Martha vs. Mary

Today is the feast day of St. Martha, who sparked countless debates down through the ages about the merits of the active life vs. the contemplative life. St. Thomas Aquinas believed the contemplative life was superior, based on the passage in Luke 10:38-42 where Martha complains about Mary for sitting at the Master’s feet while she does all the serving. However, the contemplative life pertains to love of God, and the active life pertains to love of neighbor, so both are necessary for us all. (See the Summa Theologica, Question 182.)

St. Teresa of Avila felt much the same way. In her masterpiece, The Interior Castle, she wrote that Mary and Martha become joined in us when we advance in the spiritual life. (“Seventh Dwelling Places,” Chapter 4.) In other words, we each need to keep our eyes fixed on Christ while at the same time serving him in our neighbor.

Something to strive for.

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