The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary

The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary (1915)
by Stephen Graham
4504329The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary1915Stephen Graham







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The quotation "Martha, Martha, thou art cumbered about with many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her" is as common in Russia as "faith without works is dead" is common here. Speaking roughly, Eastern Christianity is associated with Mary's good part and Western Christianity with the way of Martha and service. The two aspects seem to be irreconcilable, but they are not; and I have called my book The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary because the ways of the sisters are as touchstones for Christianity, and in their reconciliation is a great beauty.

If you would know what a nation is, you must ask what is the religion of the people. Without a national religion a nation is not a nation but a collection of people. It is a truism to say that what is best in a nation springs from its religion, from some central idealism to which every one in the nation has access—the idea of the nation. There is a "British idea," an "American idea," a "German idea," a "Russian idea." This is profoundly true of Russia; for all that is beautiful in her life, art, and culture springs from the particular and characteristic Christian idea in the depths of her. She is essentially a great and wonderful unity. It is of that essential unity that I write, and in writing hope to show on the one plane Russia, and on another the splendour of the true Christian idea.

This book was written in Russia and in Egypt during 1914 and 1915. In 1913 I was in America and wrote my study of American ideals in contrast to Russian ideals. I returned to Russia in January 1914 eager to look at the East afresh and compare it with the West. In setting out for Russia the fundamental idea in my mind was that of Russia as a religious country where one found refuge from materialism and worldly cares, and I hoped to find stories and pictures of life with which to clothe the beautiful idea of the sanctuary. The book I was going to write I always called in my mind "the sanctuary book," and my notion was to make a book that should also be a sanctuary itself—a book in which the reader could find sacred refuge.

Much has intervened. My quest resolved itself first of all into a seeking for what I call the Russian idea, then into a study of Russian Christianity. My new volume is necessarily one of seeking and finding, a making of discoveries. One chapter led me on to another, and the scope of my study increased till it took in the whole question of what Eastern Christianity is and how it is in contrast to Western Christianity.

Athwart this peaceful work came the typhoon of the Great War, and my hand was claimed by the new friendship between England and Russia, the friendship of brothers in arms. It was fitting to seize the opportunity to make that friendship wider and deeper by describing and interpreting the Russian people to larger audiences. But I carried the purpose of this book with me, and much of what is written here was first put into words on public platforms in the winter of 1914-15. Finally, as a culmination to this personal work, on the 16th April 1915 I gave a lecture at the Royal Institution on "The Russian Idea," and therein collected together and summarised all that I had said during the winter. That evening I read almost all that is vital in Part I. of this book.

In May, in order to carry on this study I went to Egypt to visit the shrines and monasteries of the Desert, some of the sources of inspiration of Eastern Christianity, and to make a journey to Russia the way Christianity came to her. In these journeyings and doings lie the chronological and geographical scheme of this new volume.

I feel that this book, the hardest of all my books to write, is not in any sense a collection or a medley of impressions and stories, but has one and the same object and quest running through the whole of it; and that in order to understand it even in a small way it is necessary to read the whole of it, and perhaps re-read it. It is an organic unity, and reflects in its form something of the Russian idea and of Sancta Sophia itself.

The Way of Martha and The Way of Mary is an interpretation and a survey of Eastern Christianity, and a consideration of the ideas at present to the fore in Christianity generally.

Christianity is not yet a system: it is chaotic in its tenets and the manner of its profession. This young religion of Christianity! Perhaps 6000 years hence it will have crystallised out, but as yet it is in the confused grandeur of youth. It has all possibilities. A young man or young woman of to-day can live by Christianity because it is young with them. Probably any true book on Christianity must reflect this fact. As yet Christianity is running germs: it is in being's flood, in action's storm. It is not all logical, symmetrical, like a thesis demonstrated and proved to a class in moral philosophy.

Christianity is a great live religion still absorbing all that is true in other religions. It is the word. It is part of our language, and by means of it we express what is deepest in ourselves. There has not been in history such a powerful medium of self-expression. Words are our means of inter-*communication, of understanding one another and telling one another what is in the heart, that is—of communion with one another. That communion is deep and tender, and the knowledge of it, like the knowledge of God, passeth understanding; all that we know is that love kindles from it. I make this affirmation as one whose special medium is the written and the spoken word.


Moscow, September 1915.

I. The Russian Idea PAGE
1. To Russia 1
2. Modern Russia and Holy Russia 12
3. Pereplotchikof again 29
4. At the Theatre 37
5. The Movements of the Peoples 48
6. Let us go into the Tavern 58
7. In the Church 73
8. In the Market-Place 86
9. The Russian Idea 90
10. The Labyrinth 105
II. Martha and Mary
1. The Podvig 111
2. The Hermitage of Father Seraphim 121
3. Tolstoy's Flight from Home 130
4. Back to Moscow 136
5. The Religion of Suffering 143
6. The Two Hermits 155
7. At the Convent of Martha and Mary 161
8. The Way of Martha 168
9. Martha's True Way 178
10. Making West East 182
11. The Ecclesiastical Church and the LivingChurch 190
12. Witness unto the Truth 200
13. The Festival of the Dead 206
III. The Desert and the World
1. A Chain of Happenings 217
2. The Hermits 221
3. In the Desert 235
4. The World 246
5. St. Sophia 256
6. From Egypt To Russia 263
1. War and Christianity 273
2. The Choice of East and West 280
FrontispieceMartha and Mary.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1975, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 48 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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