The sinful woman in Luke 7:37-50 is traditionally identified with Mary Magdalene, whose Feast we celebrate today (a Feast recently raised from a Memorial in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite). A picture of the scene in the refectory of my monastery bears the following inscription: Discite quo dolore ardet, quae flere et inter epulas non erubescit. (“Learn with what sorrow she was inflamed who wept amidst the feasting, and did not blush.”) The inscription is taken from a sermon of St. Gregory the Great’s, and it has always struck me as a very moving thought. The strength of her contrition gives her a fortitude that can withstand embarrassment. It is not the most heroic kind of fortitude, but it is a kind that is often needed. Here is the passage in context:
Cogitanti mihi de Mariae poenitentia, flere magis libet quam aliquid dicere. Cuius enim vel saxeum pectus illae huius peccatricis lacrymae ad exemplum poenitendi non emolliant? Consideravit namque quid fecit, et noluit moderari quid faceret. Super convivantes ingressa est, non iussa venit, inter epulas lacrymas obtulit. Discite quo dolore ardet, quae flere et inter epulas non erubescit.
(When I reflect on Mary’s penitence it seems better to weep than to speak. For whose heart is so stony that the tears of this sinner would not soften it to follow her example of penitence? She considered what she had done, and so she did not wish to moderate what she did. She came in upon those feasting, she came without invitation, and offered her tears in the feast. Learn with what sorrow she was inflamed who wept amidst the feasting and did not blush.)
Header image: Veronese