In early modern Protestant England, traditional Catholic worship and sacraments, particularly the Mass, declined, and many Catholics feared for their salvation. At the same time, an increased veneration of Mary Magdalene focused no longer on penance and redemption, but on Mary’s discovery of Christ’s empty tomb. Magdalene’s distress at losing the corporeal body of Christ mirrored English Catholic anxiety over losing the body of Christ as contained in the Eucharist in the absence of regular Mass. English Catholics chose to revive and adapt this form of Magdalene symbolism to best meet their spiritual needs, thus emphasizing the many uses and flexibility of such a familiar symbol as Mary Magdalene and suggesting types and nuances of Magdalene worship that have yet to be fully investigated by scholars.
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