Mandeville, LA – Today is one of those days on The Church calendar where we get perspective of the ancient and Divine origins of Christ’s Church and it’s teaching and tradition. Today is the feast day of Saint Mary Salome. The sculpture pictured is on display in Italy. Saint Mary Salome is on the left with Our Lady, Mother Mary, they are viewing the newly interred body of Our Lord. Brother Andre Marie gives us a great description of Saint Mary Salome:
Saint Mary Salome, a daughter of Saint Mary of Cleophas, was first called simply, Salome. She added Mary to her name in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Her father and her mother both were saints. She was the wife of Zebedee, who was not a saint. But she was the mother of Saint John and Saint James the Greater. And her brothers were Saint Simon, Saint James the Less and Saint Jude, Apostles, and Saint Joseph Barsabas, a disciple of Our Lord. Saint Mary Salome was one of the “three Marys” who stood by the Cross of Jesus when He died, and to whom He appeared on the first Easter Sunday. She and her mother, and Saint Mary Magdalen, Saint Martha and companions, were put on a boat which had no sails and no oars, during a persecution by the Jews in the year 47, and were pushed out to sea. The boat miraculously floated unharmed to the south of France. Saint Mary Salome died in France. She is still venerated there with great love and devotion.
Christ, the central figure lies on a body-length plank covered with a scallop-edged linen cloth. His head rests on a tasseled pillow and bearded face seems peacefully asleep. Arms rest on still torso, while hands cross over the pelvis, which is covered by a light, gauzy cloth. His lightness, silence and serenity form the eye of the storm, around which the action and emotion of the group erupt. Also known as La Pietà, the figures represent the group of Mary’s that visit the sepulcher and to whom Christ appears after his death. Each gospel recounts the events differently, and the persons present are not consistent.
However, Mary Magdalen, perhaps an important female apostle of Christ, plays a significant role in each account. Il Compianto, another name given to this type of devotional representation, is thought to be a later manifestation of the medieval mystery play or dramatic Easter matins service at convents and monasteries throughout Europe. The action and emotion portrayed was meant to move the faithful to that same grief. (Compare with Il Compianto su Cristo Morto by Alfonso Lombardi (1497-1537), in the Cathedral of San Pietro in Via Indipendenza, 7 and The Pietàby Vincenzo Onofri (beginning of sixteenth century) in the basilica of San Petronio, Piazza Maggiore.)
And I saw a woman coming down from the hill-country, and she said to me: O man, whither are you going? And I said: I am seeking an Hebrew midwife. And she answered and said unto me: Are you of Israel? And I said to her: Yes. And she said: And who is it that is bringing forth in the cave? And I said: A woman betrothed to me. And she said to me: Is she not your wife? And I said to her: It is Mary that was reared in the temple of the Lord, and I obtained her by lot as my wife. And yet she is not my wife, but has conceived of the Holy Spirit.
And the widwife said to him: Is this true? And Joseph said to her: Come and see. And the midwife went away with him. And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said: My soul has been magnified this day, because my eyes have seen strange things— because salvation has been brought forth to Israel. And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary. And the midwife cried out, and said: This is a great day to me, because I have seen this strange sight. And the midwife went forth out of the cave, and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, I have a strange sight to relate to you: a virgin has brought forth— a thing which her nature admits not of. Then said Salome: As the Lord my God lives, unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth.
And the midwife went in, and said to Mary: Show yourself; for no small controversy has arisen about you. And Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire. And she bent her knees before the Lord, saying: O God of my fathers, remember that I am the seed of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; do not make a show of me to the sons of Israel, but restore me to the poor; for You know, O Lord, that in Your name I have performed my services, and that I have received my reward at Your hand. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by her, saying to her: Salome, Salome, the Lord has heard you. Put your hand to the infant, and carry it, and you will have safety and joy. And Salome went and carried it, saying: I will worship Him, because a great King has been born to Israel. And, behold, Salome was immediately cured, and she went forth out of the cave justified. And behold a voice saying: Salome, Salome, tell not the strange things you have seen, until the child has come into Jerusalem.
First, the relics of the two Marys are lowered from their storage place high in the church. As the reliquary descends, the crowd, overcome by religious ferveur, reach up their hands, and even hold babies at arm’s length to touch the relics before they reach the ground. To achieve this means one will be healed and receive a wonderful protection from misfortune. Then the statues of the two Marys are brought up from the crypt and then the statue of Sarah. It is Sarah’s day. Carried on the shoulders of the gypsies and surrounded by pilgrims, Sarah is taken to the sea that carried her the two Marys to her. The crush of people is tremendous, as is the atmosphere.
When they return to the church, Sarah and Mary Salomé and Mary Jacobi are venerated throughout the evening.
On the 25th May, there is a mass at 10am and at 11am, and the statues of the two Marys (not the relics of the previous day) are placed in a boat and, with a grand procession with them, are carried to the beach so that they might bless the sea. A farewell cremony takes place when they are returned to the crypt of the church for another year.
A similar festival takes place on the Sunday nearest to the 22nd October. This one features the Marys and the gardiens, those who guard the bulls in the Camargue, but not Sarah or the gypsies. It’s a festival for those Camargue people who love the bulls.