St. Martha was a saint, even though they do not say she was contemplative. Well now, what more do you want than to be able to resemble this blessed woman who merited so often to have Christ our Lord in her home, give Him food, serve Him, and eat at table with Him [and even from His plate]? [Lk 10:38–40] If she had been enraptured like the Magdalene, there wouldn’t have been anyone to give food to the divine Guest.
Well, think of this congregation as the home of St. Martha and that there must be people for every task. And those who are led by the active life shouldn’t complain about those who are very much absorbed in contemplation, for these active ones know that the Lord will defend the contemplatives, even though these latter are silent [Lk 10:41–42] since for the most part contemplation makes one forgetful of self and of all things.
Let them recall that it is necessary for someone to prepare His meal and let them consider themselves lucky to serve with Martha. Let them consider how true humility consists very much in great readiness to be content with whatever the Lord may want to do with them and in always finding oneself unworthy to be called His servant.
If contemplating, practicing mental prayer and vocal prayer, taking care of the sick, helping with household chores, and working even at the lowliest tasks are all ways of serving the Guest who comes to be with us and eat and recreate, what difference does it make whether we serve in the one way or the other?
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Way of Perfection: Chapter 17, nos. 5–6
Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Featured image: Study for “Christ at the Home of Lazarus” was executed in oil on canvas in 1912 by American artist and Pittsburgh native Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937) on the reverse side of his well-known painting, Flight into Egypt (1923). Image credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wikimedia Commons (Universal Public Domain Dedication)
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