Orthodox America

  Mary and Martha

       Everything begins from something small.

       Christ enters the house; there are two sisters, Mary and Martha. Christ comes not simply to visit, but to bring news of the Kingdom of Heaven.

       When this news is heard, one must set everything aside and listen with undivided attention.

       But it so happened that Martha began busying herself with thoughts of how best to serve the Guest. That is, she gave priority to being a good hostess and gave only secondary consideration to listening about the Kingdom of Heaven. It seemed that she wanted to do good, but in fact she substituted the earthly for the heavenly. And Christ corrected her:

       "Martha, Martha, you are busy with many things, but there is one thing that is needed--listening to the Word of God concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.

       He gave Mary as an example of one who simply listened.


Mary, the Mother of God--she did not come from the ranks of angels; she was born into the human race. But inasmuch as she "hid all the words of the Lord in her heart." she attained the most exalted heights: she became "more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim." She acquired great and unsurpassing boldness before God.


       The Kingdom of Heaven is always being preached, especially when we come into the temple of God. But even here, just as in that other house where Christ was present, we have our Marys and Marthas. It seems that we should be drinking everything in, hanging onto every word, but rarely does anyone actually do that; we all concern ourselves with something else. Even our prayer has become too preoccupied, almost commercial.

     Here, just as in that house. Christ says:

     “Martha, Martha, you are busying yourself about many things..."

       We are too busy with outward things. A church is not built for "busy-ness" but for prayer. For hearing the Word of God.


       Our life depends on hearing the Word of God.

        They have driven us towards [a desire for] earthly riches, encouraging us to believe that without them all is lost.

           The Lord said: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."

           We must seek the Kingdom of God. When we do this, we shall have the good things of this world. But if we forget to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and concern ourselves only with temporal goods, we shall have neither one nor the other.

           Just look at what is done for the sake of worldly gain. What squabbles, deceit. Earthly riches corrupt a man. Here you find all manner of adultery, here you find drunkenness--and ail the bitter enticements of our present life.


           We must choose that good part which Mary chose-listening to the Word of God. To listen--this does not mean simply to hear, but to try to fulfill. On this fulfillment depends our salvation.

1975, village of Kabanovo

 (Translated from Vovremya i ne Vovremya; Zhizn c Bogom, Brussels, 1978)