Monday, July 22, 2013

Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene

Songs 3:1-4b
Jn 20:1-2, 11-18

Mary Magdalene is a unique and important character in the gospels.  Unfortunately, she is also a mysterious one about whom very little to nothing is known, a situation that has not prevented volumes of books about her and acres of canvas filled with paintings depicting her. 

The tradition in the West is that Mary Magdalene was one of the group of women to discover the empty tomb and, as we heard in today’s gospel, it was to her that the risen Jesus first appeared.  However, the tradition in the West holds that she is also “the woman who was a sinner” as well as the sister of Martha.  That seems like a lot.  The tradition in the East holds that they were three different women.  Considering that Mary, or the Hebrew equivalent Myriam, was a common name, the tradition of the East, makes the most sense. 

But, just as nature abhors a vacuum, human nature abhors a vacuum of evidence about an historical personage.  Thus, many legends and cults have grown up around Mary Magdalene.  She is seen as something of a feminist icon upon whom all sorts of ideas are projected.  Some of those ideas, oftentimes advanced by "theologians" desperate for attention, are truly bizarre, revealing more about the writer than the saint.  Are her relics in France?   Established "tradition" is no better.  Are her relics somewhere in France?  Unlikely. 

In the end we are left with a cipher, a woman who was present at some, though we are not certain which, historical moments in Jesus’ life.  Beyond that we know little else.  We are not even certain about the reason for the name Magdalene.  We have to become comfortable with that lack of knowledge rather than trying to create a persona who isn't there; a persona constructed almost entirely of projection mixed with liberal doses of Hearst tabloid journalism "data".  Once we admit that we don't know, and what we don't know, we can return to what we do have from scripture.

Today’s gospel tells us a great deal.  Like the apostles on the road to Emmaus and like us today, Mary failed to recognize the Risen Jesus when she first encountered Him.  Only when he spoke did she realize that this man was not the gardener but rather, Jesus.  Thus, she is a model for us.  We do not always recognize Jesus when we encounter him in prayer, when we encounter him in others, and when we encounter him in the Eucharist.  Our task is to imitate Mary Magdalene by seeking the Lord where we may find him, by seeking the Lord even when he seems to be absent.

Mary could say with the writer of the Song of Songs in today's first reading:  “I sought him, whom my heart loves.  I will rise then and go about the city in the streets and crossings I will seek Him whom my heart loves."  We are called to nothing less.
Black and white photography.

There are some photos that do not work well in color.  The corollary, that some black and white photos are very much enhanced by color, is also true.  An article in this morning's paper touted a way of transforming old sepia, and I assume black and white photos, to color.  In the given example there was something wrong with the color.  The colorization of old black and white movies is very jarring.  

My first camera was a Canon AE-1, one of the first automatic cameras.  I gave it away some time during novitiate.  However, one turned up in the minister's office recently.  It weighed a relative ton.  The first roll of film I ever shot, while driving Rt 45 West between Danville and State College, was black and white.  Of course one was committed to b&w images until the roll ran out.  In the spring of 1977 I spent six weeks in England, working as a visiting registrar at St. Christopher's Hospice.  Several of the b&w photos from that trip hung in my officer for years.  Thus, I have a particular affection for that medium.  

I picked up a digital photography magazine during a very long layover in Charlotte last year.  The feature article was about b&w photography.  Given the ease of moving from color to b&w along with the ability to finely adjust the result, the author suggested shooting all photos in color and then converting rather than using a b&w filter, something available on many digital cameras.  I've no argument with the reasoning or in doing so.  All of the photos below were taken as color and then converted and adjusted to achieve a particular look.  

Gerroa Beach, New South Wales Australia.  This is from early in tertianship.  The sun was blazing and the photo was quite hazy as a result.  Switching to b&w, polarizing and increasing the contrast massively improved the result. 
San Francisco.  Steps at my niece's condo complex.  Lots of contrast applied resulting in a graphic-arts effect.
Penn State.  A similar approach to a photo of a bridge between the two parts of the (stunning) new life sciences building. 
Plymouth, PA.  The organ at St. Mary's Church.  This was taken on Holy Saturday afternoon a year ago as sun, filtered by the stained glass, streamed into the choir loft.  Added a bit of contrast.
Campion Center.  The sacristy has been a source of photographic material.  Ignatius did an amazing job arranging what was beginning to look like hoarder heaven.  The chalices belonged mostly to men who are now dead. 
The candelabra used for Holy Thursday.  Ignatius removed all the melted wax from the holders and polished everything. 
A self-portait taken while looking into the elevator shaft for the small elevator in the health center.  I have keys to the roof.  Talk about a great perk.  Added some contrast, darkened some shadows and highlighted some brighter areas.  
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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