5th Sunday of Holy and Great Lent: Saint Mary of Egypt, Model of Penitents (Part III)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


5th Sunday of Holy and Great Lent: Saint Mary of Egypt,
Model of Penitents (Part III).

And, resuming her story, she went on to say:

“That youth, on hearing my shameless words, laughed and went off. While I, throwing away my spinning wheel, ran off towards the seas in the direction which everyone seemed to be tasking. Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying, ‘Take me with you to the place you are going to; you will not find me superfluous.’ Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat. Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once.

“How shall I relate to you what happened after this? Whose tongue can tell, whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage! There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher. I am amazed, Abba (father), how the sea stood our licentiousness and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive when I had entangled in my net so many souls. But I think God was seeking my repentance. For He does not desire the death of a sinner but magnanimously awaits his return to Him. At last, we arrived in Jerusalem. I spent the days before the festival in the town, living the same kind of life, perhaps even worse. I was not content with the youth I have seduced at sea and who had helped me to get to Jerusalem; many others — citizens of the town and foreigners — I also seduced.

“The holy day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross dawned while I was still flying about — hunting for youth. At daybreak, I saw that everyone was hurrying to the church, so I ran with the rest. When the hour for the holy Elevation approached, I was trying to make my way in with the crowd which was struggling to get through the church doors. I had at last squeezed through with great difficulty almost to the entrance of the temple, from which the Life-Giving Tree of the Cross was being shown to the people. But when I trod on the doorstep which everyone passed, I was stopped by some force that prevented my entering. Meanwhile, I was brushed aside by the crowd and found myself standing alone on the porch. Thinking that this had happened because of my woman’s weakness, I again began to work my way into the crowd, trying to elbow myself forward. Again my fee trod on the doorstep over which others were entering the church, without encountering any obstacle. I alone seemed unaccepted by the church. It was as if there was a detachment of soldiers standing there to oppose my entrance. Once again, I was excluded by the same mighty force and again I stood on the porch.

“Having repeated my attempt three or four times, at last I felt exhausted and had no more strength to push and to be pushed, so I went aside and stood in a corner of the porch. And only then with great difficulty, it began to dawn on me, and I began to understand the reason why I was prevented from being admitted to see the Life-Giving Cross. The word of salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that it was my unclean life that barred the entrance to me. I began to weep and lament and beat my breast, and to sigh from the depths of my heart. And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God. And turning to her my bodily and spiritual eyes I said: “O Lady, Mother of God, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Logos/Word, I know, O how well I know, that it is no honor or praise to thee when one so impure and depraved as I look up to thy icon. O Ever-Virgin, who did keep thy body and soul in purity. Rightly, do I inspire hatred and disgust before they virginal purity. But I have heard that God Who was born of thee became man on purpose to call sinners to repentance. Then help me, for I have no other help. Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me. Allow me to see the Venerable Tree on which He Who was born of thee suffered in the flesh and on which He shed His Holy Blood for the redemption of sinners and for me, unworthy as I am. Be my faithful witness before thy Son that I will never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication, but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross I will renounce the world and its temptations and will go wherever thou will lead me.”

“Thus I spoke and as If acquiring some hope in firm faith, and feeling some confidence in the mercy of the Mother of God, I left the place where I stood praying. And I went again and mingled with the crowd that was pushing its way into the church. And now no one seemed to thwart me, no one hindered my entering the church. I was possessed with trembling and was almost in delirium. Having got as far as the doors which I could not reach before — as if the same force which had hindered me cleared the way for me — I now entered without difficulty and found myself within the holy place. And so it was I saw the Life-Giving Cross. I saw too the Mysteries of God and how the Lord accepts repentance. Throwing myself on the ground, I worshipped that holy earth and kissed it with trembling. Then I came out of the church and went to her who had promised to be my security, to the place where I had sealed my vow. And bending my knee before the Virgin Mother of God, I addressed to her such words as these:

“O loving Lady, thou has show me thy great love for all people. Glory to God Who receives the repentance of sinners through thee. What more can I recollect or say, I who am so sinful? It is time for me, O Lady, to fulfill my vow, according to thy witness. Now lead me by the hand along the path of repentance!’ And at these words I heard a voice from on high: “IF YOU CROSS THE JORDAN YOU WILL FIND GLORIOUS REST.’ Hearing this voice and having faith that it was for me, I cried to the Mother of God: ” O Lady, Lady, do not forskae me!” With these words I left the porch of the church and set off on my journey. As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gve me three coins, saying: ‘Sister, take these.’ And, taking the money, I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey, as a blessed gift. I asked the person who sold me the bread: ‘Which is the way to the Jordan?’ I was directed to the city gate which led that way. Running on I passed the gates and still weeping went on my journey. Those I met I asked the way, and after walking for the rest of that dasy (I think it was nine o’cloack when I saw the Cross) I at length reached at sunset the church of Saint John the Baptist which stood on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the temple, I went down to the Jordan and rinsed my face and hand in its holy waters. I parrtook of the Holy and Life-Giving Mysteries (Sacraments) in the church of the Forerunner and ate half of one of my loaves. Then, after drinking some water from the river Jordan, I lay down and passed hte night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crosssed to the opposite bank. I again prayed to Our Lady to lead me where she wished. Then I found myself in this desert and since then up to this very day I am estranged from all, keeping away from people and running away form everyone. And I live here clinging to my God Who saves all who turn to Him from fainthheartedness and storms.”

Father Zosimas asked her: ‘How many years have gone by since you began to live in this deset?’ She replied: ‘Forty-seven (47) years have already gone by, I think, since I left the holy city.’ Father Zosimas asked: ‘But what food do you find?’ The woman said: ‘I had two and a half loaves when I crossed the River Jordan. Soon they dried up and become hard as rock. Eating a little I gradually finished them after a few years.’ Father Zosimas asked. ‘Can it be that without getting ill you have lived so many years thus, without suffering in any way from such a complete change?’ The woman answered: ‘You remind me Father Zosimas, of what I dare not speak of. For when I recall all the dangers which I overcame, and all the violent thoughts which confused me, I am again afraid that they will take possession of me.’

Father Zosimas said: ‘Do not hide from me anything; speak to me without concealing anything.’

And she said to him: “Believe me, Abba (father), seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts — mad desires and passions. But when such deisres 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 had received me ant to he I cried in prayer. I implored her to chase away the thoughts and after weeping for long time I used to see lgiht at last which seemed to shine on me from everywhere. And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended.

“And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication, how can I express them to you, Abba? As soon as this craving came to me, I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears. And I didnot rise from the ground (sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night) until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me and chased away the thoughts that possessed me. But always I turned the eyes of my mind Protectress, asking her to extend help to one who ws sinking fast in the waves of the desert. And I always had here as my Helper and the Accepter 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.”


“Glory Be To GOD
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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