July 29th, Saint Martha, Virgin and Martyr
Martha, (whose feast is kept on the Octave of St. Mary Magdalene,) lived with her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus, in their home in Bethany. Which same was a place of such noble hospitality that they are believed to have been of gentle birth and ample means. But chiefly Martha is remembered as the loving hostess of our Lord ; for whose sake, and for Mary’s he raised to life again his friend Lazarus, after he had been three days dead, and over whose grave, as the Evangelist saith : Jesus wept. For the Gospel prayeth them this great tribute : Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. According to the ancient fathers. Mary is to be considered a type of the contemplative vocation, but Martha that of the active : that is to say, of a life devoted to God in good works for one’s neighbour. * In the Middle Ages in France a strange story came into belief concerning these three Saints, as followeth. After the Ascension, they and their household were baptized by Maximin, who was one of the seventy-two disciples of the Lord Christ. They all, with many other Christians, were taken by the Jews, and turned adrift upon the open sea in a ship without sail or oars, to meet with certain wreck ; but by the governance of God, the shop came to land at Marseilles with all safe. Through this miracle and the preaching of the Saints, the people round about came to believe in Christ, and Lazarus was made Bishop of Aix. * Mary continued, as it were, to sit at Jesus’ feet, for she ever was altogether given to prayer and the contemplation of heavenly blessedness ; and in order that the good part which she had chosen might not be taken away from her, she withdrew herself to a cave in an exceeding high mountain, where she lived for thirty years, utterly cut off from all conversation with mankind, but having the holy Angels as her familiars. And Martha drew upon herself, by the wondrous holiness and charity of her life, the love of all the inhabitants of Marseilles, until she withdrew in company with some other honorable women, into an out-of-the-way place, to prepare for her going to him who loved her, and whence she passed away to be ever with him.
Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation : that, like as we do rejoice in the festival of blessed Martha thy holy Virgin ; so we may learn to follow her in all godly and devout affections, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.