Tuesday, July 22, 2014

St. Mary Magdalen: Duplex? 3rd Class? Memorial?

Mr. Wolfe of Rorate Caeli has posted on the apparent demotion of the feast of St. Mary Magdalen by big bad Bugnini in the 20th century. He writes:

"The 1962 calendar today marks the third class feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, penitent, while the novus ordo calendar has a "memorial" for Saint Mary Magdalene with no title after her name (unlike other saints' days)..... Even before the massive reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council, however, there were a host of changes under Pius XII and John XXIII, many of which have been linked to Archbishop Annibale Bugnini..... One such changed involved the Credo in the Mass appointed for this feast day of Saint Mary Magdalene, penitent."
First, I would like to say that there is really no difference between a 1962 III class feast and a Pauline memorial. For a good cause, one could replace the feast today with a votive Mass—say a requiem or a nuptial. The Pauline liturgy has so many options one could only use the orations of the feast or use the readings as well and create a unique, non-ferial Mass. In the Office, both the Pauline and Pian/Johannine liturgies are ferial with orations of the saint and a few festive antiphons and readings.

Second, we come to where the Pauline and Pian/Johannine liturgies really differ from the old rite: the Office. In the immemorial Roman Office today would have been treated as a major feast, hence the Double rank—originally reserved to feasts of the Lord, Our Lady, the Apostles, major martyrs, Doctors, and patron saints. St. Mary Magdalen was seen as equivalent to those people. For good reason was she called the "Apostle to the Apostles." She gave Christ burial rites by anointing Him while He was still alive. She stood by the Cross when all the Apostles, save John, fled. And she was the first, other than Our Lady according to tradition, to meet the Christ risen. This is not an ordinary woman nor is this a female saint who fits into conventional categories. Her Double office meant three nocturns at Mattins—with three readings of Scripture, three from St. Gregory the Great, the Gospel of the day, and three lessons from St. Augustine. Festive psalms would be used in the major hours and her Mass would not admit commemorations. Indeed, prior to 1911 her feast could, rightly I believe, supersede a Sunday. Even after the Pius X reform she would have been commemorated at first Vespers, Mattins, Lauds, Mass (with a proper Last Gospel), and second Vespers on a Sunday. 

I do not want to launch into a rant or diatribe, so I will end the post here. It suffices to say much more was lost than the recitation of the Creed at Mass. Indeed the Office of St. Mary Magdalen is, like so many of the ancient Roman sanctoral offices, among of the most beautiful liturgical days in the Church. As Fr. Capreolus highlighted to me, just look at the responsories at Mattins!


  1. I didn't know about the Creed for her feast - how neat is that?

    The biggest change of course is that the 1970 Calendarium Romanum specifies that the S. Mary Magdalene whose Memorial is on July 22 refers only to the Mary who met the Resurrected Christ, was exorcised of seven demons, and was at Calvary - and explicitly not the penitent woman. Mary of Bethany isn't ruled out explicitly, but isn't referenced in the liturgy. Besides dropping the title "paenitentis" (only shared by St. Margaret of Cortona, I believe), her entire Office and Mass were revised to reflect this: hymns, antiphons, readings, prayers. Actually, the newly appointed texts are quite beautiful in themselves.

    So, in this case at least, the 1962 version, even with only one nocturn, is a very different feast from the modern version. (Interestingly, in the old Martyrology, S. Mary Magdalene isn't explicitly identified as the penitent woman, but is identified as the sister of Martha and Lazarus.)

    What I don't understand, is why Mel Gibson identified S. Mary Magdalene with the woman caught in adultery. Is there some tradition or private revelation of that fact? It seems a bit... untoward.

  2. She deserves the duplex.
    As she is Mary from Magdala, her birthplace is turned into a name in my country and it's Manda, from Mandaliene/Mandaliena from Magdalena. Perhaps this shift came because "nd" is easier to pronounce than "gd". As i was saying, this name, Manda is very common in my county which is one more indicator of how revered she is.