My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIS IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
SAINT MARY OF EGYPT, THE TRUE
PARADIGM OF REPENTANCE (Part III)
Mary then found herself in the desert WHERE SHE WOULD SPEND THE NEXT 47 YEARS. Abba (Father) Zosimas asked how she managed to find food. She answered, "I had two and a half loaves of bread when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried up and became hard as a rock. Eating then admitted, "Believe me, father, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts–mad desires and passions. The demons also were tempting me. When I was about to partake of food, I began to miss the meat and fish which abound in Egypt. I also used to regret not having wine which I loved so much. For I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water. My terrible thirst was such that my heart was on fire. The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and disturbed me greatly, egging me on to sing satanic songs that I had once learned. But when such desires entered me, I struck myself on the breast and reminded myself of the vow that I had made before going into the desert. In my thoughts, I returned to the icon of the Mother of God who had received me; and I dared to cry out to her, my surety, 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, the wretched one, was straightway vouchsafed a light which seemed to shine on me from everywhere and to dispel my wicked thoughts. Hence, after the violent storm, abiding calm descended."
"And how can I tell thee about the thoughts that urged me on to fornication? Indeed, how can I express them to thee, Abba Zosimas? A fire was kindled in my miserable heart, which seemed to consume me completely and to awake in me a thirst for embraces. As soon as this craving came to me, I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears, as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime. Sometimes I prostrated myself for a day and a night. I would not rise from the ground until a calm and sweet light descended, which enlightened me and chased away the thoughts that possessed me. But always I turned my eyes of my mind to my protectress, asking her to extend help to one that was sinking fast in the waves of the desert. I always had her as my helper and the receiver of my repentance. And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers. And since then, even till now, the Mother of God helps me in everything and leads me as it were by the hand."
Zosimas asked again how she sustained herself, saying, "Can it be that thou didst not require food and clothing?" She answered: "After finishing the loaves of bread I had, those of which I spoke, thereafter, for 17 years, I fed on herbs and all that can be found in the desert. The clothes that I had when I crossed the river Jordan became torn and worn out long ago. I suffered greatly from the extreme temperature changes in the desert: from bitter cold to broiling heat. At times I was scorched by the sun, and other times I was shivering from the frost. I frequently fell to the ground, lying prone without motion and with little breath. 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 lowly body."
Speaking thus and much more, even citing Scripture, from the books of Moses, Job, and the Psalms, Zosimas asked her, "And so, my lady, thou has read the psalms and other books?" She smiled at these words and said to the elder, "Believe me, I have not seen a human face ever since I crossed the Jordan, except thine own countenance this day. I moreover have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert. I NEVER LEARNED FROM BOOKS, my father. I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them. But the Logos/Word of God is living and effective. God’s word energizes, and it admonishes and TEACHES ONE KNOWLEDGE. And so, this is the end of my tale. But, as I asked thee in the beginning, so even now I implore thee for the sake of the Incarnate Logos/Word of God: do thou pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner." Thus concluding her history, she bowed down before him. And with tears, the elder exclaimed, "Blessed be God Who does great things–untraceable, glorious, and also marvellous–of which there is no number! Blessed is God Who has shown me how He rewards those who fear Him! For, truly, ‘Thou didst not abandon those seeking Thee, O Lord" [Psalm 9:10].
Mary then implored Zosimas not to divulge her presence in the wilderness, that is, until God should take her from among men. She then told him to depart in peace, concluding, "Again, next year, during the Great Forty-Day Fast, do not cross the Jordan, as is your custom in the monastery." Zosimas was amazed to hear that she knew the rules of the monastery and could only remark, "Glory to God Who bestows gifts on those who love Him!" She continued, "Remain, Abba, in the monastery. And even if thou shouldest wish to depart, thou shalt 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, one worthy to hold such Mysteries, and bring it for me. And wait for me on the banks of the river Jordan, that section adjoining the inhabited parts of the land, so that I can come and partake of the Life-Giving Mysteries (Sacraments). For, since the time I communicated in the Church of the Forerunner, before crossing the Jordan even to this day, I have not approached the Holy Mysteries. AND I THIRST FOR THEM WITH IRREPRESSIBLE LOVE AND LONGING. Bring me the Life-Giving Mysteries, ask–nay, implore–thee to grant me my wish. Bring me the Life-Giving Mysteries at the very hour when our Lord had His Disciples partake of His Mystical Supper. Furthermore, with regard to Abba John the hegoumenos (Abbot) of the monastery where thou livest, speak to him and say, ‘Be taking heed to thyself and to thy brethren for there is much in the monastery that is not well and that needs correction.’ Only do not say this now, but when God guides thee. Pray for me!" When these words, she vanished into the depths of the desert. Zosimas, falling down on his knees and bowing down to the ground on which she had stood, sent up glory and thanks to God. And, after wandering through the desert, he returned to the monastery on the day that all the brethren returned. (Source: The Great Synaxarises of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostmos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George