Today the Church celebrates the witness of the great friend and disciple of the Lord Jesus, St. Martha.
The Gospel testifies that Martha was the sister of Lazarus and Mary, and that the three were friends of the Lord Jesus who lived in Bethany.
Further, the Gospel testifies that Martha was the subject of a rebuke from Christ for prioritizing domestic tasks over that of attentive, communion with Christ. This rebuke was an invitation to conversion and indicates that the Gospel cannot be reduced to simply an affirmation of who we are, but an opening up to becoming the person that Christ wills for us to be.
Also, in the Gospel of John, Martha offers witness to her faith in the power of God in Christ to restore the dead to life. Her testimony to the power of God in Christ is a precursor to a wonderful miracle- Christ restores life to her dead brother, Lazarus.
Legends regarding Saint Martha are also worthy of note as they are both delightful and edifying. Perhaps the best is the story of St. Martha the Dragon-slayer.
Exiled during a time of persecution from the Holy Land, Martha journeys to a region that we now know as France.
The itinerant evangelist Martha finds herself in a village plagued by a dragon, whose appetite for the villagers could not be satisfied.
Martha proclaimed the power of God in Christ to the villagers, a message to which the villagers listened attentively, but the matter seemed abstract to their experience- for the greatest power they knew was the power of the dragon.
Was this power of God in Christ greater than that of the dragon? If so, could she overcome the dragon?
The tenacious Martha then went out, found the dragon, confronted it, subdued it, brought it back to the village on a leash, and after a stirring proclamation of the power of God in Christ, called for a sword- thus did Martha become Saint Martha the Dragon-slayer.
It’s a wonderful story and it’s not important that the dragon or the story be literally real, because the truth in the tale is in its deep symbolism. The dragon being a symbol of all that opposes Christ, an opposition that lurks in all of us and seeks to consume the goodness and life that God with which God has blessed us. It is the dragon that tempts us to live in fear, rather than in courageous hope. This dragon is the devil and the dark and fallen powers that always accompany him.
Saint Martha is a representation of the soul who counters the power of the dragon with the power of God in Christ. Christ, who conquers and who is victorious over the powers of the dragon and who still fights on our behalf. It is Christ who reveals to us that the dragon can and will be defeated.
Christ is our champion and we if we let his power transform us then perhaps we too can be known, like St. Martha, as the slayers of dragons.