Wednesday, February 02, 2022

The Feast of the Presentation, Candlemas, and Groundhog Day


 

The Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas, celebrated February 2, forty days after Christmas Day, marks the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, as told in Luke, 2:23-24 : “When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’” (NRSV)

 Under Mosaic law (Leviticus 12:2-8), women were considered unclean for forty days after giving birth to a male child and sixty-six days after bearing a female child. Once the period of purification was complete the woman would bring to the priest a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or dove for a sin offering. But “If she cannot afford a sheep, she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf, and she shall be clean.”

 Luke doesn’t mention that Joseph and Mary could not afford a sheep, but his audience would have been aware of it. But Luke’s focus isn’t on the ceremony, but on two elderly people in the temple. The first, Simeon, had received a revelation from the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he enters the Temple, and when Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to be presented, he takes the infant in his arms and utters one of the most beautiful short prayers in the New Testament, which is best rendered in the poetry of the King James Version:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
    according to thy word;
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
    which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles,
    and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

 Simeon blesses the child, but gives a prophetic warning: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke follows with the story of the prophet Anna, “the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher,” and “a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” (KJV) She recognizes the infant Messiah as soon as his family enters the temple.

 While Luke’s aim is to convince his readers that that Jesus is the Messiah, the solemn feast of the Presentation has since become comingled with Roman, Celtic, and Germanic traditions. In ancient Rome, the festival of Februa, the Etruscan god of purification and the underworld, took place on the February 1. February 2, falling midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, is the first Cross Quarter Day, when the Celts celebrated Imbolic, which marked the lactation of ewes and the anticipation of the spring lambing season.

 Christians celebrated the feast with candlelight processions and the blessing of candles, reminding us of Simeon’s prophecy that Christ will be “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” and the day became known as Candlemas. It marked the end of the Christmas-Epiphany season. And as English folklore tells us,

 “If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Come winter, have another flight.

If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,

Go winter, and come not again.”

 But it’s the German version of this European belief that we know best. According to German legend, if a badger poked its head out of its den and saw its shadow on February 2, winter would continue for weeks. A cloudy day, when it could not see its shadow, meant the end of winter. When the Germans came to Pennsylvania, the groundhog replaced the badger, and the tradition caught on. Happy Groundhog Day, and a blessed Candlemas!

Image: Jacopo Tintoretto, "Presentation of Jesus in the Temple," circa 1590.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

"God in man made manifest": The Feast of the Epiphany

 

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;

but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.

-Isaiah 60: 1-2 (NRSV)

Today, if you mention January 6, most Americans will think of a mob storming the U.S. Capitol. It was an unhappy coincidence, for January 6 marks the solemn feast of the Epiphany, a day of hope and triumph for Christians: the story of wise men from the East who followed a star to the city of Bethlehem and honored the infant Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And of Herod, who attempted to trick the wise men into revealing this infant King to him, but was foiled by an angel of God.

Matthew calls the wise men Magi: plural of magus, from the Persian magush. And, of course, a cousin of the word magic. Matthew does not give the number of these magicians from the East, but because of the three gifts, tradition holds there were three. They were likely Persian Zoroastrians, early monotheists, who had a unique connection to the Jewish people.

Cyrus the Persian, the only Gentile to be recognized as a messiah by the Jews, conquered Babylon and set the captive Jewish people free. And it’s clearly no coincidence that Matthew uses the term “magi.” He was writing to a Jewish audience, who would have recognized the connection between these Persian visitors proclaiming the new Messiah and the liberator of the Babylonian Captivity. And that may be one reason the first reading, Isaiah 60: 1-6 begins by proclaiming “your light has come“ in a time of darkness and ends with “They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.”

Christopher Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth and Bishop of Lincoln) in his 1862 Epiphany hymn, “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise,” writes of the liberating effect of the revealed King:

Manifest in making whole

Palsied limbs and fainting soul;

Manifest in valiant fight,

Quelling all the devil’s might;

Manifest in gracious will,

Ever bringing good from ill;

Anthems be to thee addrest,

God in man made manifest.

 

Later on, the Magi received names: Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. They became kings: Caspar, of India; Balthasar, of Arabia or Ethiopia; and Melchior, of Persia. Yet for Matthew, they were Magi: members of the Zoroastrian priestly class, who came to do homage to a new Messiah who would bring light in a time of darkness.


Image: Pietro Perugino, Adoration of the Magi, c. 1496-1500.

 


Monday, December 27, 2021

Saint John the Evangelist and Marcus Borg's "Post-Easter Jesus"


 

"Nathaniel said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'"
-John, 1:46 (NRSV)

In the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, the Gospel reading for Christmas morning is John 1-14. For me, who had a secular upbringing, the reading initially seemed out of place. Why do we read the Prologue to John's Gospel on Christmas? There was no mention of Bethlehem, or Jesus' earthly birth. And later in the same chapter, we have Nathaniel make the quip about Nazareth, a remote town in Galilee. Philip doesn't say, "The man was born in Bethlehem--he's a proper Messiah," but "Come and see."

We celebrate the author of the Gospel According to John on December 27, the Third Day of Christmas. Like the other three canonical gospels, the earliest manuscripts of John are anonymous. Ancient tradition has attributed it to John, one of the Twelve Disciples, identified with the anonymous "disciple whom Jesus loved" in the gospel. Artists usually portray him as a beardless young man. In "The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown the author argues that the beardless figure on Leonardo's "The Last Supper" is actually a woman, whom the book identifies as Mary Magdalene. But it's clearly the figure of John, as any historian of Renaissance art can explain.

But back to my initial question: Why do we read the Prologue to John on Christmas. It's a reminder that Christ was, as we say in the Nicene Creed, "eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God." If Matthew and Luke write of Jesus' birth on earth, John tells us the eternal Christmas story:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John [the Baptist]. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 

 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1-14 (NRSV)

The late theologian Marcus Borg made a distinction between the pre-Easter Jesus and the post-Easter Jesus. The three synoptic Gospels--Matthew, Mark, and Luke--focus on the pre-Easter Jesus--his earthly life, mission, death, and the reports of his resurrection. And while John gives us stories from Jesus' earthly life, they don't follow the pattern of the first three.  Without the Gospel of John, Jesus is the Jewish Messiah who expands his ministry to Gentiles. With John, Jesus is "the Way, the Truth , and the Life"(John 14:6).

Image: John the Evangelist, miniature from the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany, Queen consort of France (1477-1514). (Wilimedia Commons)

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Saint Martin of Tours


 

What happens when a persecuted faith becomes a favored religion? The story of Saint Martin of Tours, whose feast day is November 11, provides some clues.

Martin was born in Pannonia (modern-day Hungary), of pagan parents, some three years after the emperor Constantine had made Christianity a favored religion. At the age of 15 he was conscripted into the Roman army, where he was eventually stationed at Amiens, in Gaul. By this time he had become a catechumen, or inquirer into the Christian faith. One winter day, according to legend, he met a half-naked beggar outside the city gates. Moved with compassion, he cut his military cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. In a dream that night, Christ appeared to him wearing the half cloak.

Martin then appealed to be released from the army. When he was accused of cowardice, he offered to face the enemy armed only with the cross of Christ. Before the battle began, the enemy sued for peace, and Martin was allowed to leave the army.

Martin eventually made his way to Poitiers, in southern Gaul, to become a disciple of Bishop Hilary. He lived as a hermit, but he attracted so many followers that he had to establish a monastery. Legend says that he did not want to become the Bishop of Tours in 371, but was persuaded to visit the city to give last rites to a dying woman, and was there made bishop by acclamation. As bishop, Martin had no qualms about destroying pagan shrines. But he would not accede to the taking of human life.

And Christians authorities began their own persecutions of heretical Christian sects. One was Priscillianism, named for Priscillian, bishop of Avila, who preached vegetarianism, teetotalism, and celibacy. His call for the renunciation of marriage brought him the censure of Church authorities. The Council of Saragossa condemned his teachings in 380, the same year the Edict of Thessalonica made Nicene Christianity the official religion of the empire. After unsuccessfully appealing to Pope Damasus and Ambrose of Milan, Priscillian and six of his followers appealed to western Emperor Magnus Maximus at Treveris (modern-day Trier, Germany). It wasn’t a good move. Maximus, at the urging of Bishop Ithacius of Ossanova, had Priscillian and his disciples condemned to death.

For Martin, excommunication, not execution, was the proper punishment for heresy. He made the long journey to Trier, where he persuaded the emperor to remove Priscillian and his companions from imperial jurisdiction. But soon after Martin left Trier, Ithacius prevailed on the emperor to have the men beheaded. They were among the first, though sadly not the last religious dissenters to be executed at the behest of church authorities.

Martin refused to communicate with Ithacius after learning of his treachery. But later, when Martin returned to Trier to plead for the release of two rebels held by the emperor, Maximus would agree to the pardon only if Martin would make peace with Ithacius. Martin did so to save the lives of the men, though he later reproached himself for his weakness. For me, Martin’s compassion was his greatest strength.

Martin is the patron of soldiers and beggars. Because his feast day coincided with the pagan feast of Bacchus, he is also the patron of drunkards and innkeepers. But he also needs to be remembered as a man of Christlike love, who stood against the abuse of power by church and imperial authorities.

Image: El Greco: Saint Martin and the Begggar, c. 1577-1579, Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 03, 2021

Saint Phoebe and the path to female deacons in the Episcopal Church


 

“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.”   King James Version (1611, as updated in 1769)

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cen′chre-ae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.”                                             Revised Standard Version (1946)

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae,  so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.”                                 New Revised Standard Version (1989)

These two verses are all we know about Saint Phoebe, whose feast day in the Episcopal Church is September 3, but they tell a more than one might expect. Paul is entrusting her with the letter, which she will carry and read to the house churches of Rome. She,s also a benefactor, or patron of both the church and Paul’s mission.

Episcopalians and most Anglicans recognize Saint Phoebe as a deacon, but as the translations above show, that has not always been the case. The issue is twofold: historical practice and the interpretation of the Greek word “diakonos,” literally meaning “servant.” The word itself is masculine, but it’s one of a few Greek nouns with common gender—that it can change gender due to context.

The translation of “diakonos” closely follows the status of the female diaconate. In seventeenth century England, where there were no female deacons, or even deaconesses, the translators of the King James Version rendered “diakonos” as “servant.” For Anglicans, the King James Version was the only authorized version of the Bible until 1881, when English Revised Version was published. But both it and the 1901 American Standard Version kept “servant.”

The Revised Standard Edition of the New Testament, published in 1946 by the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, translates “diakonos” as “deaconess.” By this time, numerous Protestant churches, including the Episcopal Church, had deaconesses. In our church, women’s religious orders emerged during the Anglo-Catholic movement of the mid-19th century, and in a few dioceses, bishops appointed deaconesses to perform social service work, such as nursing. The General Convention of 1889 passed a canon which officially recognized the office of deaconess. A deaconess had to be "a devout woman of proved fitness, unmarried or widowed." If she married, her appointment was vacated. Deaconesses were “set apart,” rather than ordained. And according to priest and theologian Royden Keith Yerkes, as of 1953, “The Bishop was directed to lay his hand (not his hands) upon the head of the candidate and, after a prayer of blessing, to say ‘N, I admit thee to the office of Deaconess. In the Name of . . . etc.’ Thus it was made a little easier to say that she had not been ordained and that her Office was not part of the official ministry of the Church.” Yerkes, writing in March 1957, asks “What is a Deaconess?” He argues that the “…General Convention leaves the whole subject bathed in mist.”

Yerkes reminds his audience that in the early church, “…both men and women could be made deacons. The word deaconess was not used until the fourth century; men and women were both called deacons.” But the status of deaconesses remained “bathed in mist” until the 1964 General Convention adopted a canon defining the office of deaconess as “ordered,” rather than “set apart.” It also allowed married women to be ordained deaconesses.

California Bishop James Pike, in 1965, pushed a bit beyond the canon to ordain Deaconess Phyllis Edwards as a deacon. According to the Associated Press, “Bishop Pike draped a red stole over the right shoulder of the white-robed deaconess as a symbol of her ministry…. The rites found the 48-year-old widow bright-eyed, pink-cheeked and far more calm than her fellow clergymen at the altar.”

Pike was five years ahead of General Convention, which in 1970, eliminated all distinctions between male and female deacons, except, of course, that of being a precursor to the priesthood. The title “deaconess” was dropped.

By the NRSV’s 1989 publication, women in the Episcopal Church were priests and bishops, as well as deacons. Most other denominations in the National Council of Churches included women in all levels of their ministry. Based on these changes, and more important, updates in historical understanding, the translators of the New Revised Standard Version described Phoebe as a deacon

Today, the Episcopal Church is blessed with deacons, both male and female. And here at St. John’s, we are particularly blessed by Deacon Melissa Renner, who enlivens and enlightens our parish, and who can trace her ecclesial lineage back to St. Phoebe.

 Image: St. Phoebe, detail from the Chapel of Thomas Guy, London. Photo credit: Alamy

Note: In researching this article, I relied primarily on the following:

What Can We Say About Phoebe? | CBE (cbeinternational.org)

What is a Deaconess? by Royden Keith Yerkes (no date) (anglicanhistory.org)

“The Episcopalians” (2005) by Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. and David Hein

 

                              

 

 

 

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Joseph of Arimathea (Feast Day August 1) in Scripture and Legend


  

“When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.”

-Mark 15: 42-47 (NRSV)

Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four Gospels, but Mark, the earliest to be written, succinctly explains his role in the burial of Jesus. Matthew (27:57-60) adds that he was a rich man and a disciple of Jesus, and that he buried Jesus in a tomb meant for himself. Luke (23:50-53) mentions that while Joseph was a member of the council (the Jewish Sanhedrin), he did not agree to their plan and action—to turn Jesus over to the Roman authorities. John (19:38-42) that Joseph was a secret disciple “for fear of the Jews,” and that Nicodemus assisted him in preparing Jesus’ body for the tomb.

From the Gospels’ accounts of Joseph, we learn that Jesus had at least one ally in the Sanhedrin and Joseph had the courage to ask Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, for the body of Jesus, whom Pilate himself had sentenced to death for sedition against Rome. Had it not been for Joseph’s intervention, Jesus’ body might have been left on the cross to become the food of birds and dogs. Joseph’s insistence of giving a Jesus proper burial was crucial to the story of the Resurrection.

Naturally, legends arose about this key figure in Christian history. He was, according to one legend, Mary’s uncle, and thus the great uncle of Jesus. The story, which has the ring of plausibility, is based on a Jewish tradition that the senior male relative of a deceased person had the responsibility to give him or her a proper burial. And from that story, plus another that Joseph had made his fortune as a merchant, came the legend that he had taken the teenaged Jesus with him on a voyage to the tin mines of western Britain. It inspired William Blake’s “From Milton,” which begins:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

In 1916 Sir Hubert Parry set the poem to music as “Jerusalem,” which was voted the United Kingdom’s most popular hymn in 2019.

Another legend says Joseph of Arimathea returned to Britain with the Holy Grail. The story, though, originated in late twelfth-century France, with Robert de Boron’s “Joseph d'Arimathie.” The word “grail,” from the Old French “graal,” which meant any kind of a vessel, from a chalice to a cauldron, was virtually unknown until the Arthurian tale, “Perceval, the Story of the Grail,” by another late twelfth century French poet, Chrétien de Troyes. In Chrétien’s poem, the grail is not holy, but is something the knight Percival witnesses. Robert expands the tale and declares the Grail, now the Holy Grail, to be the chalice Jesus drank from at the Last Supper. In Robert’s poem, Joseph is imprisoned because he is accused of stealing Jesus’ body from the tomb. The resurrected Christ presents Joseph with the Grail, which sustains him for years until the Emperor Vespasian releases him from prison many years later.

In Robert’s narrative, it is Joseph’s brother-in-law, Bron, who brings the Grail to Britain. But in English lore, especially in and around the town of Glastonbury in Somerset, Joseph himself brought the Grail to Britain, where he hid it in a Glastonbury well, now called the Chalice Well. In a related myth, Joseph planted his pilgrim’s staff on Glastonbury’s Wearyall Hill, which grew into a thorn tree. Joseph is said to have founded Glastonbury Abbey, which became major pilgrimage site largely because of the legends surrounding the area. Pilgrimages to Glastonbury continued, even after 1539, when the abbey was destroyed and looted on the orders of Henry VIII.

But even without the legends—and there are many more—we honor Joseph of Arimathea chiefly for his courage in asking Pilate for Jesus’ body and then placing it in his own tomb.

 

Merciful God, whose servant Joseph of Arimathea with reverence and godly fear prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial, and laid it in his own tomb: Grant to us, your faithful people, grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-Prayer from Forward Movement Daily Prayer

Image: William Blake, St. Joseph of Arimathea preaching to the inhabitants of Britain

Thursday, July 22, 2021


 

MARY MAGDALENE, “APOSTLE TO THE APOSTLES,” JULY 22

 

We don’t know a great deal about the first generation of Christians, especially the women. But in the case of Mary Magdalene, we seem to “know” too much. Her name is mentioned only thirteen times in the New Testament, but for centuries, Christians have “known” she was a prostitute. In more recent years, others have claimed she was Jesus’ wife, who bore his child, and whose descendants later founded the Merovingian dynasty of France. 

Her identification as a prostitute was cemented in 590 by Pope Gregory I, who, in a sermon on Luke 7:36-50, said: “The one that Luke calls a sinner, and that John names Mary [of Bethany, John 11: 2], we believe that she is that Mary of whom, according to Mark, the Lord has cast out seven demons [Mk 16: 9]. And what are these seven demons, if not the universality of all vices? Since seven days suffice to embrace the whole of time, the number seven rightly represents universality. Mary had seven demons in her, for she was full of all vices. But now, having seen the stains that dishonored her, she ran to wash herself at the source of mercy, without blushing in the presence of the guests. So great was her shame inside that she could not see anything outside to blush.” 

Gregory uses the example of the penitent woman to criticize bishops “who look down upon their flock with contempt, to disdain all the sinners who meet in the people, to refuse to sympathize with those who confess their faults to them, and finally, like the Pharisee, not to be touched by the sinful woman.” It’s a fine sermon, but its conflation of the penitent woman with Mary Magdalene, as well as with Mary of Bethany, distorted the image of the first witness to the Resurrection. However, it did provide a role model for “fallen” women—that Christ himself would hold up this penitent woman as an exemplar of faith. It was not until 1969 that the Roman Catholic Church declared she was not the “woman in the city” of Luke 7.

In more recent years, Mary Magdalene has been named Jesus’ wife. Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” (2003) popularized the theory, but he took most of his information from “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” (1982), by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. The book’s authors claim that the Holy Grail (Sangraal or Sangreal in Old French), was really Royal Blood (Sang Raal or Sang Real), and that Mary Magdalene fled to Gaul after the Crucifixion, where she bore Jesus’ child, whose descendants founded the Merovingian Dynasty of France. She, of royal blood from the House of Benjamin, and not any chalice, was the Holy Grail. The book’s theories have largely been discredited by Biblical scholars, but the Da Vinci Code, along with the 2006 movie based on the book has a lot of staying power. The noncanonical Gnostic Gospel of Philip, probably written in the third century, says “The companion of the [savior] is Mary of Magdala. The [savior loved] her more than [all] the disciples, [and he] kissed her often on her [mouth].” (Marvin Mayer translation from the Coptic—anything in brackets is guesswork.) But none of the Gnostic texts which mention her claim she was Jesus’ wife, or that she bore his child.

So what do we know about Mary Magdalene from Scripture? All four canonical Gospels were written in the late first century—much closer to the time of Christ. From Luke 8: 1-3:

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” (NRSV)

Mary was most likely wealthy and had been cured of serious afflictions. And, of course, in all four Gospels, she was the first witness, or one of the first witnesses to the Resurrection. As such, St. Thomas Aquinas called her “The Apostle to the Apostles.”

There is one curious matter about her name. For centuries, it was assumed that she was from the village of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee. But it appears that the village was called Magadan, and was misnamed by a cartographer. In Luke, she’s “Mary (called Magdalene.)” And Magdalene, or Migdal, in Aramaic, means “tower.” Some historians have speculated that just as Jesus gave his disciple Simon bar Jonah the nickname “Rock” (Cephas or Peter), renamed Mary the “Tower.”

July 22 is the day we remember Mary Magdalene, “The Apostle to the Apostles,” and perhaps “The Tower.”

Image: Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena (1835) by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov.