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

Here is the final part of my translation of the Golden Legend of Mary Magdalene. This sectionof the story includes her death and some legends relating to her. I found this exercise of modernizing the story to be quite enlightening. I plan on doing more in the future.


It happened that a priest, who desired to lead a solitary life, took a small residence for himself not far from the place of Mary Magdalene.  Then one day, our Lord opened the eyes of that priest and he saw in what manner the angels descended into the place where the blessed Mary Magdalene dwelt, and how they lifted her into the air, and after a hour, brought her again with divine praising to the same place.  And then the priest desired greatly to know the truth of this marvelous vision, and made his prayers to Almighty God, and went with great devotion unto the place.  When he approached a stone’s cast to it, his thighs began to swell and feel feeble.  His entrails within him began to lack breath and sigh for fear.  As soon as he returned, he had his thighs all whole and ready to go.  When he enforced himself to go to the place, his body began to feel weak and would not move.  He then understood that it was a secret celestial place where no human could enter.  He called out the name of Jesus and said “I conjure thee by our Lord, that if thou be a man or other reasonable creature, that dwell in this cave, answer me and tell me the truth.”  And when he had said this three times, the blessed Mary Magdalene answered “Come closer and thou shall know what thou desires.”  And then he came trembling unto the half way, and she said to him “Does thou not remember the gospel of Mary Magdalene, the renowned sinful woman, which washed the feet of our Saviour with her tears and dried them with the hair of her head, and desired to have forgiveness of her sins?”  And the priest said to her “I remember it well, that it has been more than thirty years that the holy church believed and confessed that it be done.”  And then she said “I am she that by the space of thirty years have been here without the company of any person, and like as it was suffered to thee yesterday to see me, in like wise, I am every day lifted up by the hands of angels into the air, and have deserved to hear with my bodily ears the sweet song of the celestial company.  And because it is showed to me of our Lord, that I shall depart out of this world.  Go to Maximin and say to him that the next day after the resurrection of our lord, in the same time that he is accustomed to arise and go to Matins, that he alone enter into his oratory, and that by the ministry and service of angels, he shall find me there.”  And the priest heard the voice of her, like as if it had been the voice of an angel, but saw nothing.  He then went to Saint Maximin and told to him by order.  Saint Maximin was replenished of great joy, and thanked greatly our Lord.  And on the said day and hour, he entered into his oratory and saw the blessed Mary Magdalene standing in a choir of angels, and whom was lifted from the earth about four feet.  Praying to our Lord, she held up her hands, and when Saint Maximin saw her, he was afraid to approach her.  She returned to him and said “Come toward mine own father and flee not thy daughter.”  When he approached her, as it is in the books of Saint Maximin, for the vision that she had of angels everyday, the cheer and visage of her shone as clear it had been the rays of the sun.  And then all the clerks and priests were called, and Mary Magdalene received the body and blood of our Lord of the hangs of the bishop with great abundance of tears.  Afterwards, she stretched her body toward the altar and her right blessed soul departed from the body and went to our Lord.  After it departed, there issued out of the body an odor so sweet smelling that it remained there for seven days.  The blessed Maximin anointed the body of Mary with precious ointments and buried it honorably, and after commanded that his body should be buried by hers after his death.

Legends after her death….

Hegesippus, with other books of Josephus accord enough with the said story, and Josephus said in his treatise that the blessed Mary Magdalene, after the ascension of our Lord, for the burning love that she had to Jesus Christ and for the grief and discomfort that she had for the absence of her master our Lord, she would never see any man.  But after she came into the country of Aix, she went into the desert and dwelt there for thirty years without knowing of any man or woman.  And he said that everyday at the seven hours canonical, she was lifted in the air of the angels.  But he said that when the priest came to her, he found her enclosed in her cell; and she required of him a vestment, and he delivered to her one, which she clothed and covered herself with.  She went with him to the church and received the communion, and then made her prayers with joined hands, and rested in peace.

In the time of Charles the great, in the year of our Lord, 771, Gerard, Duke of Burgundy, had no child by his wife, gave large alms to poor people and founded many churches and monasteries.  When he had the abbey of Vesoul, he and the abbot of the monastery sent a monk with a good reasonable fellowship into Aix, to bring back any relics of Saint Mary Magdalene.  When the monk arrived to said city, he found it all destroyed by non-Christians.  Then by adventure, he found the sepulchre, for the writing upon the sepulchre of marble showed well that the blessed lady Mary Magdalene rested and lay there, and the history of her was marvelously entailed and carved into the sepulchre.  The monk opened it that night and took the relics back to where he was lodging.  That same night Mary Magdalene appeared to that monk saying “Doubt thee nothing, make an end of the work.”  He then returned homeward until he came half a mile from the monastery.  He did not remove the relics until the abbot and monks came from the process, and he handed them over honestly.  Soon after, the duke’s wife had a child.

There was a knight that had a custom that every year, he would go on a pilgrimage to the body of Saint Mary Magdalene.  During a battle, the knight was slain.  As his friends wept for him, they said with sweet and devout quarrels, “Why did the servant of Mary Magdalene to die without confession and penance?”  Then suddenly the dead arose and called for a priest.  When the priest arrived, the knight confessed to him with great devotion, and received the blessed sacrament, and then rested in peace.

There was a ship with men and women that was sinking into the sea, and among them was a woman with child, who were about to be drowned.  The woman cried fast on Mary Magdalene for help, making a vow that if she might be saved by her merits, and escape the peril, if she had a son, she would give him to the monastery.  As soon as she made her vow, a woman of honorable habit and beauty appeared to her, and took her by the chin and brought her to the shore all safe, while the others in ship perished and drowned.  When the woman had her child, it was a son and she honored her vow.

Some say that Saint Mary Magdalene was wedded to Saint John the Evangelist when Christ called him from the wedding, and when he was called from her, she had been angered that her husband was taken from her, and went and gave herself to all delight.  Because it was not appropriate that the calling of Saint John should be the reason for her damnation, our Lord converted her mercifully to penance, and because he had taken from her sovereign delight of the flesh, he replenished her with sovereign delight spiritual before all other, that is the love of God.  It is said that he glorified Saint John before all others with the sweetness of his familiarity, because he had taken him from the preceding delight.

There was a blind man who was led to the monastery of the blessed Mary Magdalene to visit her body.  His leader said to him that he saw the church and then the blind man cried out and said in a high voice “O blessed Mary Magdalene, help me that I may deserve once to see thy church.”  And at once, his eyes were opened and was able to see all things clearly.

There was another man that wrote his sins in a journal and laid it under the coverture of the altar of Mary Magdalene, meekly praying to her seeking pardon and forgiveness.  After a short amount of time, he took his journal and found all his sins erased and struck out.  Another man was being held in prison, in chains, for debt of money.  He often called onto Mary Magdalene for help.  On one night, a fair woman appeared to him and broke all his chains, opened the door and commanded him to go his way.  When he saw himself loose, he fled away.

There was a clerk of Flanders named Stephen Rysen, a man of great immoral and entertained all manner of sins.  And such things concerning his health, he would not hear.  Nevertheless, he had great devotion in the blessed Mary Magdalene and fasted her vigil, and honored her feast.  During a visit to her tomb, he was not all asleep nor awake, when Mary Magdalene appeared to him as a fair woman, sustained with two angels, one on each side, and she said to him “Stephen, why does thou consider the deeds of my merits to be unworthy?  For what reason does thou not, at instance of my merits and prayers, be moved to penance?  For the time thou began to have devotion in me, I have always prayed to God for thee firmly.  Arise and repent, and I shall not leave you till you are reconciled to God.”  He felt his body fill with such great grace, that he renounced the world and entered into religion to live a perfect life.  Then at his death bed, Mary Magdalene was seen standing beside him with a choir of angels, which bared the soul up to heaven in the likeness of a white dove.  Let us pray to this blessed Mary Magdalene that she gives us grace to do penance her for our sins, that after this life, we may come to her in everlasting bliss in heaven.  Amen.

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

2021 version by Bill Piper

Published by bP

A gnostic wanderer

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