My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. (Part III)
The life and spiritual struggles of Saint Mary of Egypt. Saint Mary of
Egypt is one of the Most Excellent Example of REPENTANCE in our
Holy Orthodox Church.
Father Zosimas said:
"Do not hide from me anything; speak to me without concealing anything."
And she said to him: "Believe me, Abba (Father), 17 years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts — mad desires and passions. When I was about to partake of food, I used to begin to regret the meat and fish of which I had so much in Egypt. I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much…But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert. In my thoughts I returned to the icon of the Mother of God which has received me and to her I cried in prayer. I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing. And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see Light at last which seemed to shine on me from everywhere. And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended… I struggled with many afflictions and with terrible temptations. But from that time till now the power of God in numerous ways has guarded my sinful soul and my humble body. When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me I HAVE IMPERISHABLE FOOD FOR HOPE OF SALVATION. I AM FED AND CLOTHED BY THE ALL-POWERFUL LOGOS/WORD OF GOD, THE LORD OF ALL. FOR IT IS NOT BY BREAD ALONE THAT MAN LIVES. And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge, hiding in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24;). Saint Paul writes, "…of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:38).
Hearing that she cited words from the Holy Scripture, from Moses and Job, Father Zosimas asked her:
‘And so you have read the psalms and other books?’
She smiled at this statement and said to the elder:
"Believe me I have not seen a human face ever since I crossed the river Jordan, except your today. I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert. I never learned from books…But the Word of God WHICH IS ALIVE AND ACTIVE, BY ITSELF, TEACHES A MAN KNOWLEDGE. And so this IS THE END OF MY TALE. But, as I asked you in the beginning, so even now I implore you for the sake of the Incarnate Logos/Word of God, to pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner."
"…I beg you, holy father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our God and Savior, TELL NO ONE WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD UNTIL GOD DELIVERS ME OF THIS EARTH. And now depart in peace and AGAIN NEXT YEAR YOU SHALL SEE ME, AND I WILL SEE YOU IF GOD WILL PRESERVE US IN HIS GREAT MERCY. But for God’s sake do as I ask you: NEXT YEAR DURING LENT DO NOT CROSS THE JORDAN, AS IS YOUR CUSTOM IN THE MONASTERY. Father Zosimas was amazed to hear that she knew the rules of the monastery and could only say: "Glory to God Who bestows great gifts on those who love Him."
"Remain, Father, in the monastery. And even if you wish to depart, you will not be able to do so. And at sunset of the holy day of the Mystical Supper, put some of the Life-Giving Body and Blood of Christ into a holy vessel worthy to hold such Mysteries for me, and bring it. And wait for me on the banks of the Jordan river adjoining the inhabited parts of the land, so that I can come and PARTAKE OF THE LIFE-GIVING GIFTS… I THIRST FOR THEM WITH IRREPRESSIBLE LOVE AND LONGING. And therefore I ask and implore you to grant me my wish, bring me the Life-Giving Mysteries at the very hour when Our Lord made His Disciples partake of His Divine Supper. Tell John the Egoumenos (Abbot) of the monastery where you live: Look in yourself and to your brothers, for there is much that needs correction. Only do not say this now, but when God guides you. PRAY FOR ME!"
With these words, she vanished in the depths of the desert. And, after wandering through the desert, he returned to the monastery on the day all of the brothers returned, Palm Sunday.
For the whole year, he kept silent, not daring to tell anyone of what he had seen. And when at length the first Sunday of the Great Fast came, all went out into the desert with the customary prayers. Only Father Zosimas was held back by illness — he lay in a fever. And then he remembered what the Saint had said to him: "And even if you wish to depart, you will not be able to do so."
Many days passed and at last recovering from his illness he remained in the monastery. And when again the monks returned and the day of the Mystical Supper dawned, he did as he had been ordered. And placing some of the Most-Pure Body and Blood into a small chalice and putting some figs and dates and lentils soaked in water into a small basket, he departed for the desert and reached the banks of the River Jordan and sat down to wait for the Saint. He waited for a long while and then began to doubt. Then raising his eyes in heaven, he began to pray….As he was pondering he saw the holy woman appear and stand on the other side of the river. Father Zosimas got up rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God. And again the thought came to him that she could not cross the Jordan. Then he saw THAT SHE MADE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS OVER THE WATERS OF THE JORDAN AND THEN STEPPED ON TO THE WATERS AND BEGAN WALKING ACROSS THE SURFACE TOWARD HIM. And when he wanted to prostrate himself, she cried out to him while still walking on the water:
"What are you doing, Father, YOU ARE A PRIEST AND CARRYING THE DIVINE GIFTS!"
He obeyed her and on reaching the shore she said to him: "Bless, Father, bless me!"
The woman asked him to say the Creed and Our Father. He began, she finished the prayer and according to the custom of that time gave him the kiss of peace on the lips. Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), she raised her hands to heaven and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming:
"NOW LETTEST THOU THY SERVANT DEPART IN PEACE, O LORD, ACCORDING TO THY WORD; FOR MY EYES HAVE SEEN THY SALVATION."
Then she said to the elder:
"Forgive me, Father, for asking you, but fulfill another wish of mine. Go now to the monastery and let God’s grace guard you. And NEXT YEAR COME AGAIN TO THE SAME PLACE WHERE I FIRST MET YOU. COME FOR GOD’S SAKE FOR YOU SHALL SEE ME, FOR SUCH IS THE WILL OF GOD. "Pray, for God’s sake pray for me and remember a miserable wretch."
She again made the sign of the Crossover the river Jordan, and stepped on to the waters and crossed over as before. The elder Zosimas returned to the monastery filled with joy and fear, accusing himself of not having asked the Saint her name. But he decided to do so next year.
When another year passed, he again went into the desert. He reached the same spot but could see no sign of anyone. So prayed: "Show me, O Lord, Thy pure treasure, which Thoui had concealed in the desert. Show me, I pray Thee, Thy angel in the flesh, of which the world is not worthy."
Then on the opposite bank of the river, her face turned toward the rising sun, he saw the Saint lying dead. Her hands were crossed according to custom and her face ws turned to the East. Running up he shed tears over the Saint’s feet and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else. He thought to himself: "Must I bury the body of a Saint? Or will this be contrary to her wishes?" And then he saw words on the ground by her head:
"Abba (Father) Zosimas, bury on this spot the budy of humble Mary. Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me, who departed in the month of Fermouth of Egypt, called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord’s Passion, after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries."
Then Father Zosimas thought: "It is time to do as she wished. But how am I to dig a grave with nothing in my hands?" And then he saw a small piece of wood left by some traveler in the desert. Picking it up began to dig the ground. But the earth was hard and dry an did not yield to the efforts of the elder. He grew tired and covered with sweat. He sighed and lifting up his eyes he saw a big lion standing close to the Saint’s body and licking her feet. At the sight of the lion he trembled with fear, especially when he recalled Mary’s words that she had not even seen wild beasts in the desert.
Father Zosimas said to the lion: "The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried. But I am old man and have not the strength to dig the grave so can you carry out the work with your claws? Then we can commit to the earth the mortal temple of the Saint." While he was sill speaking the lion with his front paws began to dig a hole deep enough to burry the body. The elder covered the body with earth in the presence of the lion. Then they both departed. Father Zosimas reaching the monastery he told all the brothers about everything, and all marvelled on hearing of God’s miracles. And with fear and love they kept the memory of the Saint.
The Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Monastery Father John, as Saint Mary had previously told Father Zosimas, found a number of things wrong in the monastery and got rid of them with God’s help. And Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery, almost attaning the age of 100 and passed to eternal life. The monks kept this story and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.
But I, adds Saint Sophronius, as soon as I heard it, wrote it down.. May God Who works amazing miracles and generously bestows gifts on those who turn to Him with faith, reward those who seek Light for themselves, who hear, read, and are zealous, bless them as He did Mary. And let us also give glory to God, the Eternal King, that he may grant us too His mercy to the day of Judgment for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George