SAINT MARY OF EGYPT, THE GREAT ASCETIC (Part IV)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

SAINT MARY OF EGYPT, THE GREAT ASCETIC (Part IV)

Abba (Father) Zosimas kept his word and kept silent about his encounter. In his soul, he prayed to God to give him another chance to see the dear countenance OF THE ASCETIC. How anxious he was for the year to pass by! Then, as she prophesied, when the Great Fast arrived again, Zosimas could not depart with the other brothers. Only he was held back by illness; for he lay ill with a fever. And then he remembered what the Saint had said to him, "And even if thou shouldest wish to depart, thou shalt not be able to do so." The days passed in the monastery and, at last, he recovered from his illness.

His fellow ascetics then returned from their wilderness retreats for Holy Week. On Great Thursday, the day of the Mystical (Last) Supper, he did as he had been ordered by the Venerable woman. After he placed some of the Most Immaculate Body and Blood into a small chalice, he then collected some figs, dates, and lentils soaked in water. Next, he placed the edibles into a small basket and then departed for the desert. He reached the banks of the river Jordan, where he sat down and waited for the blessed woman. After tarrying a long while, he began to doubt her arrival. He begged God to allow him to behold her. He then wondered within himself how she would ever cross the river Jordan to him since there was no boat. As he was pondering these things, night fell.

Now there was a full moon that illumined all. He soon thereafter caught sight of the holy woman, as she stood on the other side of the river. Zosimas got up, rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God. Again, nevertheless, the thought came to him that she would not be able to traverse the river. Then he saw that she made the Sign of the Cross over the waters of the Jordan. He, consequently, clearly witnessed that she at once stepped upon the waters and began moving across the surface toward him. When he wanted to prostrate himself, she cried to him, while still walking on the water, "What art thou doing, Abba Zosimas? Thou art a priest and carrying the Divine Mysteries (Sacraments)!" He obeyed her. On reaching the shore, she said to the elder, "Bless me, father, bless me!" He answered trembling, for a state of confusion had overcome him at the sight of the miracle. He understood clearly then how far he was from perfection. She requested that he recite aloud the Symbol of Faith (Creed) and the Lord’s Prayer. With the latter, she uttered the closing verses. Then, according to the custom of that time, she gave him the kiss of peace on his lips. Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries, she raised her hands to the heavens and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming: "Now lettest Thy slave depart in peace, O Master, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."

Then she requested of Elder Zosimas another favor. She asked hi to come again to the same place where she first met him, that is, at the dry streambed. He, however, wished to stay with her then and follow her, saying, "From this day on I should like to follow thee, O slave of the True God, and always behold thy holy countenance. May God vouchsafed that I will be enabled to follow thee! But now fulfill the one and only wish of an old man, by taking a little of the food which I have brought for thee. He showed her the basket. She, then, just touched the lentils with the tips of her fingers and, taking three grains, said that "the grace of the Spirit is sufficient to preserve undefiled the essence of my soul." Then she said, "Pray for me, a miserable wretch, and do thou remember me, for God’s sake." Touching the Saint’s feet and asking for her prayers for the Church, the empire, and himself, he let her depart with tears. He then released her and took his leave, sighing and filled with sorrow; for he dared not hold for long one who could not be held. Meanwhile, she again made the Sign of the Cross over the river Jordan and stepped onto the waters, and crossed over as before. But then he began blaming himself for not having asked the Saint her name. He consoled himself somewhat by telling himself he would do so next year.

When another year had passed, on Cheesefare Sunday, he departed the monastery and went into the desert. He reached the same spot but could see no sign of anyone. He walked about, imploring the Lord to reveal His angel in the flesh. He then observed that, on the opposite bank of the river, her face was turned toward the east and the rising of the sun. She appeared to have reposed. Her hands were crossed, according to custom. Zosimas, running up, shed tears over the Saint’s feet and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else. For a long time, he wept. He then recited the appointed psalms. He then wondered whether or not he should bury her. He discerned words traced on the ground by her head: "Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. In this place, where thou hast found me, return to dust what is dust, and do thou pray to the Lord for me, who departed in the Egyptian month of Pharmouthi, 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." Reading this, the elder was heartened to have learned the Saint’s name. He then looked at the letters and had the thought, "But she told me that she did not know letters, so who wrote these words?" He then perceived that, as soon as she had partaken of the Divine Mysteries on the shore of the river Jordan, she had been at once transported to the place where she reposed. He then considered that, the distance which he had taken twenty days to cover, Mary had evidently traversed the same expanse within that hour. She then, at once, had surrendered her soul to God, leaving her holy relics INCORRUPT AND UNTOUCHED. Zosimas praised God and wept profusely. He espied nearby a small piece of wood left by some traveler in the desert. Taking it up into his hands, in order to dig a grave, he began to scrape at the ground in a strenuous manner. But the earth, hardened and desiccated, would not yield to the efforts of the elder. He grew tired and covered with sweat. he sighed from the depths of his soul and, lifting up his eyes, he saw a great 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 called to mind Mary’s words that she had never seen wild beasts in the desert. But guarding himself with the Sign of the Cross, the thought came to him that the power of the one lying there would protect him, expressing affection by every movement. Zosimas said to the lion, "Hearken, O wild beast, since the power of God has brought thee forth in order to help me: do thou commence digging. The great one ordered that her body was to be buried. But I am old and have not the strength to dig the grave, for I have no spade and it would take too long to go and fetch one. So canst thou carry out the work with thy claws? Then we can commit to the earth the relics of the Saint," While he was still speaking, the lion, with its front paws, began to dig a hole deep enough to bury the body.

Father Zosimas returned t the monastery glorifying and blessing our Lord. On reaching the monastery, he divulged everything to the brethren. All the fathers marveled on hearing of God’s miracles. With fear and love did they keep the memory of the Saint. Abbot (Egoumenos) John, as Saint Mary had previously disclosed to Abba Zosimas, found a number of things wrong in the monastery. He remedied them with God’s help when he found certain people in the monastery who were in need of correction. Thus, Venerable Mary’s words did not prove futile and fruitless. As for Saint Zosimas, he died in the same monastery. He was almost 100 years old when he passed on to eternal life.

The memory of this righteous woman is celebrated on the first of every April, but the same is also appointed for today (Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast), since the end of the sacred Forty-Day Fast now draws near, IN ORDER TO ROUSE THE SLOTHFUL AND THE SINNERS TO REPENTANCE, HAVING HER EXAMPLE. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

THROUGH HER PRAYERS, O GOD, HAVE MERCY ONS US AND
SAVE US. AMEN.

________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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