about doing the internal work, but the canonical gospels are all about the outer work. Mary’s Gospel even records a conflict between her and some of the male disciples because they didn’t believe Jesus would tell her these things. Listen to this from the Gospel of Mary, “In response Andrew said to the brothers (and sisters), ‘Say what you will about what she’s said, I myself don’t believe that the Savior said these things, because these teachings seem like different ideas.” In response Peter spoke out with the same concerns. He asked them concerning the Savior: “He didn’t speak with a woman without our knowledge and not publicly with us, did he? Will we turn around and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?”18 Then Mary wept and said to Peter, “My brother Peter, what are you thinking? Do you really think that I thought this up by myself in my heart, or that I’m lying about the Savior?” In response Levi said to Peter, “Peter, you’ve always been angry. Now I see you debating with this woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you then to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well. That’s why he loved her more than us.” It’s the disciple named Levi who defends her. And maybe that’s why he has mostly disappeared too? Have you ever heard of St. Levi’s Cathedral? There’s a stadium! But what a good way to disappear her, you always disappear those who had her back.
When the creeds as we know them were finalized, I guess what was “strange” internal, feminine had already become mostly hidden and quite literally, hidden in caves because it didn’t match what scholar Karen King calls the Master Story. So over time Mary’s reputation started to be tarnished.
It wasn’t until 591 when Pope Gregory gave an Easter sermon where he implied that she was a prostitute and it wasn’t until 1969 that the Catholic Church retracted that teaching. But I bet most people still think of her that way. In the Gospel of John we read of her having demons but in her Gospel she explains the 7 demons are forces that separate us from God or what she calls the Good. And to be self-realized, and fully human we must free ourselves from passions, drama, personal narratives and preferences. And she relays a teaching from Jesus about how the real treasure is seeing the world with the eye of the heart, emptying ourselves. Which we can understand to mean freeing ourselves from of all that the ego manufactures. And this seems to me to be the core of it all. Mary shows us what Jesus meant all along, the fullness of Humanity exists within you.
The fullness of Humanity exists within you. Seek and find! As we heard from the words of Mirabai Starr, “This magnificent refuge is inside you. Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway… Believe the incredible truth that the Beloved has chosen for a dwelling place the core of your own being because that is the single most beautiful place in all of creation.”
Beloved of God, whoever you are, it is time for the heart-based ideas to be made manifest in the outer world. “Be careful not to let anyone mislead you by saying, ‘Look over there!’ Because it’s in here. May it be so. Amen.