Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jul 30, 2009

Having a Martha-like day on the Feast of St. Martha – July 29

Having a Martha-like day on the Feast of St. Martha – July 29

Martha, Mary and Jesus

Martha, Mary and Jesus

I’ve spent the feast of St. Martha doing a lot of very Martha-like things. You’ll remember the story of the day Jesus came to visit Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus always traveled with something of an entourage in those days. There were the apostles, of course. But there were also many others who followed along the way or came out to see Him as He passed through their towns. When He came to visit, it was a big deal.

The role of women in Martha’s day was not unlike that of today in some ways. Women were responsible for making sure there was food and drink prepared for the guests. Martha took her role seriously and set out to make sure all the guests were treated well and had what they needed. I can understand her actions. I’ve often found myself doing the same thing – whether in my own home or in another’s. I’m an oldest child and a daughter. I learned very early in life to look out for the needs of others, whether younger siblings or visitors to our home. Yet much to Martha’s dismany (and sometimes to my own in a similar situation), her sister Mary wasn’t helping. Mary was sitting with the guests, listening to Jesus.

Martha complained to Jesus about Mary’s actions and Jesus’ reply must have astounded her and any others who heard it. “Marth, Martha. You are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Lk 10: 38-42)

Throughout history, we’ve read this passage and debates have raged interiorly and publicly about the relative choices and positions of the two women and women in general. That’s not the theme of this post. Something else struck me this week. There’s another side to Martha.

We often get stuck on the image of Martha as anxious and concerned about many things. Yet another side of Martha appears in the story of the raising of Lazarus. In that story, Jesus arrives in Bethany after His friend has died and been in the tomb for three days. Lazarus is well and truly officially dead. Martha goes out to meet Jesus on the road. She chides Him for not arriving in time to save Lazarus from death. She also tells Him of her belief that God will do whatever He asks. She professes her belief in life after death and then makes a great statement of faith. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” (Jn 11:27) She makes this statement before Jesus raises Lazarus from death. Before His own death and resurrection. Martha – the woman worried about many things – is also a woman of great faith.

So, as I spent my day caring for a baby grandson, cooking, doing laundry, and squeezing in the bookkeeping for my household and business, I tried also to remember to be open to the Lord’s coming in all things. And at 11 pm, while the baby played happily after a too long nap, I penned these words!


  1. My church is doing skit on women of the Bible. My group was given Mary of Bethany and her sister Martha. We are to dress like them, tell their story, and prepare a meal. My question is, what type of food may have been prepared? What type of clothing did they wear and where can I find these items? Thanks. I need answers asap. Thanks again.

  2. This sounds like it will be a fun experience. I’m not a specialist in Ancient Middle Eastern foods and clothing, but here are some ideas I would have. As far as foods go, we know they ate lamb, so that would be a safe choice. They did not have any of the foods from the Americas yet, so that rules out potatoes, tomatoes, corn, chilis, etc. They did have wheat, barley, rye and other grains, so breads could be included. For vegetables and fruits, I’d assume people would have eaten some of the same types of foods that are eaten in the Middle East today, including things like cucumbers, melons and pomegranates. Yogurt and cheeses were probably commonly made and eaten, from the milk of sheep and goats, especially. The Song of Songs names some fruits, if you have time to research foods there. To drink, they often used watered down wine. The alcohol purified the water and fermentation preserved the grape juice for later use. It was kept in a concentrated state and watered for use at table. Beer was also used in the Middle East. For your celebration, sparkling cider might substitute if you need to serve a drink too.

    Clothing was much simpler than what we wear today. The idea of cutting fabric in curves and fitting clothing more closely to the body didn’t emerge until around the time of St. Catherine of Siena. So, think in terms of straight seams at shoulders and sides. Sleeves would also be made of square or rectangular pieces of fabric, again sewed to the rest of the garment with a straight seam. Use a belt to gather it all together at the waist. Women should wear a veil, but it doesn’t have to cover the face. Blue was not a commonly used color, but red, yellow, orange, brown and cream are easy to get with natural dyes.

    Hope these thoughts help. Please let me know how it went.

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.