St. Mary of Egypt
April 14th (April 1 st Old Calendar).
The recorder of the life of this wonderful saint was St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem. A hieromonk, the elder Zossima, had gone off at one time during the Great Fast a twenty-days' walk into the wilderness across the Jordan. He suddenly caught sight of a human with a withered and naked body and with hair as white as snow, who fled in its nakedness from Zossima's sight. The elder ran a long way until this figure stopped at a stream and called: 'Father Zossima, forgive me for the Lord's sake. I cannot turn round to you, for I am a naked woman.' Then Zossima threw her his outer cloak, and she wrapped herself in it and turned round to him. The elder was amazed at hearing his name from the lips of this unknown woman. After considerable pressure on his part, she told him her life-story. She had been born in Egypt, and had lived as a prostitute in Alexandria from the age of twelve, spending seventeen years in this way of life. Urged by the lustful fire of the flesh, she one day got into a ship that was sailing for Jerusalem.
Arriving at the Holy City, she prepared to go into one of the churches to venerate the Precious Cross, but some unseen power prevented her from entering. In great fear, she turned to an icon of the Mother of God that was in the entrance, and begged her to let her go in and venerate the Cross, confessing her sin and impurity and promising that she would then go wherever the Most Pure led her. She was then allowed to enter the church. After venerating the Cross, she went out again to the entrance and, standing in front of the icon, thanked the Mother of God. Then she heard a voice: 'If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace.' She immediately bought three loaves of bread and set off for the Jordan, arriving there the same evening. She received Communion the following morning in the monastery of St. John, and then crossed the river.
She spent forty-eight whole years in the wilderness in the greatest torments, in terror, in struggles with passionate thoughts which were like gigantic beasts. She fed only on plants. After that, when she was standing in prayer, Zossima saw her lifted up in the air. She begged him to bring her Communion the next year on the bank of the Jordan, and she would come to receive it. The following year, Zossima came with the Holy Gifts to the bank of the Jordan in the evening, and stood in amazement as he saw her cross the river. He saw her coming in the moonlight and, arriving on the further bank, make the sign of the Cross over the river. She then walked across it as though it were dry land. When she had received Communion, she begged him to come again the following year to the same stream by which they had first met. Zossima went, and found her dead body there on that spot. Above her head in the sand was written: 'Abba Zossima, bury in this place the body of the humble Mary. Give dust to dust. I passed away on April 1st, on the very night of Christ's Passion, after communion of the divine Mysteries.' Zossirna learned her name for the first time, and also the awe-inspiring marvel that she had arrived at that stream the previous year on the night of the same day on which she had received Communion - a place that he had taken twenty days to reach.
Thus Zossima buried the body of the wonderful saint, Mary of Egypt. When he returned to the monastery, he recounted the whole story of her life and the wonders to which he had been an eyewitness. Thus the Lord glorifies repentant sinners. St. Mary is also commemorated in the Fifth Week of the Great Fast. The Church holds her up before the faithful in these days of the Fast as a model of repentance. She entered into rest around 530 A.D.
Troparion Tone 5
Enlightened by the grace of the Cross,/ thou wast seen to be a bright light of repentance,/ dispelling the darkness of passions, O all holy one./ Thou didst appear as an angel in the flesh/ to holy Zossimas in the wilderness./ Intercede with Christ for us, O Mary our righteous Mother.
Kontakion Tone 3
Thou who wast once obsessed with fornication/ by repentance art now the Bride of Christ./ Thou didst lovingly imitate the life of the Angels/ and annihilate demonic hosts by the Cross;/ thou art now a Bride in the Kingdom of heaven, O most chaste Mary.
Another Kontakion Tone 4
Having escaped the fog of sin,/ and having illumined thy heart with the light of penitence,/ O glorious one,/ thou didst come to Christ and didst offer to Him/ His immaculate and holy Mother as a merciful intercessor./ Hence thou hast found remission for transgressions,/ and with the Angels thou ever rejoicest.
Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church
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