Many sincere Christians still think of Mary Magdalene as the prostitute in the Gospels who wept for her sins of lust and accepted Jesus as her master. This traditional portrait has been used for centuries by the church to justify denigrating and chastising women for their tainted sexuality. This baleful figure of Mary Magdalene is miles away from the Gnostic understanding of her as the first to witness the resurrection and the one Jesus loved most during his sojourn on earth.

Both of these perspectives are explored in this solid and illuminating portrait of "the woman at the heart of Christianity." Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest who leads workshops and retreats across the United States. She is the author of many books including The Wisdom Jesus and Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. She is featured on this website as a Living Spiritual Teacher.

Bourgeault dons her hats as a scholar, a medievalist, a contemplative, and a student on the path of conscious love in order to write this richly developed and poetically executed overview of Mary Magdalene. She covers the high place given to Mary Magdalene in the Gnostic Gospels as "the first among the apostles" and the one who best understood and walked the talk of Jesus' radical messages.

In a section on Mary Magdalene as the Beloved, Bourgeault points out how difficult it is for traditional believers to accept that Jesus could have had a human beloved. If so, they assume, he could not have been the son of God. Four myths are presented which attest to the clout of associating celibate spirituality with Jesus.

But another path is available and that entails a possible erotic love relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, which transformed them both. They both experienced through this conscious love a fresh appreciation of sexuality, feminine wisdom, and creativity. All those who accept this revisioning of Mary Magdalene will find their hearts warmed and their reverence for relationship as a sacred path revived!