It should not strike us as unusual to find an icon bearing two great women of Christian faith – St. Mary Magdalene and St. Markella. They lived in vastly different times and lands: Mary of Magdala was a contemporary of Jesus Himself and lived in the Holy Land, while Markella of the Greek Island of Chios lived in the 16th century. But they were one in their devotion to Jesus Christ, in their dedication and loyalty to the Christian faith.
The Church has honored Mary Magdalene with the title “Equal to the Apostles,” a rare honor recognizing her great faith and long service to the Lord. She was at the Cross when Jesus died, she was at the tomb of His Resurrection, and, in fact, spoke to the Risen Lord. She was one of the distinguished Myrrh-Bearing Women who ministered to the needs of Christ. It is said that Mary fell asleep in Christ at Ephesus, when she had gone with John the Beloved Apostle.
As for Markella, a young maiden of great spiritual and physical beauty, she suffered greatly at the hands of her agnostic father. But she persevered in faith, and finally died a martyr’s death. She is termed Martyr and Virgin in the Church Calendar. A fresh spring water is said to have gushed forth from the rocks where she died, and the place has been a favored spot for pilgrimage and prayer ever since.
The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ