"Great is the mystery of marriage! For without it the world would not exist."
Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code
(which I'll refrain from linking) has generated a lot of interest in Mary Magdalene and alternative Christianities, for which I am ever thankful to Mr Brown; I only wish Mr Brown had the integrity to admit his work was entirely fictive. Now, then. Who was Mary Magdalene really and what was her role in the fellowship of Jesus?
The Eastern church has honoured Magdalene with the accolade "Equal to the Apostles," but is always careful to note that she did not participate in the Apostolic ministry, nor did she receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost for that purpose. The Eastern church answers the question of Magdalene's identity and role by according her high stature and honour amongst the early Christian community. In the East, she was never conflated with the harlot; indeed, Magdalene was a wealthy woman who provided for Jesus and his band of disciples.
The Western church has, owing to an unfortunate Easter sermon given by Pope Gregory "the Great," often confused Mary Magdalene with the harlot mentioned earlier in the gospels, but acknowledges that she was redeemed by Jesus.
So far, we're two for two. Despite Magdalene being the first witness to the resurrection and equal to the apostles, she's still not an apostle. She doesn't have the same authority to teach, to preach, and to baptize that the bull-headed Peter enjoys.
Ah! There is another option, and it's one Dan Brown only vaguely manages to hint at in The DaVinci Code
. He focuses far too much on the idea of the Holy Grail/Holy Blood[line] myth and is unable to see Magdalene not only as Christ's earthly consort, but as his spiritual consort as well. Lets take a few moments and consider some passages from the Gospel of Philip:
[The Savior] loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. They [the disciples] said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness."
Here, Jesus likens the disciples to the blind man who cannot see and Magdalene to the sighted man whose vision is only obscured because there's a dearth of light. He is, in effect, saying "This woman can see where you cannot. Her vision is not clouded by scales. I have given her light, and she flourishes." Or, "This woman
can see what you cannot. She knows me as you will not."
According to Gnostic thought (or at least the Valentinian school), we can see that Magdalene was neither a harlot or merely a wealthy woman, but she was beloved of Jesus in a way that the disciples weren't, because of her capacity for spiritual insight. This is one passage from one text favoured by one Gnostic school, but I hope it will give a modicum of insight into other possibilities for Magdalene and her role in the community.
When Eve was still in Adam death did not exist. When she was separated from him death came into being. If he enters again and attains his former self, death will be no more.
The Nymphon, or the Bridal Chamber, is how the Valentinian school conceptualized this necessary reunion between Adam and Eve, not necessarily in a physical sense (though not excluding it), but moreso in a spiritual sense.
If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and unite them But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because it was not in the bridal chamber that she united with him.
So, here we get more blathering about how the lack of unity between Adam and Eve was the cause of death and how they need to be reunited in order for death to stop, but the death alluded to isn't the death of the body, but rather the spirit.
So what, or where is the bridal chamber? The Gospel of Philip compares the bridal chamber to the "holy of holies" in the Temple at Jerusalem, which is the place only the high priest entered on certain days after observing certain rituals and precautions. It's the same for the bridal chamber. It may be achieved through earthly sexual union (or earthly sexual union may be the parallel of the bridal chamber which is the spiritual mirror of earthly sexual union), but it can only be achieved when the participants are spiritually ready and prepared.
How, precisely, does this tie in to Jesus and Magdalene? I posit, as have many before me, that Magdalene is Eve to Jesus' Adam, at least on a spiritual level. He a vessel of the Logos and she a vessel of Echamoth or Sophia. Only together were Magdalene and Jesus whole, and only with the Logos can Sophia create.
I've barely begun to scratch the surface of Jesus and Magdalene or Nymphon, for that matter, but there's a lot to dig in to. And hopefully, you get the point of the icon now.