St. Mary of Egypt

St. Mary of Egypt

Our venerable mother St. Mary of Egypt was a desert ascetic who repented of a life of sinfulness. Born in 344 AD, she began her life as a young woman who followed the passions of the body, running away from her parents at age twelve for Alexandria. There she lived as a harlot for seventeen years.

One day, however, she met a group of young men heading toward the sea to sail to Jerusalem for the veneration of the Holy Cross. Mary went along for the ride, seducing the men as they traveled. But when the group reached Jerusalem and went towards the church, Mary was prohibited from entering by an unseen force. After three such attempts, she remained outside where she looked up and saw an icon of St Mary, the Theotokos. She began to weep and prayed that the Theotokos might allow her to see the True Cross; afterwards, she promised, she would renounce her worldly desires and go wherever the Theotokos may lead her.

After this heart-felt conversion at the doors of the church, she fled into the desert to live as an ascetic. Following 47 years in solitude, she met the priest St. Zosima in the desert. She recounted her story and asked Zosima to meet her again the following year at sunset on Holy Thursday by the banks of the Jordan. Zosima did exactly this. Mary appeared on the opposite side of the Jordan; crossing herself, she miraculously walked across the water and met Zosima. When he attempted to bow, she rebuked him, saying that as a priest he was far superior, and furthermore, he was holding the Holy Mysteries. Mary then received communion and walked back across the Jordan after giving Zosima instructions about his monastery and that he should return to where they first met exactly a year later. When he did so, he found Mary’s body with a message written on the sand asking him for burial and revealing that she had died immediately after receiving the Holy Mysteries the year before and had been miraculously transported to the spot where she now lay. So Zosima, amazed, began to dig, but soon tired; then a lion approached and began to help him, that is, after Zosima had recovered from his fear of the creature. Thus St. Mary of Egypt was buried. Zosima returned to the monastery telling all he had seen. She departed to the heavenly glories in 421 AD, may her holy blessings be with us all. Amen.

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