I can’t presume to write a novel about the life and love of Mary Magdalene without first giving credit to the 35 year journey that led me to this place. (This is Part One of a Four Part Series. Song of the Beloved – the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene coming SOON!) This is my journey with the Magdalene!
I first “met” Mary Magdalene in seventh grade music class when Miss Klosterman played for us the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack. This was the soundtrack of the original London cast featuring Ian Gillan as Jesus (later played by Ted Neely in the movie version) and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene. To say this soundtrack changed my life would be an understatement! Up to this point, Jesus was sitting up on a pedestal, the “Son of God” who we could pray to and whose grace we sought, but who in truth felt very far away and unapproachable. Having been raised Catholic and attending Catholic schools, Jesus was presented as the image of perfection. How could we, lowly humans, even presume to approach him except by gazing up to “heaven” where he sat on a throne, the image of perfection and holding up the standard of perfect human behavior? Well, Jesus Christ Superstar changed all of that. For the first time in my life, Jesus was HUMAN. He was vulnerable, afraid, got frustrated and angry, grew impatient and tired – just like the rest of us. Now this was a Jesus I could relate to! What I didn’t know at the time is that this Jesus – the human, approachable Jesus was the very Jesus that every Christian mystic had come to know in very personal and intimate ways for upwards of 2000 years. The awareness of Jesus as a living, breathing, flawed human being opened the door for the development of a deeply personal and intimate relationship with Jesus that continues to this day.
The second thing that Jesus Christ Superstar did for me was to introduce me to an example of female discipleship. Mary Magdalene stood beside Jesus, equal to, or perhaps even more equal, than his male disciples. She stood so close to Jesus, in fact, that it was to Mary that he turned when tired and worn out from preaching, healing and ministering to a stiff-necked people. Mary presented a model of presence, nurturing, support and comfort that seemed to be lacking in the male disciples. Although Andrew Lloyd Webber didn’t go there, the tenderness and intimacy portrayed in both the theatrical and movie versions of this “rock opera” seemed to hint at the possibility that Jesus and Mary had more going on than just being teacher and student. Again, while neither the play nor the movie portrayed it, whispering under the dialog, the interactions, the tenderness and tension, one had to wonder if there was in fact a romantic love between Mary and Jesus. This question remained in my consciousness as a very real possibility in spite of the Catholic insistence that Jesus was single and chaste, like the priestly celibacy they were trying to uphold.
Jesus Christ Superstar continued as the model of a Jesus I wanted to know and the female disciple that stood at least equal if not more intimate than his male disciples. I turned to the soundtrack over and over and over again in search of the connection with Jesus that Mary seemed to enjoy and to come to know Mary Magdalene more fully. To this day, I can sing the entire soundtrack from beginning to end without pause….”What’s the buzz, tell me what’s a happenin….what’s the buzz….tell me what’s happenin….tell me what’s happenin…”
Stay tuned for parts 2-4!
Song of the Beloved – the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene, the novel, is coming soon! Watch this blog, or subscribe to my email newsletter HERE for updates!