Both Active and Contemplative, by Hans Boersma

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Hans Boersma is the Saint Benedict Servants of Christ Professor in Ascetical Theology at Nashotah House.

By Hans Boersma, First Things, Nov. 7, 2019

Martha has made a comeback. Today, her frenetic busyness increasingly wins her admiring followers, while Mary and her otherworldly ilk are treated like people from a bygone age. From what I can tell, this reversal of biblical priorities is an outcome of modernity. Or, more likely, modernity is a by-product of our neglect of contemplation.

Modernity unmistakably prioritizes the active life. Technological time-savers such as laptops and smartphones were supposed to relieve our schedules; instead, they have made our lives more hectic than ever before. The CVs of ordinary med-school applicants, barely dry behind the ears, make one wonder how these students possibly managed to squeeze a 30-year career of academic accomplishment, volunteerism, and work into four years of college attendance. And our political moralism has turned us all into social justice warriors, taking up our favorite causes with messianic zeal. Martha is sitting firmly in the driver’s seat.

The topic of contemplation comes up a fair bit in talks that I do. Usually, the room is filled with Marthas. (In fairness, impatient and easily distracted, I too fall into this category.) So I’ve been forced to ask myself: What are the key points to convey to an activist audience about the Martha-Mary relationship?  ….