27th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Mary sat enraptured at the Lord’s feet, absorbing every word like pure gold. Past and future were forgotten. Only the present moment with Eternity Incarnate mattered. Mary didn’t intend to neglect the duties of hospitality, but she didn’t want to lose a single moment to soak in his wisdom.
Martha wanted to make Jesus’ stay as comfortable and welcoming as possible. Perhaps the guest list had also grown (see Martha Revisited). She spoke to Jesus as to a brother by not hesitating to complain to him about her sister.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Martha’s mind and heart were scattered in many directions as she worried about preparing the meal and getting the house ready. “There is need of only one thing,” Jesus said: to give him undivided attention and to receive divine nourishment. A tranquil mind (even in the midst of activity) is the condition of paradise. Contemplative union is primordial to our original nature.
St. John of Damascus writes in his chapter on Paradise in The Orthodox Faith (Book II, Chapter 21):
“For our Creator, God, did not intend us to be burdened with care and troubled about many things, nor to take thought about, or make provision for, our own life… Yea, He meant us further to be free from care and to have but one work to perform, to sing as do the angels, without ceasing or intermission, the praises of the Creator, and to delight in contemplation of Him and to cast all our care on Him. This is what the Prophet David proclaimed to us when He said, Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you. And, again, in the Gospels, Christ taught His disciples saying, Take no thought for your life what you shall eat, nor for your body what you shall put on (Matthew 6:25). And further, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. And to Martha He said, Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41-42), meaning, clearly, sitting at His feet and listening to His words.”
Paradise begins within by sitting at the Lord’s feet and allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe in us to the Father.