My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIS IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE LIFE OF SAINT MARY OF EGYPT (Part II0
After crossing the Jordan River, they all scattered far and wide in different directions. And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed — neither to talk to one another nor to know how each one lived and fasted. If they did happen to catch sight of one another, they went to another part of the desert, living alone and always singing to God, and at a definite time eating a very small quantity of food. In this way, they spent the whole of the fast and used to return to the monastery a week before the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, on Palm Sunday. Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labor, and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert.
Father Zosimas did the same as all. And he went far, far into the desert with a secret hope of finding some father who might be living there and who might be able to satisfy his thirst and longing. He has already walked for 20 days and when the 6th hour came he stopped and, turning to the East, began to sing the Sixth Hour and recite the customary prayers. As he sang thus without turning his eyes from the heavens, he suddenly saw to the right the semblance of a human body. At first, he was confused thinking he beheld a vision of the devil. But, having guarded himself with the sign of the Cross and banished all fear, he turned his gaze in that direction and saw some form gliding southwards. It was naked, the skin dark as if burned up by the heat of the sun; the hair on its head was white as a fleece, and not long, failing just below its neck. Father Zosimas was so overjoyed at beholding a human form that he ran after it in pursuit, but the form fled from him. He followed. At length, when he was near enough to be heard, he shouted: "Why do you run away from an old man and a sinner? wait for me, whoever you are, in God’s name I tell you, for the love of God for Whose sake you are living in this desert."
"Forgive me for God’s sake, but I cannot turn towards you and show you my face, Abba (father) Zosimas. For I am a woman and naked as you see with the uncovered shame of my body. But if you would like to fulfill one wish of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so that I can cover my body and can turn to you and ask for your blessing." Here terror seized Father Zosimas, for he heard that she called him by name. But he realized that she could not have done so without knowing anything of him if she had not had the power of spiritual insight. He at once did as he was asked. He took off his old, tattered cloak and threw it to her, turning away as he did so. She picked it up and was able to cover at least a part of her body. Then she turned to Father Zosimas and said:
"Why did you wish, Abba (father) Zosimas, to see a sinful woman? What do you wish to hear or learn from me, you who have not shrunk from such great struggles?" Father Zosimas threw himself on the ground and asked for her blessing. She likewise bowed down before him. And thus they lay on the ground prostrate asking for each other’s blessing. And one word alone could be heard from both: "BLESS ME!" After a long while the woman said to Father Zosimas: "Abba Zosimas, it is you who must give blessings and pray. You are dignified by the order of Priesthood and for many years you have been standing before the holy altar and offering the sacrifice of the Divine Mysteries."
This flung Father Zosimas into even greater terror. At length, with tears, he said to her: "O mother, filled with the Spirit, by your mode of life it is evident that you live with God and have died to the world. The Grace granted to you is apparent — for you have called me by name and recognized that I am a priest, though you have never seen me before. Grace is recognized not by one’s orders, but by gifts of the Spirit, so give me your blessing for God’s sake, for I need your prayers." Then giving way before the wish of the elder the woman said: "Blessed is God Who cares for the salvation of men and their souls."
Father Zosimas answered: "Amen." And both rose to their feet. Then the woman asked the elder (geronda): "Why have you come man of God to me who am so sinful? Why do you wish to see a woman naked and devoid of every virtue? Though I know one thing — the Grace of the Holy Spirit has brought you to render me a service in time. Tell me, father, how are the Christian people living? And the kings? How is the Church guided? Father Zosimas said: "By your holy prayers, mother, Christ has granted lasting peace to all. But fulfill the unworthy petition of an old man and pray for the whole world and for me who am a sinner, so that my wanderings in the desert may not be fruitless." She answered: "You who are a priest, Abba Zosimas, it is you who must pray for me and for all — for this is your calling. But as we must all be obedient, I will gladly do what you ask." And with these words she turned to the East, and raising her eyes to heaven and stretching out her hands, she began to pray in a whisper. As he took his eyes off the ground and saw that she was raised about a forearm’s distance from the ground and stood praying in the air. When he saw this even greater terror seized him and he fell on the ground weeping and repeating many times, "LORD HAVE MERCY."
Father Zosimas said, "I beg you by the Name of Christ our God tell me who you are and when and how you came into this desert. Tell me everything, tell me all, I implore you.
"I am ashmed, Abba (father), to speak to you of my disgraceful life, forgive me for God’s sake! I shall tell you all without hiding anything, onlly imploring you first of all to pray incessantly for me, so that I may find mercy on the day of Judgment." The elder wept and the woman began her story.
"My native land, holy father, was Egypt. Already during the lifetime of my parents, when I was twelve years old, I renounced their love and went to Alexandria. I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality. It is more becoming to speak of this briefly, so that you may just know my passion and my lechery. For about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that. I was like a fire of public debauch. And it was not for the sake of gain — here I speak the pure truth. Often when they wished to pay me, I refused the money. I acted in this way so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain me, doing free of charge wha tgave me pleasure. I lived by begging, often by spinning flax, but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth. This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life. That is how I lived. Then one summer I saw a large crowd of Lybians and Egyptians running towards the sea. I asked one of them, ‘Where are these men hurrying to." He replied, ‘They are all going to Jerusalem for the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, which takes place in a few days.’ I said to him, ‘Will they take me with them if I wish to go?’ ‘No one will hinder you if you money to pay for the journey and for food.’ And I said to him, ‘To tell you the truth, I have no money, neither have I food. But I shall go with them and shall go aboard. And they shall feed me, whether they want to or not. I have a body — they shall take it instead of pay for the journey. I was suddently filled with a desire to go, Abba (father), to have more lovers who could satisfy my passion. I told you, Abba Zosimas, not to force me to tell you of my disgrace. God is my witness, I am afraid of defiling you and the very air with my words." Father Zosimas, weeping replied to her: "Speak on for God’s sake, mother, speak and do not break the thread of such an edifying tale."
(To be continued)
"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