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Martha, Mary, and Lazarus?

Roman Catholics today celebrate the Memorial of St. Martha. Anglicans in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have expanded this to Mary and Martha of Bethany. The danger, of course, is that having a feast day for Mary Magdalene on 22 July and another for Martha (but not Mary of Bethany) a week later will continue to reinforce, for Roman Catholics, the medieval Western Christian tradition, taught by Pope Gregory the Great, that Mary of Bethany IS Mary Magdalene.

The Church of England has expanded beyond Martha and Mary to include their brother, Lazarus. The celebration in the CofE’s Common Worship is “Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Companions of Our Lord”. Benedictine Daily Prayer celebrates “St. Martha, St. Mary, and St. Lazarus – Hosts of the Lord”. [Future revisers of the Calendar for Anglicans in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia take note!]

The Episcopal Church’s Holy Women Holy Men puts “[and Lazarus]” in square brackets. But there’s no brackets in its collect:

Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany: Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy Women Holy Men, page 493

There’s so much worth reflecting on around this Bethany household, clearly so important in Jesus’ life. Did Lazarus have some form of disability? It is “Martha’s home” (Luke 10:38-42) in this patriarchal society; there are no conversations of Lazarus recorded… Is Lazarus (the one whom Jesus loves John 11:3) the “Beloved Disciple” who lies beneath the Fourth Gospel as its ‘author’? Might, in that theory, Lazarus’ being raised from the dead help account for the different and deeper approach to the Synoptics? Is there any relationship between the Lazarus death-and-resurrection story in John and the Lazarus parable in Luke?

There’s something about Martha and Mary?

Heavenly Father, your Son called Lazarus from the grave and sat at table in the house of Bethany. Like Martha, may we serve him faithfully in our brothers and sisters and with Mary ponder and feed upon his word. This we ask of you…

Benedictine Daily Prayer page 1,849

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4 thoughts on “Martha, Mary, and Lazarus?”

  1. I’ve wondered at times if perhaps was not only Lazerus less healthy than normal but was he also perhaps still a minor living in his older sister’s home as her promise to care for him made to deceased parents? Being a teenage boy without parents, Jesus could have also been a father figure, another reason for their close bonds of affection.

    I’m sure you’re are aware that TEC replaced Holy Women Holy Men with A Great Cloud of Witnesses. Here is the free pdf version;


    1. Thanks, David for those helpful thoughts. And for me and for others that PDF will be very useful and worth highlighting. Blessings.

  2. Jeffery BeBeau


    The RCC has taken a very subtle step in rejecting the identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany. On the liturgical calendar, July 29 is the Memorial of St. Martha, however the Roman Martyrology published in 2001 and updated in 2004, listed July 29 as also the Commemoration of St. Lazarus, brother of Martha, and of St. Mary, his sister. All 3 are commemorated on the same day, it’s that Martha had a higher liturgical rank. I suspect the distinction came about because of the traditional association of two Marys. The commentary of the Roman Calendar from 1969 would seem to suggest this.

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