Need is to dissolve boundaries
This just in: Martha wins the Martha(action)/Mary(contemplation) sweepstakes after all at least according to Dominican theologian and mystic, Meister Eckhart (1260-1329) whose wisdom and works are being made accessible in our time through one of my heroes Matthew Fox, a former Dominican himself and a maverick theologian on the outs with the Vatican from the days of wily Cardinal Ratzinger; he eventually was ordained an Episcopal priest, founded the University for Creation Spirituality and created the Cosmic Mass. He also has a splendid new book out called “Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times” .
For two millennia now, when Christians gather, they regularly hear the story of Jesus’ visit to his cousins Martha and Mary. Martha is very eager to make everything perfect and is busily doing all those chores that are part of receiving a guest graciously. Mary on the other hand is sitting at Jesus’ feet in rapt contemplative attention. Martha nudges Mary to help with the work but Jesus gently admonishes her and advises her famously: “Martha, Martha, busy about many things but Mary has chosen the better part.” With these words Jesus blesses contemplation above action. (Unfortunately, many of the preaching clergy, at least among the Catholics, have equated Mary with religious life and the priesthood, and abducted the story to promote vocations. Not so; M&M are two parts of ourselves that need to be kept in healthy balance)
So along comes Meister Eckhart. In one of his many famous sermons he proclaims “Martha is actually the more ‘mature’ of the two sisters because she can do two things at once: listen and get her work done; that is, be both mystic and activist, contemplative and productive. Someday, Eckhart said, Mary will become as mature as Martha!” (Fox, Matthew, “Meister Eckhart”, 2014, pp. 82-83, exclamation point added by Wise Guyde)
What matters here is the dissolving of the boundaries between these two types of people or two aspects of ourselves. Contemplation must lead to just action, theory to praxis if we are to save our planet and ourselves from extinction. (Aside: did you know that at the present rate of extinction of species the human race will cease to exist in 2085? It’s true but I’ve lost track of my source!)
As we turn ourselves then to the grand integration of ourselves into practical mystics, and the restoration of our planet to its pristine glory, let’s save ourselves the angst of uproar over whose religion is right. We need to be mystical enough to recognize that essentially all religions are grounded in the same reality of Unconditional Love. Our beautiful planet that we seek to save has not yet been patented by any one entity at least until Monsanto gets wise to us. There is no Lutheran moon, Presbyterian soil, Methodist stars, Jewish sun, Catholic wind or Muslim water. We are all human lovers pulling together to save this marvelous blue jewel set in our Milky Way amongst a trillion other galaxies in space. Let us contemplate it’s grandeur and how much we owe it while at the same time sweeping it clean. Really we can all do two things at once..can’t we?
After all, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
(Bill O’Brien and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005. firstname.lastname@example.org )