The Golden Legend of Mary Magdalene (#2 of 3)

Here is the second post regarding my “modern” translation of the “Golden Legend of Mary Magdalene” from the Legenda sanctorum (Readings of the Saints) by Jacobus de Varagine. This section still follows the man and his wife from the previous post, and ends with Mary Magdalene going into solitude. I hope you enjoy this read and be sure to check back in a week (or so) when I have the final part of the story translated.

As always, I am not a scholar or some professional, so please bare with any mistakes I may have made. 😉


And when they made their course, sailing a day and night, there arose a great storm.  The wind increased and grew over hideous.  During the troubling of the sea and among the great waves, the lady gave birth to a son.  During his birth, the lady had died and the child, crying for his mother, made a piteous noise.  This brought great sorrow to the father, seeing his wife die and not knowing if the child will survive.

Alas!  What sorrow was this to the father, to have a son who’s birth caused the death of his wife, and the son may not live due to having none to nourish him.  Alas!  What shall this pilgrim do, seeing his wife dead and his son crying after the breast of his mother?  And the pilgrim wept strongly and said “Alas!  What shall I do?  I desired to have a son, and I have lost both the mother and possibly the son.”  And the mariners then said “This dead body must be cast into the sea, or else we all shall perish.  For as long as her body abides with us, this storm shall not cease.”  And when they had taken the body to cast into the sea, the husband said “Abide and suffer a little, and if you will not spare my wife, at least spare the crying child.  I pray you to wait awhile, for to know if the mother be reeling from the pain and might revive.”  And while he spoke to them, the ship men spotted a mountain not far from their ship.  They said that it was best to set the ship towards land and to bury there, to save the body from being devoured by sea creatures.  The man agreed with the mariners and they brought the body to the mountain.  On land, they tried to dig a pit for the body but found the ground was hard as rock thus they left the body lying on the ground and covered it with a mantle.  The father laid his little son at the breast of his dead wife and said weeping “O’ Mary Magdalene, why did you come to Marseille to cause great loss and set me upon this evil adventure?  Why did thou ask of God that my wife should conceive only to die during childbirth?  And now the child she conceived will perish because it has no way to nurse.  This I had by thy prayer, and to thee I commend them, to whom I have commended all my goods.  And also I commend to thy God, if he be mighty, that he remember the soul of the mother, that he by thy prayer have pity on the child that he does not perish.”  Then he covered his wife’s body, along with the child, with the mantle and returned to the ship and went forth with his journey.

When he came to Saint Peter, Saint Peter came against him.  When he saw the sign of the cross upon his shoulder, he demanded who he was and wherefore he came.  To whom Peter said “Peace be to thee, thou are welcomed and in good counsel.  Be not sadden by your wife’s sleep and the little child that rests with her, for our Lord is almighty, for to give to whom he will, and to take away that he has given, and to reestablish and give again that has taken, and to turn all heaviness and weeping into joy.”  Peter then led him into Jerusalem and showed him all the places where Jesus Christ preached and did miracles, the place where he suffered death, and where he ascended into heaven.  When he was well-informed of Saint Peter in the faith, and it had been two years since he had departed from Marseille, he took his ship to return to his county.  

As they sailed by the sea, they came, by the ordinance of God, by the rock where the body of his wife and son were left.  They arrived onto the mountain, the little child, whom was protected by Mary Magdalene, went to the seaside and started throwing stones into the sea.  When the man saw the little child playing, he was marveled at what he was.  When the child spotted them, he was afraid as he had never seen people before.  He ran to his mother’s breast and hid under the mantle.  The father went to find the child.  Upon pulling off the mantle, he found the child suckling the breast of his mother.  The father took the child into his arms and said “O’ Blessed Mary Magdalene, I would be so happy and blessed if my wife were alive, and might live again to come with me to my country.  I know certainly and believe that thou has given me back my son, and had fed and kept him safe for two years on this rock.  Please bring his mother back to full health.”  And with these words, his wife respired and took life, and as if she just woke up from a deep sleep, said “O’ Blessed Mary Magdalene, thou are of great merit and glorious, for in the pains of my deliverance, thou were my midwife, and in my necessities, thou has accomplished to me the service of a chambermaid.”  And when her husband heard that thing, he marveled as much and said “Does my dear and beloved wife live?”  To whom she said “Yes, certainly I live, and am now first coming from the pilgrimage from where you came, and all in like wise as Saint Peter led you in Jerusalem, and showed to you all the places where our Lord suffered death, was buried and ascended to heaven, and many other places, I was with you, with Mary Magdalene, which led and accompanied me, and showed to me all the places which I will remember and have in mind.”  And there, she recounted to him all the miracles that her husband had seen and never once failed in her recollections.

And then the good pilgrim received his wife and child, and went to the ship.  Soon after, they came to the port of Marseille and found the blessed Mary Magdalene preaching with her disciples.  They kneeled down to her feet and recounted to her all what had happened to them, and then received baptism of Saint Maximin.  They then destroyed all the temples of the idols in the city of Marseille, and made churches of Jesus Christ.  And with one accord, they chose the blessed Saint Lazarus to be bishop of that city.  Afterward, they came to the city of Aix, and by great miracles and preaching, they brought the people there to the faith of Jesus Christ.  There, Saint Maximin was ordained to be bishop.  In the meanwhile, the blessed Mary Magdalene, desirous of sovereign contemplation, sought a right sharp desert and took place there which was ordained by an angel of God, and to abode there for thirty years without knowledge of anyone.  In this place, she had no comfort of running water, no solace of trees and no herbs.  That was because our Redeemer had ordained for her to not partake of bodily meats but rather that of a celestial nature.  Everyday at each canonical hour, she was lifted up in the air of angels, and heard the glorious song of the heavenly companies with her bodily ears.  She was fed and filled with right sweet meats, and then was brought again by the angels to her proper place, in which she had no need of bodily nourishing.

Stay tuned for part 3!

Check out the 1483 version at: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/goldenlegend/goldenlegend-volume4.asp#Mary%20Magdalene

2021 version by Bill Piper

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