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St. Mary of Egypt

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1/14 April

St. Mary, who is known as Mary of Egypt, lived from the middle of the fifth century to the beginning of the sixth century. Her youth did not presage anything good. Mary was twelve years old when she left her home for the city of Alexandria. Being free of parental oversight, young and inexperienced, Mary was drawn to a life of depravity. There was no one to stop her on the way to perdition, and there were not a few temptations. Thus, for seventeen years Mary lived in sin, until the merciful Lord turned her to repentance.

It happened thus. By coincidence, Mary joined a group of pilgrims bound for the Holy Land. While sailing with the pilgrims on the ship, Mary did not cease from sinning and seducing men. When they got to Jerusalem, she joined the pilgrims who were heading for the Church of Christ's Resurrection.

People were entering the church in an large throng, but Mary was stopped at the entrance by an invisible hand. No matter how she tried, she could not enter. Here she understood that the Lord was not allowing her to enter the holy place because of her impurity.

Seized by horror and a feeling of profound repentance, she began to entreat God to forgive her sins, promising to radically correct her life. Seeing an icon of the Mother of God at the entrance of the church, Mary began to beg the Divine Mother to plead for her before God. After this, she immediately felt her soul clear up, and entered the church unhindered. Having poured out abundant tears at the Lord's Tomb, she went out of the church a completely different person.

Mary fulfilled her promise to change her life. From Jerusalem, she withdrew into the harsh and barren Jordanian Desert, and there spent almost half a century in complete solitude, in fasting and prayer. Thus, by severe ascetic feats, Mary of Egypt completely eradicated in herself all sinful desires and made her heart a pure temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Elder Zosima, who lived in the Jordanian Monastery of the Prophet John the Forerunner, was deemed worthy, by God's providence, to meet Venerable Mary in the desert, when she was already an extremely old woman. He was struck by her holiness and gift of clairvoyance. He saw her once during prayer as if raised up above the earth, and another time ­walking over the river Jordan, as if on dry land.

In parting with Zosima, Venerable Mary asked him to come again to the desert in a year to give her Communion. The Elder returned at the appointed time and gave Venerable Mary Communion of the Holy Mysteries. Then, when he went into the desert after another year in the hope of seeing the Saint, he did not find her among the living.

The Elder buried the remains of Venerable Mary there in the desert. In this a lion helped him, who dug a hole with his claws to bury the body of the righteous one. She died in the year 521.

Thus, from a great sinner, Venerable Mary became, with God's help, a very great saint and left a striking example of repentance. Her memory is marked on April 1 (according to the Church calendar) and on the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent.

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