There is a tradition of merging various Gospel women into one - Mary Magdalene, whose feast is today. Thus Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus), Mary of Magdala and the unnamed "woman with a bad name" all coalesce into one woman of dubious morals but steadfast love. She is presented as the archetypal tart with a heart, a fallen woman redeemed by pure love; invariably depicted wearing red, often with a wild, bright russet mane of hair.
But there is so much more to Mary Magdalene than her - alleged - sexual past! If we cast exegisis aside for a moment (apologies to any scripture scholars who may be reading this) and follow this tradition of merging Marys, then what we we have is a woman who is a burning furnace of love, totally committed to and focussed on Jesus. The woman who sat at Jesus's feet, drinking in his every word, is the same woman who stood at the foot of his cross, watching him die. And in both cases she was there, silent, focussed, because she couldn't have borne to be anywhere else. That passionate, blazing love with which she followed him in the good times came into its own during his passion and death.
She is a true role model for the contemplative life, not because she chose "the better part" when all was deliciously sunny and enjoyable, but because she chose it again when all was unbearably grim and dark and even just being near Jesus was dangerous. She chose it because, in a sense, there was no choice; her love was too strong, too total, for her to even consider being anywhere else. Her sole desire was to be with Jesus.
And so she was, and so she remained, and her huge love was rewarded with the overflowing glorious joy of the Resurrection.
Definitely a true woman of heart!
A few lines from Wordsworth's Prelude (1850) somehow capture something of this contemplative focus, this better part:
Rest, and be not alone, but have thou there
The One who is thy choice of all the world,
There linger, listening, gazing, with delight
Impassioned, but delight how pitiable!
Unless this love by a still higher love
Be hallowed, love that breathes not without awe;
Love that adores, but on the knees of prayer,
By heaven inspired; that frees from chains the soul,
Lifted, in union with the purest, best,
Of earth-born passions, on the wings of praise
Bearing a tribute to the Almighty's Throne.