Mary, Martha, and Lazarus
I am thankful for a blog post a couple of years ago at Kirkepiscatoid which introduced me to the feast day of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (July 29). I am fascinated by the concept of depicting three approaches to life, all bound up in a single icon. I have often thought about the images of Mary and Martha showing us two ways of being (active and contemplative). Years ago I came to see the Mary/Martha pathways not as either/or, but rather both/and. While it is true that some people are more suited to the active way of living and others more attuned to the contemplative, I came to see both as important in the rhythm of a healthy life.
Then when I was introduced to the this icon of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, I saw it as a portal to an even larger approach to life. Holding these three together -- Mary, Martha, and Lazarus -- can give us an avenue for contemplating something greater than both/and or either/or in our approach to life. One can contemplate doing, being, acting; listening, dying, living -- all in one single icon.
A Monastic View
I found a homily for the feast day at the website of the Genesee Cistercian Abbey (Trappist) in upstate New York. Here is a quote from the brief homily:
Our monastic fathers understood well the importance of Jesus’ relationship with Martha, Mary and Lazarus for our Cistercian way of life. St. Bernard in particular developed at length the meaning of this family friendship with the Savior for our Cistercian community. Martha, Mary and Lazarus are symbols of the three kinds of living that are to be found in every community of our Order. Martha is the type of those who serve in a more active way as officers or heads of departments. Mary is a type of those whose attention is given chiefly to prayer and contemplation, while Lazarus is a symbol of those who concentrate more on the hard labor of penance. It is essential that we remember that these three are united in a single, loving family.
I invite you today to spend a few moments with the icon pictured above. See what concepts, thoughts, and impressions come your way.