Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. Mary has chosen the better part.
our Savior did was full of sacred teaching. In every situation
his actions were meant to point beyond themselves. For example,
his outward actions in the hillside village of Bethany are
repeated every day in his holy church.
Daily the Lord Jesus
enters in, not thinking frequent visits beneath his dignity.
There he is welcomed by Martha, who takes him into her home.
Let us see then what Martha stands for, and what Mary symbolizes. Each of them
denotes something important, for these two make up the entire Church.
One of them, namely Martha, symbolizes the active life; the other, Mary, the
contemplative. That is why scripture says it was Martha, not Mary, who received
Christ into her house. Mary, of course, does not own a house, since the contemplative
life entails the renunciation of all worldly possessions.
All that contemplatives
want to do is to sit at the feet of the Lordto read, pray, and give themselves
up to contemplating God is their whole desire. It is enough for them to be always
listening to the word of God and feeding their minds rather than their stomachs
Such as these were the apostles and prophets; such are many others who, leaving
everything, flee from the world and cling to the Lord. They seem to possess nothing,
yet they have everything. Only good people can live this kind of life, whereas
both good and bad alike can lead active lives.
Now the reason the active life is so called is because it consists of constant
activity, weariness, and toil, so that scarcely a moment’s quiet can be found
We are not referring here though to that kind of active life that occupies
thieves, impels tyrants, tempts misers, stirs up adulterers, and incites all
wicked people to commit evil deeds.
For just as we speak only of one Martha who
was Mary’s sister, so we are referring only to that type of active life which
is most closely related to the contemplative life, that is, an active life that
is pure and blameless.
When the apostle preached and baptized, worked with his hands to gain a livelihood,
journeyed from city to city, and showed solicitude for all the churches, was
he not living the active life? In the same way then our text says of Martha that
she was “busy with much serving.”
In fact, right down to the present day
we see prelates in charge of the churches and the other clergy devotedly hurrying
to and fro about their work, hot and bothered, sweating over the needs of their
brothers and sisters in various ways, so that we may rightly describe them also
as “busy with much serving.”
The contemplative life then is superior to
the active because it is free from anxiety and will never end. Nevertheless the
active life is so indispensable that in this world the contemplative life itself
cannot exist without it.
Luke’s Gospel 1, 10: PL 165, 390-391)
ed. Edith Barnecut
Bruno of Segni (d. 1123) was born near Asti in Piedmont, and studied at the university
of Bologna before being made a canon of Siena. At the Council of Rome (1079) he defended the Catholic doctrine of the eucharist
against Berengarius. In the following year Gregory VII, his personal friend, made him bishop of Segni, but he refused a cardinalate.
Bruno was a zealous pastor, and shared in all the projects of Gregory VII for the reform of the Church.
In his writings he attacked simony and lay investiture. He was the greatest scripture commentator of his age
Longing for solitude, he received the monastic habit at Monte Cassino
and in 1107 became abbot, but was later ordered by Pope Paschal II to return to his see.