Mary Magdalene in the “Speculum Sacerdotale” (1 of 2)

My medieval translations continue, this time from the fifteenth century collection of sermons titled the “Speculum Sacerdotale.” This modernization was a bit more tricky but I think I was able to get the point across, for the most part. I decided to split this up into two different blog posts. Like the Golden Legend, this story has given Mary the same attributes that typically are cast on her during this time period, so keep that in mind. I have provided a link at the end of the post to the original text I used.

In a day, we shall have the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, who was the sinful woman and served to have fleshly desires, and to whom God afterward gave such grace that she was given forgiveness of her sins.

For when Christ was in the house of Simon the Leper, as soon as Mary heard of him, she thought in herself by divine aspiration and grace that it come time to convert and make sorrow and penance of her life that she had lead before.  And she took an ointment in a vessel and went into the house of Simon where Jesus was and kneeled to the feet of Jesus and washed them with her tears, and wiped them with her hair and then anointed them with her ointment.

The Pharisees Simon had become angry that Christ would allow such a sinful woman to come to him, and Jesus said him “Simon, see that I came into your house and you neither kissed my feet, nor washed or anointed them, but this woman had done this since she had come.”  And there fore said Christ to Simon, “Her many sins are forgiven, because she loved me so much.”  And then he said to the woman, “Woman, for you have showed me love, your sins are forgiven.  Go, your faith has made you safe.”

Joseph tells us that Mary Magdalene, for the great burning love that she showed God, would never have a husband after the ascension of Christ.  But she will go into the desert and there she will dwell for the span of thirty years, unknown to all, never eat meat or have drink.  But in time, the angels of Heaven would come to her and raise her up into the air, and there she would pray to God.

After the space of thirty years, there was a holy priest who used the time of fasting and prayer to dwell in the desert.  And in time, he saw how the angels of God would come down from Heaven and there took a person or thing and bare it up between him and after, brought it again and left it where they took it.  At the last time, this priest thought in himself that there was some saint residing there that would often visit with angels.  And at the excitation of the Holy Spirit, he went to the place where the angels were going to, and there he found an enclosed den.  He kneel down and cried, saying “I conjure thee by virtue of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, that whether thou be man or what creature that thou be, that is in this place, that thou speak with me.  And if thou be a spirit, then thou answer to me!”

And then a voice spoke to him from out of the den and said “For that thou has so conjured me by the holy Trinity, therefore I shall answer and speak to thee and show to thee what I am.  Has thou never heard or read in the Gospel of Mary, the great sinner, that watered the feet of her Saviour and wiped them with her hair, and deserved so to have forgiveness of her sins?”

And he answered and said “Yes, I have heard and read it, and now it is the holy Gospel over all the world.”  And then Mary said to him again, “Sire, I am the same Mary; and for the great love that I have to my lord, I may see no man.  And therefore, soon after his ascension, I went into this wilderness and have dwelled here for thirty years, and in all this time, I never saw or heard a man until now.  Each day, at the canonical hour, angels of my Lord would come to me and lead me to my praying place toward Heaven.  And there they showed me the sweetness of the bliss, and then they bring me back to this den.  And for this sweetness of Heaven and fairness of the angels, I never desired of man nor be hungry or thirsty for thirty years.  And sire, now I know well that the day of my passage out of this world has come near, that I may dwell in the sight of my Lord for eternity.  And therefore I pray thee, do now at my prayers, as I have done at thee; go home and come again at the seventh day and bring with thee a weaving cloth, for I will end in the same manner as other men do.”

And then the priest went and brought such a cloth and cast it at the door of the den.  And then Mary prayed to him that he should bring her to some place of men that she might end her life there.  And he brought her home to his brethren, and there Mary was communed with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And she then lift up her head and hands to God, and so passed her spirit.

Here is the original text I used: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/reames-middle-english-legends-of-women-saints-mary-magdalen-speculum-sacerdotale

2021 translation/modernization by Bill Piper.

Published by bP

A gnostic wanderer

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