In comparison, Mary, who had not conceived like other women, was the second coming of Eve, put here to redeem the mistakes of the first. In many ways, Eve was the fleshy mother of humanity (slut!), Mary its spiritual mother (good girl!).
Mary would quickly become an object of worship in her own right. The first recorded prayer to the Virgin dates from about 390 b.c.e.; her cult reached its height around the 16th century. In popular worship, however, Mary may have lost her virginal status. She has often been given the attributes of pagan mother goddesses, all who came before Mary. Mary’s most striking pagan metamorphosis, however, occurs within the orthodox doctrine, because she is identified with the Church, and the Church is the bride of Christ. In that way, like many other goddesses that preceded her, Mary becomes the bride in an incestuous marriage with her own son. She is regarded as an ideal of feminine perfection but the church has never used Mary to represent women, but rather to shame them in comparison.
As the patroness of priests and guardian of their celibacy, some seminarians may still be urged to think of Mary if they have lustful thoughts, continuing a centuries-old tradition of sublimating desire in an unattainable fantasy.
Christianity has always had a love/ hate relationship with whores. At the beginning of the 16th century Pope Julius II was said to have established a Church brothel in Rome (based on a earlier model) where the inhabitants spent their time at religious duties when they were not working “the stroll.”
To the medieval Church, unmarried women were either virgins or whores, and the cult of that other Mary, Mary Magdalene, grew alongside that of the Virgin Mary. As a prostitute (bad girl!) who was redeemed, and who eventually became a saint (good girl!), the figure of Mary Magdalene served to emphasize the equation of women to sin, while at the same time holding out the promise of salvation to those who did penance. You see this dynamic at work in Tyler Perry's films, which are merely contemporary refashioning of medieval morality plays.
Magdalene is actually a conflation of at least three different biblical figures, who in the Orthodox Greek Church still have their respective feast days: Mary Magdalene herself, a woman from whom seven demons were exorcised by Jesus, and to whom he first appeared after his resurrection; Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, who bathes Christ’s feet in ointment; and an unspecified “sinner” – not explicitly a prostitute – who bathes Christ’s feet or head in ointment in three gospels.
The image of Magdalene also became confused with that of a Mary in