The Orthodox Church is preparing to celebrate one of its twelve great feasts, the Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos. On this feast day, we commemorate the birth more than two thousand years ago of the infant named Mary to the family of the pious Joachim and Anna of Judea. The newborn child became the bridge between God and the people in the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, by bringing forth into the world our Lord Jesus Christ. From the Theotokos, the Lord acquired his human nature, his human mind, will and sensations. He was born a human in every respect, except the sin.
We venerate the Most-Holy Virgin because she contributed to our salvation like no other, not even the angels or archangels. We rest assured that the Queen of Heaven resides at the Throne of Heaven with her Son, Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and with Her, we raise our prayers to our Lord. Dedicating herself to the ministry of our salvation, She hears our prayers and intercedes for us before Her son and our Lord. Mindful of her intercession, we call her the Mother of our Church and the Mother of All Faithful. A mother, like no other being, always hears the pleas of her children. And so does our Mother in Heaven.
As we commemorate the Most Holy Theotokos at Church, we always read at our liturgies the fragment from the Gospel of Luke that describes the visit of our Lord to the house of Martha and Mary. Many Christians remember this text by heart because they hear it so often during worship. As the Gospel tells us, the Lord came to the home of Martha and her sister Mary and talked about things that were essential to people's lives. His every word had great spiritual and transformative power. The younger sister Mary sat at his feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Annoyed with her sister, she came to the Lord and said, "Tell her to help me." The Lord responded in words that bear great weight to our understanding of the value and worth of human life. He said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42).
Saints Martha and Mary
Was Martha a bad person? No, she was a wonderful woman, an excellent housekeeper, a welcoming and hospitable host. She expresses her love for our Saviour in the same way as most of us give their love, benevolence and respect for others: by preparing a feast, by making our homes comfortable for our guests. In doing so, we are naturally worried and concerned about many things. So the Lord does not rebuke Martha. He does not say to her, "Why are you not sitting next to Mary, why are you not listening to me? I need no dinner or any of your hospitality." He does not say that. But he did say that there was only one thing that was needed, and that need was greater than any other, the need for what He said to Mary. So Mary had chosen what was better. She put her most important priorities at the top, gave up all of herself, and concentrated all of her will and attention on listening to what the Lord Jesus Christ had to say. But the Lord did view Martha in opposition to Mary. And again, He did not rebuke her. He just made it known what people needed the most.
His words equally apply to our whole life and every human. We worry a lot, and we are concerned about many things. Our everyday worries, the struggle for our daily bread and material resources consume nearly all our lives. We are working hard to make our lives better to the best of our ability. We are not wrong. We are acting rightly. We are right, just like Martha was by preparing dinner and offering her hospitality to our Saviour. Yet, in a sense, our hard work and our lives tend to lose focus, and we risk losing our direction by not following the goals given to us by our Lord. When we only care about the material order of our lives, we do only Martha's work and none of Mary's. By failing to dedicate to God a fair share of our time - a half, a quarter or not even one per cent; by not heeding to His word and teachings, we are ignoring the spiritual aspect of our lives and the goals of our Lord and making a sad and tragic mistake. All our hard work on the material aspect of our lives becomes fruitless, because of our neglect for the ultimate spiritual riches that are immutable and eternal.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Let us not forget these words of our Lord. Only by balancing the material and the spiritual, our work and our faith can we build our strength as people and achieve justice in our societies. For this, we should raise our prayers, to this we must direct our thoughts and intentions. As long as we have strong faith in our hearts, and take our guidance in God's law, all our work on achieving visible improvements to our lives will have the blessing of our Lord. With this blessing, we will meet all of our objectives. May the Lord help us as we make our progress down this path, and not some other. May all of our thoughts, deeds and actions glorify our Lord. May our souls and spirits be transformed and strengthened by our encounter with His wisdom and His grace.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia
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