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Mary Magdalene Loved By Jesus
Arjun L Sen
Drawing - Finger Painting On Digital Screen
Mary Magdalene, imagined at the moment when she understands that Jesus loves and accepts her above and beyond the ordinary people who revile her as a low woman. It would be difficult to comprehend the enormity and complexity of her emotions. Consider this : not only is she chosen and loved after being generally reviled, but she KNOWS that this man is the Anointed One. A silly fantasy? Maybe. We will never know such joy, such relief from mental and physical suffering, such liberation, as this, whatever opinion we may have of her convictions. I will certainly not know it and neither will you, so think before you jeer.
They say the depths of the soul is revealed in the eyes. I think eyes, followed by hands, are the most expressive. I have tried to keep it simple and focused on these. Thank you for looking and taking a little time. Call it a devotional picture, if you like. I'm not a convinced Christian as I doubt the existence of God but I'm glad Mary had the liberation she had when this happened. Maybe I don't deserve it and you don't deserve it but she deserved that liberation. Faith alone sets you free, even while life holds you down in chains.
Background ideas to this picture:
...on the Web Gallery of Art there is a famous painting from 1598 by Caravaggio of Martha reproaching Mary, echoing the famous story everyone knows. This really is absolutely the last word in realism. You have to go back to the Old Masters to see not only the sumptuous realism but also the amazing evocation of character and soul in human body. It has never been bettered since.
But the story of Mary Magdalene as a "Fallen Woman" which I pick up on in this painting is really a 6th Century character assassination by Pope Gregory. This, I believe, is part of a long, patriarchal conspiracy to turn Christianity into a male-dominated religion and an instrument of politics, when in fact the Life of Jesus tells us something very different. The Popes and the Church, going back to Peter himself, and through Paul and others, have always been against women. The celibacy of Catholic priesthood is also related to the this, in the guise of 'selfless service.'
Unfortunately for the Popes, certain women were more important in the Life of Jesus than even the foremost male disciples. Three women, among them Mary of Magdala (Mary Magdalene) were among those who witnessed Jesus's Crucifixion, his Entombment and his Resurrection.
There really was a danger that the Christian faith could end up by being led by women unless this tendency ws firmly squashed! The Popes - starting with Peter himself - were jolly well not going to have that. So Gregory took advantage of the confusion of identities across the gospels to deliberately confuse Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany whose personal reputation was not as strict. Picking up on the Old Testament story which blames Orignal Sin on women, and going down two thousand years of systematic physical and ideological persecution of women, the men of the Church secured their control over the hearts and minds of Christian folk. By the Middle Ages it was so embedded that when the Protestants broke away they got even worse - look at the witchhunts and the persecution of black cats and Wise Women throughout the Middle Ages and the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the 17th C - all well documented!
Going back even before Pope Gregory to the Council of Nicaea (4th c, before the separation of Catholic and Orthodox Churches and the Fall of the Roman Empire) the Church pushed the Apocrypha and Gnostic Texts into a kind of trash-can, even though they couldn't dump them altogether.
Picking up on the preceding, I would add that my interpretation of my own painting takes elements both from the original identity of Mary of Magdala AND Pope Gregory's assassination of her character as Jesus's most important disciple - (God forbid, surely that had to be Peter?!!).
In my drawing, Mary Magdalene isn't a "fallen woman" at all but because she chose to follow Jesus and made no bones about it and Jesus was reviled by the priestly class, so one can just imagine that it would be easy to spread spiteful gossip about any woman close to Jesus. So Mary's reputation is cast into the mud and she has to put up with the calumny and jeers of mediocre people but she keeps strong as steel to her faith through all this travail. Leaving everything she has, she follows Jesus to his final place. At his Resurrection, Jesus' Reality is revealed to her and his immortal love and she has her epiphany and knows that nothing matters, nothing matters at all any more for she is saved and one with his heart forever.
It's THAT moment I am trying to capture in this picture. �Her eyes reflect the wonder and the enormous joy of that moment AND all the mental and physical anguish she has suffered for her faith in Jesus.
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June 21st, 2012
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