‘At His Feet’: New Book Highlights St. Martha’s Story
BOOK PICK for July 29 and beyond
AT HIS FEET
Drawing Closer to Christ With the Women of the New Testament
By Derya Little
Our Sunday Visitor, 2021
144 pages, $14.95
To order: OSV.com
At His Feet is a Bible study and a book of discipleship, divided into 12 chapters, each highlighting the story of a woman from the New Testament. Some of the featured women are familiar: Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ friend Martha, and, of course, Our Lady.
Others are less familiar, such as Joanna, Priscilla and Lydia of Thyatira.
Nevertheless, whether she’s a household name or a woman whose name is not even mentioned, all of these first-century women have a story worth reading with fresh eyes.
Each chapter begins with a beautiful, imaginative retelling of the Bible story from the featured woman’s point of view, including her background, her eventual life-changing encounter with Our Lord and her response. The author then provides a reflection peppered with personal anecdotes, incisive self-examination, and helpful advice and encouragement.
The result is a cross between immersive Ignatian prayer and lectio divina, the practice of reading short passages of Scripture, followed by extended reflection.
The author, Derya Little, is a convert to Catholicism. She grew up in Turkey, in a Muslim household, but as a teenager she renounced her Islamic upbringing and became a professed atheist. She later became a Christian, and while in graduate school, she joined the Catholic Church. (Her conversion story is the subject of her 2017 book, From Islam to Christ: One Woman’s Path Through the Riddles of God, Ignatius Press).
This interesting background provides a new perspective on these old Bible stories.
For example, the story of Martha and Mary, which the Church celebrates July 29, takes on new meaning when the author explains that in Middle Eastern cultures, hospitality is paramount.
Women especially are trained to put the needs of visitors first, and “it would be unthinkable for a Middle-eastern woman to sit at the feet of a guest, especially an esteemed guest like Jesus, instead of running around like a headless chicken to make sure that he was attended to properly.” This cultural detail makes Jesus’ gentle subversion of an ancient tradition that much more potent.
The chapter on Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, provided a nice reminder that one of the blessings of marriage is being a “co-missionary” with one’s spouse. Priscilla and Aquila fled Rome when the Emperor Claudius commanded all Jews to leave the city. In Corinth, they met St. Paul — through their mutual trade of tent-making — and eventually started a church in their home. Following the example of this intrepid couple from the earliest days of the Church, the author and her husband discovered that their “trade” is “a simple life of prayer, through which we … become missionaries together. Married life became our Corinth, the unexplored territory.”
Emblazoned on the back cover is: “At His Feet is written for the woman who desires to rest in the peace of the Lord.” But Christian men can also profit from a study of New Testament women — it can be a Bible study for everyone.
“After all,” says the author, “regardless of how much time has passed between our lives and theirs, human nature, concupiscence, and sin remain afflictions in our lives. The remedy and the source of our salvation also remain the same.”
The book is short, inexpensive and provides study and discussion material for a fruitful 12-week Bible study at a parish, college dorm or other faith-sharing group.
Read Derya’s conversion story here.