A new look at Mary Magdalene

I opened up my email this morning expecting the same old mail and usual political donation requests. Yet there was something different: a new painting of Mary Magdalene from Scarlet Cord artist Karen N. Canton, transmitted at 1:30 a.m. I like it. The pain in Mary Magdalene’s eyes is strong and unyielding, the tomb from which she strides forth is dark and empty. And while this new likeness is similar to the original painting published in The Scarlet Cord, there’s a harder — and probably more realistic — reality here.

Mary Magdalene, after all, had faced the expulsion of seven demons from her soul (Luke 8.2; Mark 16.9), all called out by Jesus. And then she faced the brutal reality of losing her best friend Jesus to the Cross. Imagine her joy in seeing him again that morning in the Garden, after she had the courage to walk those empty streets of Jerusalem in the cold morning air, determined to take care of Jesus, to anoint his body in his final rest. Imagine her joy in knowing that what he had promised had come true: that he was alive, not lost to the evil forces of the world.

This painting brings forth all those elements: grief, darkness, faith, joy and triumph. And it also points to another welcome reality: that our understanding of Bible women — like our spiritual lives — should always be open to new insights and new growth. Our goal has been to bring these women to life, out of their dry and dusty literary caskets. This new portrait is another welcome step in that journey.

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