We have entered the month of August which is also known as the month of the Virgin Mary (Theotokos). The first two weeks from 1 – 14 August we prepare for the feast day of the Dormition of the Theotokos (15 August) through fasting and prayer. Each day during this time we conduct the Small Supplicatory Canon, alternately with the Great Supplicatory Canon, to the most Holy Theotokos. The Small Supplicatory Canon, in fact, can be recited in every calamity and affliction of soul anytime during the year.
During the reciting of the Great Supplicatory Canon the priest reads a passage from the Gospel of Luke (10: 38 -42). Here we see our Lord being received into Martha’s house. Martha had a sister by the name of Mary who also was present. Martha was preparing the dinner table making certain that everything was in order. Mary, on the other hand, was not assisting Martha but instead sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His word. Martha came to Jesus and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me”. Jesus responded to Martha by saying: “Martha, Martha. You are anxious and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful; and Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
After listening to this Gospel passage one may ask, “So what is this ‘one thing’ that is needed and that we all should focus on in attaining? Very simply it is being attentive to the word of God and focusing on the salvation of our soul. Nothing is more important in life than our salvation. Christ Himself tells us in the Gospel, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the entire world yet loses his soul? For what can a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:26)”? This verse clearly shows how our immortal soul is priceless and precious to God and how He wants all to come to knowledge of the truth (in other words the Orthodox Christian faith) and be saved (1Tim 2:4).
The tempter, whose task it is to direct us away from the path of salvation, never ceases to distract us my whispering the following in our minds: God is not real; Heaven and Hell are a myth; there is no such thing as the Final Judgement; the devil does not exist; there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead; and the human person only consists of the body and has no immortal soul.
Once we start believing these thoughts then we give into all form of evil and sin and we resemble the derailment of a train that is heading for destruction. Before we know it a sudden change in our lives occurs where our earthly life comes to an end and our soul, within a split of a second, suddenly appears naked at the throne of God. If we have not spent our earthly time preparing for this moment then what account will we give to the Almighty God at the fearsome judgement seat?
At the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi on Mt Athos there is a figurine on the clock tower with a bell attached to it. The bell rings every half an hour. The purpose of the bell ringing constantly is to remind all the monks that they are half an hour closer to their time of death and to not waste time regarding the salvation of their souls for this is the “one thing needful” as emphasised by Christ.