Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Feast of St. Martha, Virgin

From the Office of Matins:

Martha was the daughter of noble and wealthy parents, but is best known as having been the hostess of the Lord Christ. After that He was ascended into heaven, Martha, along with her brother Lazarus, her sister Mary Magdalene, her waiting-woman Marcella, Maximin, who was one of the seventy-two disciples of the Lord Christ, and who had baptized the whole of the family, and many other Christians, was taken by the Jews, and turned adrift upon the open sea in a ship without sail or oars, to meet with certain wreck, but by the governance of God the ship came to land at Marseilles with all safe.

Through this miracle and the preaching of the Saints, the people of Marseilles first, and then those of Aix, and of the uttermost tribes, believed in Christ, and Lazarus was made Bishop of Marseilles, and Maximin Bishop of Aix. Mary Magdalene sat still at Jesus' Feet, being altogether given to prayer and the contemplation of heavenly blessedness, that that good part which she had chosen might not be taken away from her, withdrew herself to a great cave in an exceeding high mountain, where she lived for thirty years, utterly cut off from all conversation with men, and every day during that time carried up by Angels into the air, to listen to them that dwell in heaven praising God.

Martha, by the wondrous holiness and charity of her life, drew upon herself the love and wonder of all the inhabitants of Marseilles. She withdrew herself in company with some other honourable women into a place out of the way of men, where she lived long, with great praise for godliness and discretion. She foretold her own death long before, and at last, illustrious for miracles, passed away to be ever with the Lord, upon the 29th day of July. Her body is held in great worship at Tarascon.

Commentary on the Gospel for this Feast

From the Holy Gospel according to Luke
Luke 10:38-42
At that time: Jesus entered into a certain village, and a certain woman, named Martha, received Him into her house. And so on.

Homily by St Austin, Bishop of Hippo.
26th upon the Words of the Lord.
The words of our Lord Jesus Christ which have just been read from the Gospel, give us to wit that there is one thing toward the which we are making our way, all the while that we are striving amid the divers cares of this world. Thitherward we make our way, while we are still strangers and pilgrims, unpossessed as yet of any abiding city, still on the journey, not yet come home, still hoping, not yet enjoying. Still thitherward let us make our way, not slothfully nor by fits and starts, but so that some day we may arrive thither. Martha and Mary were sisters, not in the flesh only, but also in godliness; together, they clave unto the Lord; together, with one heart they served the Lord present in the Flesh.

Martha received Him into her house. It was just as strangers are received, but it was the handmaiden receiving her Lord, the sick receiving her Saviour, the creature receiving her Creator. She received Him, to give bodily meat unto Him by Whom she herself was to be fed unto eternal life. It had been the Lord's will to take upon Him the form of a servant, to be fed by servants, (still out of His good pleasure, not of necessity,) and in that form of a servant which He had taken upon Him. This was His good pleasure, to offer Himself as a subject for hospitality. He had Flesh, wherein He was sometimes hungered and thirsty, but know ye not how that, when He was in the desert and was an-hungered, angels came and ministered unto Him. Himself it was therefore, That gave unto them of whom He was fain to be fed, the wherewithal. And what wonder is this if we consider how that holy Elijah, coming from being fed by the ministry of ravens, asked bread of the widow of Zarephath, and himself gave her the wherewithal to feed him? Had God failed to feed Elijah when He sent him unto the widow? God forbid. He did so that He might bless that godly widow for a service rendered unto His servant.

Thus was that same Lord received as a guest, Who came unto His own, and His own received Him not, but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, adopting servants and making them children, redeeming prisoners and appointing them coheirs. Perchance some of you will say: O how blessed were they who were worthy to receive Christ as a guest into their own home! but mourn not, neither murmur, for that thou hast been born in an age wherein thou canst no more see Christ in the flesh. He hath not put the honour of receiving Him beyond thy reach. Inasmuch, saith He, as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me. The above remarks have occurred to me regarding the Lord considered as fed in the flesh, and I shall now touch briefly, as time permits, upon the Same, considered as the Feeder of the soul.

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