September 1, 2019

Saint Martha, Mother of Saint Symeon the Stylite

St. Martha, Mother of Saint Symeon the Stylite (Feast Day - August 1)


In days of old Martha gave hospitality to Christ on earth,
Now Christ gives hospitality to Martha in the heavens.

Venerable Martha was the mother of Saint Symeon the Stylite, who had him baptized as a child and educated him, meanwhile Symeon worked as a shepherd of his parents flock, until he left home in his teenage years to pursue a life of asceticism. This brought great distress to his mother, of which we read about in the Life of Saint Symeon written by his disciple Anthony, who describes an incident where she came to her son shortly after he ascended his pillar. He writes:

'Quite a long time after this his mother heard where he was and came to visit him, but he would not let her see him, for women were forbidden to enter that place. "Just wait for a little while," said Symeon, when he heard her voice, "and we shall see each other, God willing."

She began to weep when she heard his voice, and loosed her hair and besought him earnestly.

"My son, why have you done this? As a reward for carrying you in my womb, you have filled me with grief. For the milk with which I fed you, you have given me tears. For the kisses that I showered on you, you have given me bitter pains in my heart. For the pain and labor that I suffered for you, you have given me the most painful wounds."

She spoke so feelingly that we all wept.

As Symeon listened to the voice of his mother he buried his face in his hands and wept bitterly.

"Dear Mother," he said, "be at peace for a little while, and we shall see each other in the place of eternal rest."

"In the name of Christ who formed you, if there is a possibility of seeing you as a sort of stranger in that great time, why not let me see you now? Or if not, now that I have heard your voice, let me die at once, for your father has already died from grieving for you. Don't leave me any longer in this state of bitterness, my son." 

In weeping and wailing she went into a state of trance, and continued her pleadings to him for three days and three nights. Symeon then prayed to the Lord and she straightway gave up he spirit. They picked up her body and brought it to where he could see it.

"May the Lord receive you into his joy," said Symeon, weeping, "for you have been greatly troubled on my behalf. You carried me in your womb for nine months, you fed me with your milk, and worked hard in caring for me."

As he said this, we all noticed drops of sweat appearing on his mother's brow and we saw her body move. Symeon lifted up his eyes to heaven.

"O Lord God of power," he cried, " you sit among the Cherubim, and see into the depths of the pit, you knew Adam before he existed, you have promised the riches of the kingdom of heaven to those who love you, you spoke to Moses in the burning bush, you gave your blessing to Abraham our father, you lead the souls of the righteous into paradise and the souls of the wicked into perdition, you tamed the two lions (Dan. 6.22) and saved your servants from the fiery furnace of the Babylonians (Dan. 3.28), You sent the ravens to feed Elijah (1 Kings 17.6), receive now her soul in peace and place her among the holy fathers, for yours is the power unto the ages of ages."'