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The Ballad of Mary Magdalene


Today in the Church Calendar is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene

Though the identification of Magdalene with the woman taken in adultery is unbiblical, it makes a good story, so I have gone with tradition, rather then the true Gospel reading. The picture is Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565).

Hear the song

My name is Mary
     And I come from Magdala
And many a young man
     Has shared my bed.
The life I led
     It drove me crazy
I had seven devils
     In my head.

     The priests and elders
          They came and took me
     And they condemned me
          To my death.
So pay attention
     And I'll tell my story
If the good Lord spares me
     And gives me breath.

We met a good man
     Down by the roadside
They meant to trap him
     And catch him out.
They said this woman
     Was caught in sin and
The law is certain.
     There is no doubt.
     We mean to stone her,
          To execute her.
     If you're a good man
          Then you'll agree.
So must she die
     As the law provides
Or would you rather
     We set her free?

He sat in silence
     And then he answered:
It seemed to me that
     My death was sure:
The penalty
     Permits no mercy,
So throw your stones
     If your life is pure.
     If you can say that
          Before Jehovah,
     That you have never
          Committed sin,
Then you are worthy
     To stand in judgement
On this young woman,
     So now begin.

They stood uncertain,
     Looked at each other,
And silently they
     Stole away.
He said: Is no one
     Left to condemn you?
Then neither do I,
     But this I say:
     Your life needs changing,
          And rearranging.
     You have been given
          The right to live.
For God has saved you
     From condemnation,
And my salvation
     Is what I give.

Now he was followed
     By 12 disciples
And Judas was
     The name of one.
He was a hard man
     And bitter with it,
A trusted servant
     When said and done.
     He kept the money
          And oversaw it,
     So we could eat
          And pay the bills.
Important work as
     We roamed the country
To seek and cure
     The people's ills.

I had a jar that
     Was made of marble
And precious perfume
     Filled the jar.
I raised it up and
     I poured the perfume
All upon this
     Good man's hair.
     But Judas scolded,
          He was so angry.
     He said we could have
          Sold the jar.
To feed the poor
     Who were so hungry:
A silly woman,
     That's what you are!

But Jesus smiled
     And he said this woman
Has done a very
     Lovely thing.
The poor are with you
     And always will be
Until my kingdom
     Returns again.
     But I am with you
          For a brief moment
     And must return
          To my Father's side.
So thank you, Mary,
     You shall be blessèd
And see me first
     When I'm glorified.

Now Judas turned
     And he proved a traitor
And he sold my Master
     For thirty coins.
They nailed him up
     On a cross so cruel
And there he died
     Between two thieves.
     When he was buried
          The tomb was opened,
     The corpse had vanished
          Into the night.
I came to seek him
     But none could find him
Till the whole garden
     Was filled with light.

I saw a young man
     Sat by the entrance
His face was radiant
     Like the sun.
I said young man
     Have you stole the body?
Come tell me plainly
     What you have done.
     He answered: Mary,
          And my heart leapt,
     For I could hear
          My Master's voice.
I ran to where
     The 12 were hiding
And cried: He lives,
     So let's rejoice.

They were amazed,
     Could not believe
That God could open
     The gates of death.
They called me foolish
     Continued weeping
And yet I knew that
     I told the truth.
     He came and met them,
          Ate breakfast with them
     And all were changed by
          Refining fire.
From that day forth
     The good news grows
And flames of freedom
     Are rising higher.They say a woman
     Led men astray
When Adam took the
     Fruit from Eve.
But each of us
     Must take the blame
For what we do:
     This I believe.
     Remember this:
          It was a woman
     Who blessed the Lord
          And saw him die.
And when he rose
     She was the first
To see his glory
     Fill the sky.

For one of the “Magdalene” chapters in my novel, Witnesses to Glory, click HERE

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