The Balsam of Mary Magdalene: her Tears!

IMG_4456bWhen leaving our Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Rome) and slightly raising one’s eyes to the left side of this picturesque square, at the corner of Via del Pozzo delle Cornacchie one can see a very curious holy shrine.

Mary Magdalene is portrayed within a fine oval casing and she can be easily identified by her long loose hair which flows down onto her shoulders – as it is described by the famous passage from the gospel (cf. Jn 12:1-3) when it was used to wipe tears/ointment/balsam on Jesus’s feet. Underneath in a marble scroll there is an inscription in Latin which can be easily read: ‘Magdala cum lacrymis fundens opobalsama vixit sic fortunae aegris pharmaca sumpta iuvant’. This takes us back, instead, to the other famous gospel pericope describing the tears shed by this sinner (cf. Lk 7:38).

In front of the church dedicated to Mary Magdalene, in which are kept the mortal remains of St. Camillus, the patron saint of the sick and those who take care of them, and above an ancient pharmacy – as is testified to by an old photograph of the neighbourhood – St. Mary Magdalene continues to unite tears and balsam and also perhaps…to help us transform the former into the latter