St. Mary of Egypt
How can St. Mary intercede for us?
St. Mary of Egypt is known for her conversion and dedication of her life to God, so many people see her as a model of repentance. As we find ourselves nearing the end of Great Lent and approaching Pascha, we need a reminder to re-focus and be penitent.
We therefore, commemorate St. Mary on the Fifth Sunday in Great Lent, and are reminded of her repentance as we read about her life. St. Mary is also known for helping us in our struggles with chastity and sexual temptation.
The Life of St. Mary of Egypt
Our venerable mother Mary of Egypt was a desert ascetic from the sixth century, who after living a life of prostitution, repented and dedicated her life to the Lord. Running away at the age of twelve from her home in Alexandria, Mary followed the passions of the body and lived as a harlot for seventeen years. She refused money from the men she engaged but rather survived by begging.
Mary’s purpose for her earthly life suddenly changed one day. She met a group of young men traveling to Jerusalem in order to venerate the Holy Cross and tried to seduce them on their journey. Once the group reached the church and went towards it, Mary was prohibited from entering by an unseen force. After three attempts, she remained outside the church, where she looked up and saw the icon of the Theotokos. She immediately began to weep and prayed to the Theotokos to allow her to see the Holy Cross. She promised that she would renounce her worldly desires and go wherever the Theotokos may lead her towards. After this conversion, she fled into the desert to live as an ascetic. For seventeen years, Mary was tormented by the wild beasts of “mad desires and passions,” while surviving on minimal food, found in the form of scarce herbs from the land. The Theotokos helped her overcome her temptations after all those years and led her to live a righteous life.
Meanwhile, there was certain elder named Zosimas living in one of the monasteries of Palestine. He had been brought up in the monastic ways and customs, and began to be tormented with the thought that he was perfect in everything and needed no further instruction from anyone. He said to
himself mentally, “Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished? Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?” An angel of God appeared and instructed him to go to the monastery by the river Jordan. During his stay at the monastery, the monks were sent out in the desert across the Jordan to spend some time before the Divine Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
It was here that Zosimas found Mary. She called out to him by his name and asked for his cloak so that she may cover her body and ask him for a blessing. Zosimas was terrified, and realized that only a person with spiritual insight could have called him by name. After recounting her story to him, Mary asked Zosimas to meet her again the following year at sunset on Holy Thursday by the banks of the Jordan. A year later, Zosimas did exactly this, and before he could begin to doubt his experience, Mary
appear on the opposite side of the Jordan and miraculously walked across the water towards him. Mary received communion from him, and instructed him to 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 Communion the year before. Amazed, Zosima began to dig and was later joined by a lion who helped him finish digging. After burying St. Mary of Egypt, he returned to the monastery, told everyone of what he had witnessed, and improved the faults of the monks there.
Feast Day: April 1 st and the Fifth Sunday in Great Lent
Learn her Troparion
“The image of God was truly preserved in you, O mother, for you took up the cross and followed Christ. By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes; but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the Angels.”
Pray to her
Saint Mary of Egypt, we beseech you to accept our prayer, in the Name of God, for we turn to you in veneration of your holiness and in supplication of your intercession. We also wish to dedicate our lives to the Virgin Mother and to go wherever she directs us. In this way, we shall be blessed with true happiness and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. For this we pray, and for this we thank you and all the saints in Heaven. Amen.
Adapted from an akathist produced by Natalia J. Garland in 2014. Read full akathist here.
St. Maria of Paris