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She did not flinch from the knowing

July 22 is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles.”

Friendship is the linking of spirits. It is a spiritual act, not a social one. It is the finding of the remainder of the self. I am not so sure, then, that we so much find a friend as it is that friendship, the deathless search of the soul for itself, finds us. Then, the memory of Mary Magdalene becomes clear, becomes the bellwether of the real relationship.

Mary Magdalene is the woman whom scripture calls by name in a time when women were seldom named in public documents at all. She is, in fact, named fourteen times––more than any other woman in the New Testament except Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, herself. She is clearly a very important, and apparently a very wealthy, woman. Most of all, she understood who Jesus was long before anyone else did, and she supported him in his wild, free-ranging, revolutionary approach to life and state and synagogue. She was, it seems, the leader of a group of women who “supported Jesus out of their own resources.” And she never left his side for the rest of his life.

She was there at the beginning of his ministry and she was there at the end. She was there when they were following him in cheering throngs. And she was there when they were taking his life, dashing it against the stones of synagogue and state, turning on him, jeering at him, shouting for his death, standing by while soldiers poked and prodded him to ignominy. She tended his grave and shouted his dying glory and clung to his soul. She knew him and she did not flinch from the knowing.

The Magdalene factor in friendship is the ability to know everything there is to know about a person, to celebrate their fortunes, to weather their straits, to accompany them in their pain and to be faithful to the end, whatever its glory, whatever its grief. The Magdalene factor is intimacy, that unshakeable immersion in the life of the other to the peak of ecstasy, to the depths of hell.

The intimacy of truth, the Magdalene factor, is about appreciation, affection, and warmth. It is as important to the married as to the single, to the elderly as to the young. It is about being deeply valued, reverently respected, lovingly tended and warmly received. It is about more than the present moment, more than the daily routine of partnership; it is about the obscure miracles and the hidden meanings of life. It is about forever.

             ––from The Friendship of Women (BlueBridge Books), by Joan Chittister.