Rorate Caeli

"Maria optimam partem elegit, quae non auferetur ab ea."

Diego Velazquez
Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

"Factum est autem dum irent et ipse intravit in quoddam castellum, et mulier quaedam Martha nomine excepit illum in domum suam. Et huic erat soror nomine Maria, quae etiam sedens secus pedes Domini audiebat verbum illius. Martha autem satagebat circa frequens ministerium, quae stetit et ait, Domine non est tibi curae quod soror mea reliquit me solam ministrare? Dic ergo illi ut me adiuvet. Et respondens dixit illi Dominus, Martha, Martha, sollicita es et turbaris erga plurima, porro unum est necessarium. Maria optimam partem elegit quae non auferetur ab ea."

"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary. who, sitting also at the Lord's feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? Speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her."

Luke 10:38-42, Gospel pericope for the Feast of the Assumption in the pre-1950 Roman Missal

This is also the pericope for the Feast of the Dormition in the Byzantine Rite.  With the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, however, the propers of the feast were revised for the Latin Rite, with a lesson from Judith 13:22-25; 15:10 substituted for Ecclesiasticus 24:11-13, 15-20, and the pericope from Luke 1:41-50 substituted for the above Gospel.

But why did the Roman Church formerly read Luke 10:38-42, the famous account of St. Martha and her sister St. Mary Magdalene, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary?  Obviously the Church did not say that Mary in this passage of St. Luke's Gospel is literally the Blessed Virgin.  But the Church has interpreted the words of the Gospel in a spiritual or allegorical sense.

As the commentary on this feast from the 1940 St. Andrew's Daily Missal (page 854) explains, "The Church, on earth, like Martha, has to care for the necessities of this present life, but she also, like her, invokes the help of Mary (Collect, Secret, Postcommunion)."

The Mother of God and Holy Mother Church are our two Mothers, and may be likened to sisters, like Mary and Martha.  And so, though Our Lady, being assumed into heaven, may seem to have left her "sister" the Church alone to serve Jesus, the Lord has directed His Mother, who has chosen the best part, to help the Church as Mediatrix of all Grace.


Linda Zentner said...

Oh,thank you so very much for these posts which are so very consoling.

Greek Catholic said...

Interesting, it is the same pericope in the byzantine Divine Liturgy for the feast of Assumption.

Joseph Shaw said...

Thank you, that is both interesting and edifying.

Ben said...

Signum magnum was another of Papa Pacelli's unfortunate innovations in the realm of liturgicals.

Osusanna said...

Wonderful painting too.
Thank you.

Jordanes551 said...

Greek Catholic, thank you for that information of which I was not aware. I have updated the post accordingly.