Keys to the Kingdom – Paul Tillich, Martha, & Mary

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The Life of Mary of Egypt. 17th century Russian icon.

The following is based on an essay I wrote two years ago.

A few weeks ago on the 3rd of the Coptic month Paona (June 10) was the commemoration of one St. Martha of Egypt. According to the Coptic Orthodox Synaxarion (lives of the saints):

On this day also, the ascetic and fighter St. Martha, departed. She was born in the city of Mesr (Cairo) to wealthy Christian parents. She loved fornication and unchastity in her youth and her works became known. However, the mercy of God from above encompassed her, and moved her to go to the church. That was on the Nativity of Our Lord. When she came to its door and wished to go inside, the servant delegated to watch the door told her, “It is not meet for you to go into the holy church, for you know what you are?” A confrontation took place between them, and when the Bishop heard the clamor, he came to the door of the church to see what had happened. When he saw the girl, he said to her, “Do you not know that the house of God is holy, and only the pure enter it.” She wept and said, “Accept me O father, for I am repentant from this instant, and have decided not to go back to my sin.” The bishop replied, “If it is true what you have said, go and bring back here all your silk clothes and gold ornaments.”

She went quickly and brought back all of her clothes and ornaments and gave them to the Bishop. He ordered that they be burned immediately, then he shaved off the hair of her head. He put on her the monastic garb and sent her to one of the convents. She fought a great spiritual fight, and she frequently said in her prayers: “O Lord, if I could not bear the disgrace from the servant of Your house, so please do not put me to shame before Your angels and saints.” She continued the spiritual fight for twenty-five years, during which she did not go out of the door of the convent, then departed in peace.

I had the pleasure of having breakfast with a friend a couple days later and we talked (among sundry other things) about the irony that having been raised with relative freedom, we now are interested in Orthodoxy, a religion of many rules and injunctions, while other friends of ours who were raised in very strict Christian homes are currently living the wild life at college. The conversation reminded me of the story of St. Martha above and how I had wanted to write about it but hadn’t had the chance. So what does St. Martha have to do with going wild at college? Continue reading Keys to the Kingdom – Paul Tillich, Martha, & Mary

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