Fifth Sunday of Holy and Great Lent: Saint Mary of Egypt, Model of Penitents (Part IV)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


Fifth Sunday of Holy and Great Lent: Saint Mary of Egypt,
Model of Penitents. (Part IV)

For seventeen years I have fed on herbs and all that can be found in the desert. I shivered from the frost and frequently fell to the ground I lay without breath and without motion. 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) "They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth" Hebrews 11:37-38).

Hearing that she cited words of Scripture, from Moses and Job, Father Zosimas asked her: "And so you have read the psalms and other books?" She smiled at this and said to the elder: "Believe me, I have not seen a human face ever since I crossed the Jordan, except yours today. I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert. I never learned from books. I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them. But the Logos/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, to pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner." Thus concluding her story she bowed down before him. And with tears, the elder exclaimed: "Blessed is God Who creates the great and wondrous, the glorious and marvelous without end. Blessed is God Who has shown me how He rewards those who fear Him. Truly, O Lord, Thou dost not forsake those who seek Thee!"

The woman, not allowing the elder to bow down before her, said: "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 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. Remain, Abba, 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 and bring it. And wait for me on the banks of the Jordan so that I can come and partake of the Life-Giving Gifts. Pray for me!"

With these words, she vanished into the depths of the desert. For the whole year, Father Zosimas kept silent, not daring to tell anyone 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 he remembered what she said to him: "And even if you wish to depart, you will not be able to do so."

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 Jordan where he awaited for the Saint. As he was pondering he saw the holy woman appear and stand on the other side of the river. The thought came to him that she could not cross the river Jordan. Then he saw that she made the sign of the Cross over the waters and then she at once stepped onto the waters and began walking across the surface towards him. And when he wanted to prostrate himself, she cried to him while still walking on the water: "What are you doing, Abba, you are a priest and carrying the Divine Gifts!"

Father Zosimas prayed: "Truly God did not lie when He promised that when we purify ourselves we shall be like Him. Glory to Thee, O Christ Our God, Who has shown me through this Thy servant how far away I stand from perfection."

Here 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, Abba, 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 again see me, for such is the will of God."

Touching the Saint’s feet and asking for her prayers for the Church, the Kingdom, and himself, he let her depart with tears. Again the Saint made the sign of the Cross over the waters of the Jordan and stepped on and walked across as before.

When another year passed, he again went into the desert. He reached the same spot but could not see any sign of anyone. So raising his eyes to heaven as before, he prayed: "Show me, O Lord, Thy pure treasure, which Thou hast 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 towards the rising sun, and he saw the Saint lying dead. Her hands were crossed according to custom and her face was turned to the East. Running up he shed tears over the Saint’s feet and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else. He wept for a long time.

Then he saw words traced on the ground by her head: "Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body 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 Apri 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 glad to know the Saint’s name. 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 nearby a small piece of wood. Picking it up he began to dig the ground. But the earth was hard and dry and did 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 big lion standing close to the Saint’s body and licking her feet. Guarding himself with the sign of the Cross, the thought came to him that the power of the one lying there would protect him and keep him unharmed. Father Zosimas said to the lion: "The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried, but I am old and do not have 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 still speaking the lion with his front paws began to dig a hole deep enough to bury the body. The elder covered the body with earth in the presence of the lion, then both departed. Father Zosimas returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ Our Lord. Upon reaching the monastery the elder told all the brothers about everything and all marveled on hearing of God’s miracles. And with fear and love, they kept the memory of the Saint. Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery, almost attaining the age of a hundred, and passed to eternal life. The monks kept this account without writing it down and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.

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 in this account, who hear, read, and are zealous to write it, and may He grant them the lot of blessed Mary together with all who at different times have pleased God by their pious thoughts and labors.

And let us also give glory to God, the Eternal King, that He may grant us His mercy in the Day of Judgment for the sake of Jesus Christ Our Lord, to Whom belongs all glory, honor, dominion, and adoration with the Eternal Father and the Most Holy and Life-Creating Spirit, now and always, and throughout all ages. Amen.

"Glory Be To GOD

All Things!"
– Saint Johnn Chrysostmos
+ + +

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

+ Father George

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