Rediscovering Miriam (Part 1)

Easter always reminds me of her. So much attention is focused on the disciples who fearfully ran off. They abandoned Jesus. Even denied him. And yet, so little attention is focused on her. Except maybe when the scriptures are read. Of course, I’ve always preferred the scriptures about her over the fanciful, awful stories, legends and fables. Those made up stories run rampant about her. (sigh) They tell nothing of the great woman – the great disciple – that she was.

Shared by Medieval Art on Flickr.

Shared by Medieval Art on Flickr.

What would you think if your great-great-great….oh I’ve lost track of how many greats…..your great aunt was taunted and flouted as prostitute? A great wealthy villain? A seductress? Jesus’ secret lover….the holy grail?!

I so often want to shout – that woman whose story you distort – that woman you marginalize or ignore – that woman – her name is Miriam of Migdal. She has historically been called the apostle to the apostles. She was first to hear the news of the resurrection. She was the first to witness of the resurrection to others. She was the first to declare as Paul later said, “I have seen the Lord!” This is Miriam. Miriam who is shrouded in such great mystery and misperception.

There is one fable – one story – that we still tell and retell in our family. Miriam was not wealthy – she was poor peasant woman without a family. But one story from the 6th century claims Miriam was once invited to dinner with Tiberias Caesar in Rome! Can you imagine – a poor peasant woman eating with Caesar?

As the story goes, at that dinner, Miriam preached about the resurrection and….she was laughed at. “God would no more raise the dead than turn the egg in your hand red!” they heckled. And according to story….? Well, red it did turn! Now ever since, icons and pictures of Miriam show her with a red egg in her hand, and around the world, people color eggs each Easter to remember the story. Oh no, the story is not true but yet even in our family we still color eggs red at Easter, retelling the story, reminding each other we are all to witness to Jesus’ resurrection.

Oh Miriam – what your life must have been like….How could it not have been great – following a great line of important women with the same name? Women like Jesus’ mother and Moses’ sister! At this time of year, we share her stories. Stories that have been passed through our family for generations…and if I listen carefully, I imagine I hear her voice. It’s almost as if I can hear her tell her own story…


This is the first of a 3-part, first-person series on Mary Magdalene. While creative license has been taken with some of the details of the account, much of what is included in the series is factual. Mary Magdalene’s true story – rather than the fanciful tales of prostitution, holy bloodlines, and secret marriages – is fascinating and valuable itself. As the Church, we need to rediscover our history, particularly of great women who have been sidelined or mythologized, but who were once known as the “Apostle to the Apostles”!