Mary and Martha of BethanyThe Collect:
O God, heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of Mary and Martha of Bethany: Give us the will to love you, open our hearts to hear you, and strengthen our hands to serve you in others for his sake; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Mary and Martha lived with their brother Lazarus at Bethany, a village not far from Jerusalem. They are mentioned in several episodes in the Gospels.
On one occasion, when Jesus and His disciples were their guests, Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to Him while her sister Martha busied herself with preparing food and waiting on the guests, and when Martha complained, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part.
When Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had died, Jesus came to Bethany. Martha, upon being told that He was approaching, went out to meet Him, while Mary sat still in the house until He sent for her. It was to Martha that Jesus said: "I am the Resurrection and the Life."
They see the same symbolism also in Leah and Rachel, the daughters of Laban. Leah was dim of sight, but had many children. Rachel had few children, but one of them saved the whole family from destruction. Leah represents Action, which is near-sighted and cannot penetrate very far into the mysteries of God, but produces many worthwhile results. Contemplation has fewer results, but one of those results is Faith, without which it is impossible to please God." Yet, there is a sense in which Action comes first -- "If a man love not his brother, whom he hath seen, how shall he love God, whom he hath not seen?" So it is that Leah must be wed before Rachel.
On some calendars, Lazarus is commemorated together with his sisters, on others his resurrection is remembered separately on 17 December.*
*The Lectionary, James Kiefer, http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/Mary&Martha.htm