Tag Archives: Sts Martha Mary and Lazarus

Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus

Johannes Vermeer Christ_in_the_House of Martha and MaryToday, on the Novus Ordo liturgical calendar the Church recalls St Martha. For Benedictines, today we seek the help of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Hosts of the Lord. All three are not only disciples of the Lord but are true friends. In the Benedictine tradition Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus are venerated as living Saint Benedict’s mandate of hospitality: “Let all guests be received as Christ, for He will one day say, I came as a guest and you welcomed me.” (RSB 53:1). For this reason, one Benedictine Lectionary proposes the story of Abraham and Sarah extending hospitality.

In a time when hospitality is not a value, the Benedictine tradition gives us this feast of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus to keep our hearts focussed on the practice hospitality. “Behold,” says the Lord, “I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).

What we see in these saints we see first in the Eucharistic hospitality of God at the altar. Just as Martha, Mary and Lazarus opened the door to Jesus and made room for him, there is room for all of us at the temple of God where we are invited in to hear the Word and receive his gifts of Life.

May we learn what it means to be hospitable. Can we sit at the foot of the Master like Mary at the Eucharistic banquet and receive his mystical body and blood, or be a penitent like Lazarus or to set aside the anxieties of this world? Can we leave the anxieties of life to bring our entire humanity to the Lord through the transparency of prayer?

Saints Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

Raising Lazarus Martha and Mary Hunterian PsalterOn the Universal liturgical calendar of the Church today’s feast is for Saint Martha of Bethany. Yet, on the Benedictine liturgical calendar the Church honors the three of Bethany: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus  described in the Gospels as saints. Revealed in sacred Scripture, these people are acclaimed as the much-loved friends of Jesus (according to Luke and John). In the Gospel of Luke ewe read the well-known story of hospitality noting Martha as a symbol of the active life and Mary of the contemplative. The Lord holds both women in tension of what the disciple is to be: a contemplative in action.

The Lord’s raising of Lazarus from the dead is an anticipation of resurrection and a sign of eternal life for the rest of us who are baptized into the Mystical Body of Christ. Resurrection from the dead becomes, with this pericopy a powerful “game-changer” in the life of every human being. The death and subsequent raising of Lazarus evokes in each of us the acknowledge that we do not make ourselves, that God is the only Creator of who we are and what we are about as persons (not as individuals). This gesture of the Lord’s invites each of us to a deeper faith in the Messiah.

So, why is honoring all three characters crucial in our Christian life? Each person: Mary, Martha and Lazarus are convicted in the friendship with Jesus. If friendship, then fidelity, and perseverance, gratitude and hospitality.

Why is this a true feast for Benedictine monks, nuns, sisters and Oblates (laity)?

Saint Benedict sees all persons as a gift of God. The greatest gift was the person of Jesus who received as the giftedness of each person when he said: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” Our Holy Father Saint Benedict is quite direct in how we treat the stranger, how welcome the person who presents himself at the door, we definitive statements. In Chapter 53 of Rule of Saint Benedict we read:

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love. First of all, they are to pray together and thus be united in peace, but prayer must always precede the kiss of peace because of the delusions of the devil. All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure. By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them. After the guests have been received, they should be invited to pray; then the superior or an appointed brother will sit with them. The divine law is read to the guest for his instruction, and after that every kindness is shown to him. The superior may break his fast for the sake of a guest, unless it is a day of special fast which cannot be broken. The brothers, however, observe the usual fast. The abbot shall pour water on the hands of the guests, and the abbot with the entire community shall wash their feet. After the washing they will recite this verse: God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple (Ps 47 [48]:10). Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received; our very awe of the rich guarantees them special respect.

The hospitality shown by the the Holy Three is what we come to know as their personal mission given by God, their personal “I Am” and not mere kindness to the other. In the person of Jesus we meet his enjoyment of their company because it show us how the beauty of human friendship and love is at the core of our DNA. The Church’s honoring Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus is a sign of hope and promise for all who are in Christ Jesus.

Can we live as the Saints of Bethany? Can we live as Saint Benedict shows us?

Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus: Christian examples of friendship and hospitality

The Church universal celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saint Martha today. However, for those who live the Benedictine charism, the ordo (notes for Mass and the Divine Office) is much more expansive by observing the feast of Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Even though these holy siblings predate Benedict and his blessed Rule, they are easily considered Benedictines.

The reason being is that Benedictines see all three siblings as Christian examples of interpersonal friendship and mutual obedience, hospitality (openness) and friendship with the Lord. But there is a deeper meaning in keeping the holy siblings together in the liturgical act. Each of the protagonists represent a fullness of the Christian life: penitence, service and contemplation (awareness). You could easily include confession of faith as when Martha declares her belief in Jesus’ radically claim of resurrection.

As Brother Emmanuel, a newly ordained Deacon at St Joseph’s Abbey (Spencer said),

Our Father, Saint Bernard, compares the monastic community to a family, like the one Jesus visited at Bethany. In the monastic community we find Lazarus, the penitent; Martha, the active servant and Mary, the contemplative. All three are necessary to make the monastery what it ought to be. For Saint Bernard true monastic perfection consists in ‘the union of all three vocations: that of the penitent, the active worker and the contemplative.’ (Sermon for the Assumption) Thomas Merton agreed that while the contemplative life was to be  preferred to the active life, the ‘most perfect souls’ would combine the vocations of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

Benedictine monks, nuns, sisters and oblates are known for offering hospitality to pilgrims. In the Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53 on The Reception of Guests, we read: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for him himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25-35).” You could easily include, You must honor everyone (1 Peter 2:17). This chapter is a manner of being, a path of meeting the Lord through a relationality with the person in front of us. Hence, hospitality is way of living communio, as way of engaging in friendship, as way of extending and receiving invitation to be a better person, as way to walk a journey with the other given to us to care for.

So, the feast of Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus is a feast of friendship and hospitality. We are friends with Christ he first called us His friends, and friends open us to Him.

We need Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus to show us how to live. They open show us to be Christians. Mary, Martha and Lazarus show us how to be a new Benedict and Scholastica.

Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus

In the Benedictine Ordo, Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus are commemorated together and recalled for their gift of friendship and hospitality shown to the Lord. The familiar setting of their Bethany home shows us the priority of welcoming the guest, while remembering the need to be attentive to prayer and work. This portion of the biblical narrative gave rise to Saint Benedict writing in his Holy Rule that guest’s ought to be welcomed as Christ. Martha’s word of faith to Jesus is key for us too, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Let us pray through the intercession of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus that we be hospitable to the stranger, not only to family and friends.

O, Martha, Mary, Lazarus,
Most joyfully we sing your praise;
You often welcomed Christ as guest,
To hear him, on his face to to gaze.
You, Martha we as Christ once said,
“Solicitous in many things”
Yet it was love for him that caused
The Anxious care that such love brings.
For, while you gladly served the guest,
The others could at ease partake
Of those great words of life and grace
From Jesus, made man for our sake.
Now came a farewell meal for him
Who must for us in death’s pains share,
So Mary’s nard anoints his feet,
Which she wipes dry with her own hair.
Lord Jesus, give our hearts this grace,
That in your saving word believe,
To welcome guests at any time
And with a heartfelt warmth receive.
To Father, Son and Spirit true
May we eternal glory sing
And may at last your kindly prayer
Bring us to God’s great welcoming.
Text trans. Kenneth Tomkins, OSB, 1992, Quarr Abbey, Ryde, Isle of Wight

Saint Martha

Christ with Martha and Mary.jpgIn midst of burning desert heat
Three strangers came along the way
Where Abraham and Sarah stayed;
He saw them, and begged them to stay.

In hospitality, he sought
To care for each and ev’ry need;
In answer came the promise sweet:
“Your wife will bear a son, indeed.”

In much the same way, Jesus came
To Martha and to Mary’s place;
While Mary sat and heard the Lord,
All awed by such amazing grace,

Her sister called, rebuking her
And scolded Christ for lack of care.
But Jesus said, “What Mary chose
Alone is needful, and most fair.”

In giving hospitality,
We serve our God in neighbor’s guise;
The trouble others seem to be
Will oft be Christ, to our surprise;

And yet the one thing needful is
The mystery of Christ in all,
Our hope of glory.  Here we sit
And hear our Master’s loving call.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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