Saint Mary of Egypt
St. Mary of Egypt
Troparion, Tone 8
In thee, O Mother, was exactly preserved what was according to the divine image. for thou didst take the cross and follow Christ, and by thy life, didst teach us to ignore the flesh, since it is transitory, but to care for the soul as an immortal thing. Therefore, thy spirit, St. Mary, rejoices with the Angels.
|St. Mary is pictured above with Priest Zosimas. Zosimas was a certain elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of the holy life and speech, who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs.
St. Mary of Egypt is celebrated April 1st and the 5th Sunday of Great Lent
Then she asked a favor, for she understood that the Lord had sent Zosimas for a purpose. She asked him to return to his monastery and tell no one about her, but in a year's time return to her on Holy Thursday, the night of the Last Supper, and bring her the Eucharist, of which she had not partaken of since her conversion many years ago. Reluctantly, Zosimas left her presence in the desert for the monastery. At last he returned at the appointed time, yearning for her presence. She came to him, walking on water to cross the Jordan while he again gave way to awe. As he knelt to reverence her she reproved him saying, "What are you doing, Father Zosimas, you who are a priest of God and carrying the holy mysteries?" And at once he obeyed her, resuming to his priestly duties with fumbling fervor. Mary received the life-giving gifts of the sacrament, groaning and weeping with her hands held up to heaven, and she cried out, "Lord now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word: for my eyes have seen your salvation."Again she sent him away, to return again the following year at the same time. But when the time came and Zosimas hastened on his journey, he found his beloved guide dead, with a letter to him written in the sand beside her body. From this he learned that she had died within an hour of receiving the sacrament the previous year - the fulfillment of her hope. He learned, also, for the first time her name: she signed herself "Mary the sinner." Grieving and marveling, Zosimas buried the holy woman helped by a lion who came to venerate the body of the saint. Then, he went back to the world to give the gift of her story to others, just as she had given it to him.
"The story of the life of Saint Mary of Egypt is extremely dear to my heart. This story leaves me with a great hope and understanding that some day, by the grace of God, I too can be saved, although I am unworthy. Her story is nothing short of God’s miraculous work. The sinner knows the heart of the saintly monk, in which a humble woman gives blessing to the worthy priest because he has seen that her own gifts of the Spirit exceed the ranks of ecclesiastical office. Sanctity is found outside the monastery more than within. The desert, the place of death, becomes the place of life. The peace of God's kingdom is restored as the lion and the man become partners in piety. It is a breathtaking story, and it moves me accordingly."
The story of Mary of Egypt is remembered and cherished throughout Christendom, east and west. In the Orthodox church, however, we remember her twice each year. The first time, her feast day, is our gift to her: we remember what she did, who she was, and who she became. The second time, on the fifth Sunday of Lent, is her gift to us: the gift of her story at the moment when we ourselves must enter the inner desert of our hearts. For what does Lent mean for us? It is that time when we must face ourselves, and face ourselves in the presence of God. Who are we? What do we live for? We fast, pray, repent, and confess. It is hard and we get lost in the wilderness. And we cannot escape the truth of who we are. At this point in Lent, we prepare for Holy Week. And before we can rejoice, we must complete our full sojourn in the desert.