29 July 2006

St. Martha the Hospitable

We are privileged to have this extraordinary oil on canvas of Jesus at Bethany hanging on the north wall of our chapel. It was commissioned by our second chaplain (and, more accurately, our second founder), Rev. Joseph Pierre Picot de Cloriviere as a gift from France to adorn our chapel. It was painted by Constance Blanchard (student of Girodot) in 1825 for a sum of 2,000 Francs.

On 8 July 1993 when our school building was consumed by a fire, this painting was rescued from the chapel (which connects the academy to the monastery building) by several of our chaplains who used rope cinctures from the sacristy to lower the massive framed picture. When the chapel was renovated and the picture restored, the cinctures were left in place as a reminder of the extraordinary event.

At risk of undermining the traditional homily for today's memorial about how Mary has chosen "the better part" and poor Martha is too busy, this is a little plug for moderation in our approach to today's Gospel. Please note that John's Gospel tells us that "when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home." And Luke, prior to the very familiar scene where Mary is seated at Jesus' feet, tells us that "Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him." Both Martha and Mary represent essential elements of our vocation as Christians: nurturing a relationship with the Word of God in the person of Jesus Christ -- as Mary did -- and welcoming others as Christ into our homes and our hearts -- as Martha did. And the Lord, as suggested in the painting, is found between the two: at the intersection of prayer and hospitality.

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