by Father Sean Davidson
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Father Davidson has written this book in continuity with the ancient Catholic tradition on the life of the saint, but he has done so from a new perspective, in relation to the Eucharistic Mystery. His work goes to the heart of the identity of this holy woman who was above all an ardent adorer in spirit and in Truth. (Jn4:23). Before anything else, she is a witness to the transforming power of an encounter with Jesus Christ, an encounter which blossomed into a life of adoration at his feet. Her contemplative of the Lord Jesus continued to the end of her life. Adoration is essentially above love and I the Gospels there are few people who understood love as well as Mary Magdalene, who reminds us of the primacy of God and the primacy of adoration in the life of the Church and in the liturgical celebration.
This book paints a beautiful portrait of the merciful Face of Jesus, and it is as much a commentary on the life of Christ as it is on the life of Mary Magdalene. If it makes use of the example of Saint Magdalene as a subject for meditation, it is only so as to draw us into a deeper understanding of the Person of Christ, It is my hope that on these pages many people will find nourishment for their souls and discover anew the timeless figure of the Apostle of the Apostles. May her example enkindle a new fire of love for Christ in our hearts, and many her intercession accompany the reader at every moment.
This book is the fruit of much time spent with Saint Mary Magdalene before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Perhaps it will help others to enter into a Eucharistic meditation of this beautiful disciple of Christ. I write it in the spirit of the brothers of Saint Dominic who for almost seven hundred years were the custodian of the basilica that houses the precious relics of this dear friend of Jesus Christ. Their entire mission consisted in “passing on to others what they themselves had contemplated”. So along with what I have learned from my happy time spent in Provence, I now pass on to you some thoughts on saint Mary Magdalene that I have received for the most part before the Eucharistic face of Jesus.
It is hard to describe the enchanting beauty of the location that became her final dwelling place on earth and where it seems as though the peace of eternity has spilled over into the universe. Perhaps it would be best to invoke the aid of a master of language whose eloquence did so much to rebuild the Church In France upon the ruins left by the terror of the Revolution. He is credited not only with bringing the Dominican Order back to France after its total eradication, but also with bringing devotion back to la Sainte Baume. Is words, though removed from the richness of their original language, still give us a hint of how Father Henri Lacordaire felt as he trekked through the forests of la Sainte Baume before finally catching a glimpse of the old abandoned Dominican convert adjacent to the holy grotto, where the wonders of mystical grace had borne much fruit.
Magdalene’s life of prayer and love for the Eucharist must have grown to ever new levels of intensity, for the local tradition has it that Magdalene eventually partook of no other food but this heavenly Manna and left this world in a Eucharistic ecstasy after receiving Holy Communion for the last time. She, who clung to the feet of her Lord in loving adoration during his mortal life, clung to him so tightly when he came in the Eucharist that for her it became the beginning of the mystical marriage of Paradise. Such were the marvels that la Sainte Baume was privileged to behold almost two thousand years ago. To understand Mary Magdalene, however, we must go even farther back in time and return to the sunny days in Galilee where her soul first passed from death to life. Drawing from Scripture and scholarship, Father Davidson paints a soul-stirring portrait of the ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ that speaks directly to the heart of the reader. Filled with remarkable insights, this is a highly engaging and deeply moving look at how the encounter with Christ can truly change your life. It is beautiful to read and use for contemplation and buy for another.