MARY NEEDS MARTHA

A brother went to see Abba Silvanus on the mountain of Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard, he said to the old man, “Do not labor for the food that perishes. Mary has chosen the good portion.”

The old man said to a disciple, “Zacharias, give the brother a book, and put him in a cell without anything else.”

So when the ninth hour came, this brother watched the door, expecting someone would be sent to call him to the meal. When no one called him, he got up, went to find the old man, and said to him, “Have the brothers not eaten today?”

The old man replied that they had.

Then he said, “Why did you not call me?”

The old man said to him, “Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the good portion and read the whole day long, and you do not want to eat carnal food.”

When he heard these words, the brother made a prostration, saying, “Forgive me, Abba.”

The old man said to him, “Mary needs Martha. It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised.”

Source: Michal Bar-Asher Siegal
Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud
(Cambridge University Press, 2013) page 96

CONSIDER THIS

Read Luke 10:38-42

Often Martha has been cast as a type of the active Christian, the Christian at work in the world, and Mary as a type of the passive Christian, withdrawn from the world in the quest for prayer and contemplation.

Is it better to be a Mary or a Martha? In other words, Is it better to pray or to play? Serve or Sacrifice? What do you think?

Going beyond the Mary-Martha dichotomy, consider the relative merits, if any, of active service vis-à-vis quiet devotion.

Shifting from an “either-or” to a “both-and” point of view, do you think it’s possible to be a Mary in a Martha world? How do you imagine yourself being a contemplative in action?

 

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LED TO THE LAND OF LAUGHTER

LED TO THE LAND OF LAUGHTER

The Master was in an expansive mood, so his disciples sought to learn from him the stages he had passed through in his quest for the divine.

“God first led me by the hand,” he said, “into the Land of Action, and there I dwelt for several years.” Then God returned and led me to the Land of Sorrows; there I lived until my heart was purged of every inordinate attachment. That is when I found myself in the Land of Love, whose burning flames consumed whatever was left in me of self. This brought me to the Land of Silence, where the mysteries of life and death were bared before my wondering eyes.

“Was that the final stage of your quest?” they asked.

“No,” the Master said. “One day God said, ‘Today I shall take you to the innermost sanctuary of the Temple, to the very heart of God.’ And I was led to the Land of Laughter.”

Source: Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight
(Image Books, 1990) page 126

CONSIDER THIS

One day God said, “Today I shall take you to the innermost sanctuary of the temple, to the heart of God himself,” and I was led to the Land of Laughter.

God laughed and begat the Son. Together they laughed and begat the Holy Spirit. And from the laughter of the Three, the universe was born.” |  Meister Eckhart, a 13th century theologian and mystic.

THE SNAKE CHILD

Once upon a time, there lived a childless and devout Brahmin and his wife. Everyday, they prayed for a child and in time a baby was born – only it was a snake! Although everyone around was aghast, the couple brought up the snake child with love and care.

When the time for his marriage came around, the Brahmin was at his wit’s end. Who would marry a snake? At his wife’s insistence, he visited an old friend of his. When the Brahmin mentioned that he was looking for a wife for his son, without hesitation, his friend offered his daughter’s hand in marriage, saying that any son of the Brahmin was bound to be a good husband.

Accordingly, the Brahmin brought back a beautiful bride for his son and they were soon wed. The girl did not flinch when she found that her husband was a snake as she was determined to honour her father’s word.

That night, as she was about to sleep, she was startled to find a handsome young man materialise before her. “Do not scream,” he told her, pointing to the snake skin at his feet. “I am your husband.” Joyfully, they embraced, but at day break he slipped back into his snake skin.

One day, the girl had a wonderful idea. Her husband had just materialised out of his snake skin. Quickly, she threw it in the fire. Her husband caught her up in joy. “Thank you, my love,” he told her, explaining that he had been cursed to stay in a snakeskin until someone destroyed it without his asking.

And so the handsome young man and his beautiful bride lived happily ever after.

Source | lifepositive.com

TAKEAWAY

Very often life gives us unwelcome things – like an illness or a handicap, or a brother who bullies. If we accept it with joy, it can transform into a gift just like the snake transformed into a handsome young man.

THE WAY OF PEACE AND JOY

A follower asked, “You said that no desire, no action. no virtue, no truth are the Four Laws and the Way to Peace and Joy. But I do not see how there can be joy when there is no existence.”

The One Lord, the Messiah, answered, “What a wonderful question. I will tell you again. It is only nothing that can give rise to something. If it were in something, Peace and Joy would never be. And why? Take for example a mountain filled with forest. The leaves and branches of the trees spread shade everywhere. Surely this mountain forest does not seek birds and animals, but they all come here on their own to nest and gather.

“Or think of a great sea that draws all the rivers and springs and is vast without limits and deep beyond measure, Surely this ocean does not seek fish and scaly creatures. But they all dwell there on their own.

“Those of you who seek Peace and Joy are like these birds and fish. You need only pacify your minds and live quietly. Then in practicing these teachings, you will not have to seek Peace and Joy, they will simply be there like the forest and the ocean.This is how nothing gives rise to something.”

Source | Thomas Moore & Ray Riegert (Editors) The Lost Sutras of Jesus. Unlocking the Ancient Wisdom of the Xian Monks, pages 80-81

 

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • The first law is no desire. Your heart seeks one thing after another, creating a multitude of problems. you must not allow them to flare up. Desires are like the roots of plants. Since they are buried deep below the earth you can’t see them and don’t know they are damaged until the buds of the plant begin to wither and die. desire in the human heart can’t be recognized from the outside either. Desire can sap wholesome energy from the four limbs and the body’s openings, turning it into unwholesome activity. This cuts us off from the roots of Peace and Joy. That is why you must practice the law of no desire.
  • The second law is no action. Doing things for mundane reasons is not part of your true being. You have to cast aside vain endeavors and avoid shallow experiences. otherwise you are deceiving yourself. It’s like being aboard a ship adrift on the ocean. The sea water rolls and swells with the wind, creating waves that force the ship this way and that way. There is no peace on board, everyone is worrying they will sink. We live our lives veering this way and that: We do things for the sake of progress and material gain, neglecting what is truly important and losing sight of the Way. That is why you must distance yourself from the material wold and practice the law of no action.
  • The third law is no virtue . Don’t try to find pleasure by making a name for yourself through good deeds. Practice instead universal loving kindness that is directed towards everyone. Never seek praise for what you do. Consider the earth. It produces and nurtures a multitude of creatures, each receiving what it needs. Words cannot express the benefits the earth provides. Like the earth, you are at one with Peace and Joy when you practice the laws and save living creatures. But do it without acclaim. This is the law of no virtue.
  • The fourth law is no truth. Don’t be concerned with facts, forget about right and wrong, sinking or rising, winning or losing. Be like a mirror . It reflects one and all; blue, yellow and all other colors; long, short, any size. It reflects everything as it is, without judging. Those who have awakened to the Way, who have attained the mind of Peace and Joy, who can see all karmic conditions and who share their enlightenment with others, reflect the world like a mirror, leaving no trace of themselves.

Source | Thomas Moore & Ray Riegert (Editors) The Lost Sutras of Jesus. Unlocking the Ancient Wisdom of the Xian Monks, pages 81-83

YOUR BEARD IS ON FIRE

A man was standing in the middle of the town square. While lighting his pipe, he accidentally started his beard on fire. To the townspeople witnessing this event, he seemed to just stand there, doing absolutely nothing about it! Thinking that he somehow was unaware of the growing blaze, they ran up to him and shouted, “Your beard is on fire! Your beard is on fire!” and the man replied, “Yes, yes, I know – can’t you see that I’m praying for rain?”

Source | Story as told by Anthony De Mello

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Indeed, when it does rain, the rain is available! But in the meantime you better watch what you’re doing! And if your beard does catch fire don’t wait for the rain. Do something. Praying for rain does not help.