Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mary Magdalene

"There was one name," the Master answered, "that always brought joy to the face of Baha'u'llah. His expression would change at the mention of it. That name was Mary of Magdala."

(Words attributed to Abdu'l-Baha from 23 June 1912, The Diary of Juliet Thompson

"Consider how a Pharisee who had worshipped God for seventy years repudiated the Son when He appeared, whereas one who had committed adultery gained admittance into the Kingdom. Thus doth the Pen admonish thee as bidden by the Eternal King, that thou mayest be apprised of what came to pass aforetime and be reckoned in this day among them that truly believe."

(Baha'u'llah, Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 70)

"Consider! The station and the confirmation of the apostles in the time of Christ was not known, and no one looked on them with the feeling of importance -- nay, rather, they persecuted and ridiculed them. Later on it became evident what crowns studded with the brilliant jewels of guidance were placed on the heads of the apostles, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of John."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, pp. 39-40)

"Peter was a fisherman and Mary Magdalene a peasant, but as they were specially favoured with the blessings of Christ, the horizon of their faith became illumined, and down to the present day they are shining from the horizon of everlasting glory. In this station, merit and capacity are not to be considered; nay rather, the resplendent rays of the Sun of Truth, which have illumined these mirrors, must be taken into account."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 104)

"O thou maidservant of God! Every woman who becometh the maidservant of God outshineth in glory the empresses of the world, for she is related to God, and her sovereignty is everlasting, whereas a handful of dust will obliterate the name and fame of those empresses. In other words, as soon as they go down to the grave they are reduced to naught. The maidservants of God's Kingdom, on the other hand, enjoy eternal sovereignty unaffected by the passing of ages and generations.

"Consider how many empresses have come and gone since the time of Christ. Each was the ruler of a country but now all trace and name of them is lost, while Mary Magdalene, who was only a peasant and a maidservant of God, still shineth from the horizon of everlasting glory."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 122)

"At the time of the ascension of the Spirit (Jesus Christ), the company of those who accepted the new Revelation numbered no more than a few souls. So intense was the alarm and perturbation to which that event gave rise that, for a time, these souls were quite overcome by their agitation and confusion. Then, a few days later, a woman by the name of Mary Magdalene arose, and, by her own example, instilled into them a constancy and firmness which enabled them to arise for the propagation of the Word of God. Although to outward seeming they were no more than fishermen and dyers, yet, through the holy confirmations of the Cause of God, they carried the divine fragrances far and wide, sweetening the breaths of all who inhaled their fragrance and bringing new life to every understanding heart."

(Abdu'l-Baha, cited in "Crisis and Victory," The Compilation of Compilations Vol. I, p. 136)

"Again, it is well established in history that where woman has not participated in human affairs the outcomes have never attained a state of completion and perfection. On the other hand, every influential undertaking of the human world wherein woman has been a participant has attained importance. This is historically true and beyond disproof even in religion. Jesus Christ had twelve disciples and among His followers a woman known as Mary Magdalene. Judas Iscariot had become a traitor and hypocrite, and after the crucifixion the remaining eleven disciples were wavering and undecided. It is certain from the evidence of the Gospels that the one who comforted them and reestablished their faith was Mary Magdalene."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 133)

"The one whose heart is purest, whose deeds are most perfect, is acceptable to God, male or female. Often in history women have been the pride of humanity -- for example, Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was the glory of mankind. Mary Magdalene, Asiyih, daughter of Pharaoh, Sarah, wife of Abraham, and innumerable others have glorified the human race by their excellences. In this day there are women among the Baha'is who far outshine men."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 174-175)

'After the martyrdom of Christ, to Whom be glory, the disciples were greatly disturbed and disheartened. Even Peter had denied Christ and tried to shun Him. It was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who confirmed the wavering disciples in their faith, saying, "Was it the body of Christ or the reality of Christ that ye have seen crucified? Surely it was His body. His reality is everlasting and eternal; it hath neither beginning nor ending. Therefore, why are ye perplexed and discouraged? Christ always spoke of His being crucified." Mary Magdalene was a mere villager, a peasant woman; yet she became the means of consolation and confirmation to the disciples of Christ.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.282)

'When Jesus Christ died upon the cross, the disciples who witnessed His crucifixion were disturbed and shaken. Even Peter, one of the greatest of His followers, denied Him thrice. Mary Magdalene brought them together and confirmed their faith, saying, "Why are ye doubting? Why have ye feared? O thou Peter! Why didst thou deny Him? For Christ was not crucified. The reality of Christ is ever-living, everlasting, eternal. For that divine reality there is no beginning, no ending, and, therefore, there can be no death. At most, only the body of Jesus has suffered death." In brief, this woman, singly and alone, was instrumental in transforming the disciples and making them steadfast. This is an evidence of extraordinary power and supreme attributes, a proof that woman is the equivalent and complement of man. The one who is better trained and educated, whose aptitude is greater and whose ideals are higher is most distinguished and worthy -- whether man or woman.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 394)

"Mary Magdalene was a villager of lowly type, yet that selfsame Mary was transformed and became the means through which the confirmation of God descended upon the disciples. Verily, she served the Kingdom of God with such efficiency that she became well-known and oft mentioned by the tongues of men. Even today she is shining from the horizon of eternal majesty. Consider how infinite is the bounty of God that a woman such as Mary Magdalene should be selected by God to become the channel of confirmation to the disciples and a light of nearness in His Kingdom. Consequently, trust ye in the bounty and grace of God, and rest assured in the bestowals of His eternal outpouring."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 420)

"Where is the majesty of the Emperor of Russia? Where is the might of the German Emperor? Where is the greatness of the Emperor of Austria? In a short time all these palaces were turned into ruins and all these pretentious edifices underwent destruction. They left no fruit and no trace, save eternal ruin.

"The souls who have been enlightened with the light of the Kingdom, however, have founded eternal sovereignty. They shine, like unto the stars, upon the horizon of everlasting glory. The Apostles were fishers. Consider thou to what a high station they did rise; and to what great sovereignty they did attain, whose duration and permanence runs to eternity! Mary Magdalen was a peasant woman. She was without any name and fame or consequence. But her candle is, in the assemblage of the world, lighted till eternity."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, pp. 384-385)

'A friend asked Abdu'l-Baha how far the individual could attain to that Christ consciousness in himself of which St. Paul speaks as our hope of Glory.

'Abdu'l-Baha turned with a look of great joy and said with an impressive gesture: "The bounty and power of God is limitless for each human soul. Consider what was the quickening power of the Christ when He was on earth. Look at His disciples! They were poor and uncultured men. Out of the rough fisherman He made the great Peter, and out of the poor village girl of Magdala He made one who is a power in all the world today. Many queens have reigned who are remembered by their dates in history, and nothing more is known of them. But Mary the Magdalene is greater than them all. It was she whose love strengthened the disciples when their faith was failing. What she did for the world cannot be measured. See what a divine power was enkindled in her by the power of God!"'

(Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 88)

'Upon another occasion Abdu'l-Baha said to a group of friends around him: "Taken in general, women today have a stronger sense of religion than men. The woman's intuition is more correct; she is more receptive and her intelligence is quicker. The day is coming when woman will claim her superiority to man.

"Woman has everywhere been commended for her faithfulness. After the Lord Christ suffered, the disciples wept, and gave way to their grief. They thought that their hopes were shattered, and that the Cause was utterly lost, till Mary Magdalene came to them and strengthened them saying: 'Do you mourn the body of Our Lord or His Spirit? If you mourn His Spirit, you are mistaken, for Jesus lives! His Spirit will never leave us!' Thus through her wisdom and encouragement the Cause of Christ was upheld for all the days to come. Her intuition enabled her to grasp the spiritual fact."

'Abdu'l-Baha then added: "But in the sight of God sex makes no difference. He or she is greatest who is nearest to God."'

(Abdu'l-Baha in London, pp. 104-105)

'Let us make a comparison with the days of Christ. He had eleven disciples only, for the twelfth was the cause of his crucifixion. The leader of the apostles was Peter and on the night of the crucifixion his faith was shaken and he thrice denied Christ, though afterwards he became firm.

'All were shaken but Mary Magdalen. She was a veritable lioness. She gathered the others together and said, "Why do ye mourn? Did not the Christ foretell his crucifixion? Arise, and be assured. They have killed but the body; the reality can never die, for it is supreme, eternal, the word of God, the son of God. Why, therefore, are ye agitated?" Thus this heroine became the cause of re-establishing the faith of the apostles.

'My hope is that each one of you may become as Mary Magdalen -- for this woman was superior to all the men of her time and her reality is ever shining from the horizon of Christ.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 50)

"If a man become touched with the divine spark, even though he be an outcast and oppressed, he will be happy and his happiness cannot die.

"Whatever man undertakes he achieves some result, whether through statesmanship, commerce, agriculture, science, etc., he receives a compensation for his efforts. Consider what will be the result of those who work in the universal cause!

"He who has the consciousness of reality has eternal life -- that lamp which can never be extinguished. The humble peasant girl, Mary Magdalene, -- to what splendor she attained! A wise man sees no satisfaction in the material world; he is not content to be one of the creatures. In the world of divine effulgence he finds eternal life and becomes aflame with the fire of the love of God, the great source of life of the immortal kingdom and his head is adorned with a crown of eternal jewels."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 57-58)

'O maid-servant of God! Verily, Mary, the Magdalene, was a villager, but she kept firm in the Cause of Christ and confirmed the apostles at the time she declared to them (thus): "Verily, Christ is alive and eternal and death did not overtake Him; and verily, the foundation of His religion is not shaken by His crucifixion at the hand of the oppressors!" By this her face is eternally shining from the horizon of guidance.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha Vol.2, p. 268)

"Announce, on my behalf, respectful greeting to the attracted maid-servant of God, Miss ..., and say: O thou beloved maid-servant of God! Now is the time, now is the moment in which, like unto Mary Magdalene (who loosened her tongue in the city of great Rome), thou mayest arise and become engaged in teaching the coming of the Kingdom of God and spread far and wide to the ears the glad-tidings of the Realm of Eternity!"

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha Vol.2, p. 467)

'Address thou the maid-servants of the Merciful One, and say: "Verily, Mary Magdalene was a villager, but on account of her keeping firm in the Cause of Christ after His death, she was rendered successful in such a matter, whereby her face is shining and beaming forth on the horizon of the universe forevermore! And she surpassed even men in defending the fortress of the Cause of God against the attack of the hosts of suspicions. This is indeed a glorious condition! This is indeed a great matter! This is indeed a manifest light!"'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha Vol.3, p. 601)

'To an American lady, in August 1912, Abdu'l-Baha said:

"...Let your heart be confident and assured that through the Bounty of Baha'u'llah, through the Favor of Baha'u'llah, everything will become pleasant for you... But you must turn your face wholly towards the Abha (All-Glorious) Kingdom, giving perfect attention -- the same attention that Mary Magdalene gave to His Holiness Christ..."'

(Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, pp. 109-110)

"That night [December 22, 1912] after dinner, in the drawing-room of 97 Cadogan Gardens, He talked about Christ and His advent, about Christians of early days and particularly Mary Magdalene. Mary, He said, made her way to Rome, sought out the Emperor and interceded for the Jews whom Pontius Pilate was persecuting for having misled him to condemn Jesus to death. Christians, Mary told the Emperor, did not desire revenge. She begged him to send orders to Pilate to cease persecuting the Jews, and the Emperor complied with her wishes."

(H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 348)

"It is certain, and indeed has been prophesied, that the earth's powerful will be raised up to spread the Cause of Baha'u'llah. But we are sure, as well, that shouldering the burdens of the Baha'i Faith is often the privilege of many whom the world would call unqualified. It was always so: what human pundit would have chosen a band of fishermen and a village woman of bad reputation to spread the Faith of Christ worldwide?"

(Marzieh Gail, Arches of the Years, p. 51)

'This new strange spiritual conception of the Messianic office bewildered the disciples. They did not, they would not reject it; they tried to accept it. But their minds were not flexible enough to grasp it. It sank into their hearts very, very slowly. In spite of their Master's vigorous and reiterated teaching, they could only abandon the familiar idea of the Messiah with toil and pain; they clung to it, as it were, in spite of themselves. Even at the end of Jesus' ministry, they had not been able to understand His meaning nor succeeded in their efforts to accept His statement as to His sufferings and His violent death. They still expected He would set up some form of external kingship in which they would enjoy positions of glory and power among men; and Jesus' last efforts in their spiritual education were directed to training them in the virtue of humility and in the ideal of service.

'Before He could bring home to their hearts this difficult and unwelcome lesson, He was taken from them. The tragic close of His career brought their spiritual failure to unmistakable expression. Peter denied His Master thrice; Thomas doubted Him; Judas betrayed Him; all in the hour of His danger forsook Him and fled. The crucifixion cast them into utter amazement and despair. The whole mental fabric which their pride and imagination had built up was shattered in a moment and fallen. Their world was empty. Their beloved Lord was defeated -- the mocking scribe was right. They had made some terrible mistake... For three days the Cause of Christ lay in their hearts dead and buried. None can tell what
might have happened, had it not been for the intuition and courage of one who was not of their number -- a woman, Mary of Magdala. She it was who was the first to understand the reality of Eternal Life and Christ's Eternal Sonship. She understood before those to whom they were spoken, the words of Jesus after His rebuke of Peter.

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it... the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels..." (Matt. 16:24-25, 27.)

'Quicker than any of the Twelve, she perceived the reality of His kingship, and recognised that if His body was dead, His spirit was indestructible and was alive breathing in mortal power. She cheered the disciples. She communicated to them her vision, quickened their faith and renewed their courage. Purified by their suffering, animated by her spiritual power, they now perceived for the first time the incorporeal nature of the dominion and glory of their Lord and of His kingdom. Not till the first Easter was the great confession of an earlier day completed; and if the glory of that confession belongs to Peter the glory of making it in the fullness of its spiritual sense belongs to the Magdalene.'

(George Townshend, The Heart of the Gospel, pp. 132-134)

'Love is not blind, it is "quick-eyed," George Herbert said. Abdu'l-Baha likened Juliet to Mary Magdalene because she loved, and saw, so much. She had that same storied love that Mary had -- that love which after all is the only thing that holds the Baha'is together, or for that matter holds the Lord to His creatures, or keeps the stars in their courses.'

(Marzieh Gail, Preface to The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

'Juliet said that she used, in her story of Mary Magdalene (whom, as Abdu'l-Baha remarked in the diary, she even physically resembled) many things she learned from the Master himself. This book has inclined many a heart toward our Faith, and Stanwood Cobb considered it "one of the most graphic and lofty delineations of Christ ever made in literature."'

(Marzieh Gail, Preface to The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Here is a link to Juliet Thompson's historical novel, I, Mary Magdalene:

"Had you been there, you would have seen that Mary of Magdala even looked like Juliet."

(Words attributed to Abdu'l-Baha from 19 April 1912, The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Juliet Thompson

Once He [Abdu'l-Baha] called Mamma and me into His room and among other things He said was this: "There are correspondences, Mrs. Thompson, between heaven and earth and Juliet's correspondence in heaven is Mary of Magdala."

(The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Here is an account of how Juliet Thompson learned of the Baha'i Faith: