Ora et Labora

St. Scholastica from the San Luca Polyptych, Andrea Montegna. 1453-1454. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

Today our Eastern Orthodox and Catholic brothers and sisters celebrate the life of a very unique and interesting woman:  Scholastica.  She is celebrated as a virgin of the church and the first Benedictine Nun.  The latter is fitting since she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia, from whom we have The Rule of St. Benedict and the Benedictine order of monks.

The gospel reading chosen for the feast of St. Scholastica is Luke 10:38-42 where Jesus enters the house of Mary and Martha…and perhaps the story is somewhat familiar to many of you:  Martha, who is busy with tending to all of the things that one has to do when a visitor arrives, comes bustling up to Jesus and demands that her sister come and help her with the preparations.  Jesus responds saying, “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:41-42)

And perhaps this is a fitting reading for St. Scholastica who founded a monastery that we believe used her brother’s Rule.  The Rule of St. Benedict is based on two key principals of Christian communal life according to St. Benedict.  In Latin they are “ora et labora,” or, “pray and work.”  And we see both actions in the lives of Mary and Martha in the gospel passage from Luke.

But I wonder how much like Martha we can be…”worried and distracted by many things.” (Luke 10:41)  How often do we let the crush of the various events, schedules, meetings, appointments, and all the rest of the “work” that is our lives ride roughshod over the need we have as Christians to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen as Mary did in the passage from Luke?  And how much more wonderful is it when those two activities are merged into one–where we feel that the work we do is a form of prayer to God?

Since I have arrived here at St. Alban’s, almost seven months ago, I have marveled at and delighted in the breadth and depth of the ministries that this parish undertakes.  There are so many opportunities to engage the gospel and live into our baptismal covenant (see The Book of Common Prayer page 304-5).  One of those ministries will happen this evening as our Rite 13 young people prepare and distribute food to the homeless as part of the Grate Patrol ministry.  You might be interested to know that last week that Ms. Tina (Florence) E. Mallett–manager of Grate Patrol–was recognized by Virginia Seminary for her “leadership and unique witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I would urge us all to find those moments in our lives when we are playing the dual role of both Mary and Martha.  When we find ourselves doing the work of the Kingdom or when we find that the work we do is a form of prayer to God we are partaking in these Mary-Martha moments.  Let us notice when those valuable Mary-Martha moments occur in our lives and recognize that in those moments we are moving closer in our relationship with God.

Yours in Christ,

About matthewhanisian

Associate Rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
This entry was posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ora et Labora

  1. Jo says:

    There is a reason that Martha is my middle name. I am a work in progress.

  2. Anton Vanterpool II says:

    I see my Mary and Martha moment when I put away the choir music in the library. I usually get most of this effort done on Sundays when the Children sing with the Alban singers at 9:15. While the St Alban’s community is worshipping upstairs in a “Mary” Moment, I’m inbetween the file room and the choir room with the music in “Martha” mode. I like hearing the happy children (and adults) in Nourse Hall at Children’s Chapel. It reminds me that worship should be a joyful and loving expression of God’s love for each other. Thanks be to God and Scholastica.

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