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as a type of the active Christian, the Christian at work in the world, and Mary as a type of the passive Christian, withdrawn from the world in the quest for prayer and contemplation.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?

 

IS THERE ROOM IN THE INN

Wally was big for his age – seven years old. Everyone wondered what role the teacher would give him in the annual Christmas play. Especially considering the fact that he was also a slow learner. Perhaps he could pull the curtain.

To everyone’s surprise the teacher gave Wally the role of the innkeeper. The boy of course was delighted. After all, all he had to learn was one line:

“There is no room in the inn.” He had that down in no time.

Then came the night for the program. The parents took their places. Every seat in the auditorium was filled. The children entered singing “Oh come all ye faithful.” The lights dimmed. A hush moved over the audience. The curtain opened on Scene One. Mary and Joseph entered the stage and walked up to the inn. “Please sir, my wife is not well. Could we have a room for the night?”

Wally was ready for his line. He had rehearsed it all night. He began, “there is”, and he hesitated. He started over again. “There is … “ and again his mind went completely blank. Everyone was embarrassed for him but poor Wally just didn’t know what to do. Joseph thought he would improvise and started walking away toward the stable on stage left. Seeing him walking away Wally in desperation called out: “Look, there’s plenty of room at my house, just come on home with me.”

Source | eSermons

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A DIFFERENT RENDITION FO THE SAME STORY

A young girl, playing the part of the innkeeper, needed to respond to Mary and ]oseph’s question, “ls there any room in the inn?”

As the Bible’s rendition goes, the innkeeper replies, “No. There is no room in the inn.” But this little girl paused as she looked at Mary and Joseph. She looked out at the priest responsible for the choreography of the nativity play … she looked at her parents. She looked at Mary and Joseph again, and told them, “You might as well at least come in for a drink or two.”

Source | Terry Hershey, Soul Gardening, page 70

PONDER AND CONSIDER

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelations 3:20)

A delightful twist on a familiar story. Over the years the characters in the Christmas story have become clearly defined for us. The issues all seem so clear cut. Herod was a villain and the wise men were heroes. The shepherds were heroes and the Innkeeper – well, the poor innkeeper has gone down as one of the heavies in the story. In our minds eye, we envision him as a crotchety old man with a night cap on his head sticking his head out a second story window and tersely shouting: Take the stable and leave me alone.

What if  the innkeeper has received bad press? What if this simple little statement about there being no room in the Inn is about you and not the “him” of two thousand years ago?

THE DANGERS OF STANDING FROZEN

A boy was asked by his grade school teachers if he wanted to play a part in the Christmas nativity play.

“Of course I do,” he said.

“Good,” the teacher told him. “You get to be Joseph.”

The boy was proud.  “What are my lines?” he asked.

“You don’t have any,” the teacher answered.

“But what do I do?” the boy asked.

“You just stand there,” the teacher said, “and make sure Mary doesn’t look bad.”

The boy did just that. Standing frozen throughout the entire play. After it was over, adults patted him on the head and told him, “You were such a marvellous Joseph.” And he was proud.

Source | Terry Hershey, Soul Gardening, pages 69-70

PONDER AND CONSIDER

The boy grew up and wondered:

  • If I was such a marvellous Joseph, why did I never once talk to Mary?
  • If I was such a marvellous Joseph, why did l never once pick up the baby Jesus and sing him a song?
  • If I was such a marvellous Joseph, why did I never once offer coffee to the shepherds?

He was a marvellous Joseph only because he did what everyone said he should do. He was marvellous because he was frozen! A frozen Joseph. And your insides grind to a halt, wound tight and immobile.

Are you frozen? Or are you open, flexible, soft and flexible, always ready to respond freely, spontaneously, and creatively?

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