Cynthia Bourgeault on Mary Magdalene #2

This post was originally published in Christopher Page’s blog, In A Spacious Place.

March 18 – 22, 2011: Poet’s Cove Resort on Pender Island BC, Canada – Contemplative Retreat with Cynthia Bourgeault

Substituted love:

1. is voluntary in nature – it is not about duty – it is a free action

2. relieves the other of the burden – you stand in the place of. 
This is the view found in Christian mysticism – a permeability of souls – a giving and receiving. Our personal self hood is a mirage.

Katharine Jefferts Schori says there is no such thing as individual salvation. We are in this together. We are particles in the oneness. 

One can choose to die on behalf of another. Shows what is possible in love.
The burden is not on individual sinfulness but more to do with cosmology. There is an anguish that is built into infinitude.

Love doing its own thing follows a natural trajectory.

Atonement makes a mockery of kenosis. Jesus voluntarily chose his death. This was the natural progression of love fully manifested. 

Love begins as a grape but ends up as wine

Judgment vs Forgiveness. The latter was picked up by the mystics – boundless simplicity. 
Institutional church picked up the former in its dogma and theology.

Mary Magdalene, like a weather vane points to the latter. When she is there, the conversation softens. Mary Magdalene “that she had loved much”

 (Mary of Bethany could be the same as Mary Magdalene. Magdala as a nickname meaning tower applied later as initiation. Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene don’t ever appear together.)

Mary Magdalene is a very significant person at the end of the story. It would be surprising if her name never appeared earlier.


have to arouse desiring before you have anything to work with. The passion of the raw human soul is fuel for transformation. Eros is the fuel for transformation. It is better to have a good lover than to be a virtuous prig.

Atonement is fear based vs love. The Pascal Mystery is about love doing its thing.

 Agape and Eros are different places on the trajectory. It begins in desiring, becomes agape or transfigured desiring. Love will transform. Mary Magdalene becomes an icon of this love transformed.



Cloud of Unknowing – discussion of Mary Magdalene over 10 chapters – about Jesus’ love for Mary Magdalene and Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus. Had an understanding of the sacramental nature of this relationship. Ch. XVI
Movement to agape without renouncing desiring. 

Difference between perfect meekness/humility and imperfect meekness/humility. 

Humility – know yourself as you truly are without grovelling. It is sober, lucid, honest, and accurate – understand where you fit in to the scheme of things – allows you to be present. 

Imperfect Humility: eg. examination of conscience- ponder on your sins – look back and notice all the ways that you have sinned – Lord have mercy – allows you to extend mercy to others. But this is a narrative journey where you end up trapped in the self. 

Perfect Humility senses directly the scale of things – discover the vastness of the divine heart. Bring our stories into the presence of the Absolute and let them meet.


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