The Orthodox Church proclaims equality between men and women. They have, however, different roles to perform within the context of the Church. Women, as the Church emphasizes, are the backbone of the Church in that they are the backbone in their respective parishes and homes. It is well known that churches cannot continue to be strong units in the Church unless their families and children, the nucleus of any given parish, are raised and cared for in a Christian manner and according to Christ’s teachings. Chrysostom asserts that “the home is the little church” (Homilies on Ephesians, Homily XX), where all Christian education starts and ends. Nowadays, more than ever, women play an essential and indispensable role in the family. They are caring wives, nurturing mothers, valuable parish leaders and workers, and productive contributors in the workplace of our modern society. One might note that men play very similar roles in all mentioned segments! That would be absolutely true. Nevertheless, roles vary in different fields according to the gifts granted by God to each sex.
Children, who are impressionable especially in the first five years of their lives, receive invaluable education not only through the direct teachings from the mother, but also through her actions, behavior, and words. Children absorb like sponges the mother’s influence on them, even if it is not directly apparent at first. If the mother carries herself properly, adheres to the rules she sets for her children in the house, is polite, and is genuine, then the children will usually follow suit. If the mother, on the other hand, is on drugs, drinks to excess, and so forth, and/or does not pay attention to her children, then the children will learn that behavior and eventually practice it. They would seem to them to be the norm, because their mother lived it and she is the prime example for them. The following Arabic proverb rings true: “A mother is a school; if you have prepared her well, you have prepared good people.”
At the same time, the virtue of humility, which again Mary exhibited by sitting at the feet of someone, is the beginning of the virtue of wisdom, which one must have on the narrow road of salvation. On the one hand, faith and wisdom are two of the most important virtues that advance someone on the narrow road of deification. On the other hand, the virtue of love is evident in Martha’s behavior as she served Him in her house. Despite the fact that she complained about her sister’s lack of service, she had obediently served her Master. A Church father remarked that the beginning of love is obedience. If someone is not obedient to anyone, he or she does not love anyone.
Let us not neglect the fact that she had such love for the Master, her Son, that she was at the foot of the Cross (John 19:25), feeling His pain on the road to Golgotha and at the Place of the Skull. Conversely, her faith in His Resurrection, which was continually strengthened by acquired knowledge about Him and His teachings, was unwavering. Therefore, she did not go with the other women to the tomb to anoint Him, where she should have been the first one there as His mother, did she not have her steadfast faith in His Resurrection: “Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him” (Mark 16:1).