The Meaning of Mary Magdalene

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 January, 2011, 12:00am

The Meaning of Mary Magdalene
by Cynthia Bourgeault
Shambhala, HK$136

She was 'the apostle to the apostles', some believe Jesus Christ's most important disciple. And yet, writes Cynthia Bourgeault, in conservative Christian corners, it is taboo even to mention her name, loaded as it is with images of sexuality. Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest, explores the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, concluding that theirs was spiritual love (albeit with an erotic component). She hopes to show Magdalene to be not only a beloved but also an apostolic leader in her own right. Bourgeault states, 'I want Mary Magdalene fully back within the church, not outside it.' She realises that even to suggest a romantic involvement with Jesus will have many seeing it as an attack on him and the Christian faith. In a book that sometimes drags, despite the author's best attempts to lighten the language with colloquialisms, readers might find it useful to refer to the final chapter, in which Bourgeault lays out five tasks that would help accommodate Magdalene's resurgence. One is to end the hegemony of celibacy, which would dismantle 2,000 years of Christian sexual conditioning 'identifying celibacy with purity'.