Psalm: 88
Old Testament: Jeremiah 11:1-8;14-20
New Testament: Romans 6:1-11

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:5-6)

Today I’m going a little off-script….at least according to he Western calendar. 🙂 April 1st is a day when the Eastern Orthodox Church venerates one of my favourite saints; Mary of Egypt.

Mary was a prostitute who went around Egypt seducing men and living the life of luxury. Tradition tells us that she was not sold into the sex-trade, but rather chose to go into it because she enjoyed the power and control it gave her. At times, she even refused the money gained through her services, and gave in to lust purely for the pleasure of it.

One day, she sailed with a client to Jerusalem, and–as it was the Feast Day of the Holy Cross– she went to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and found herself unable to enter by a mysterious force.

In that moment, Mary realized that she was denied access because of her sinful ways and became distraught. Gazing upon an icon of the Theotokos, she begged Holy Mary to allow her inside to repent and partake of the Sacrament; promising that if this happened, she would retreat to the desert in repentance and austere living.

Her prayer was granted, and after being fed with the Eucharist, she retreated to the caves of Egypt….not even worrying about food or extra clothes….she eventually took to wandering the desert naked…..living the life of a hermit.

After many years of solitude, she runs into Fr. Zosimas….who himself is a monk in Egypt. He is amazed by her story and asks if there is anything he can do for her.

She requests to have the Eucharist, which she had not shared in since leaving Jerusalem. Fr. Zosimas agrees and Mary is once again fed the Body and Blood of her Lord….miraculously walking over water to reach Him. 🙂

After this exchange, she asks that Zosimas return again in one year on Maundy Thursday. He agrees, and–one year later– finds her dead body perfectly preserved in the place by the river where they had shared Holy Communion.

I love this story for several reasons. For one it has all the elements that make a saint’s story great. Intrigue, flashy sin, and brazen attitude. Mary of Egypt was very much a woman in control…..and who made no apologies for her action.

And then, the focus shifts to the gift of grace and mercy……of a sincere desire to repent….and the courage to run away from all worldly distraction.

What I find fascinating is that Mary of Egypt’s life was one of a recluse……She was not actively involved in reaching out to the poor, or spreading the Gospel to those on the streets……but rather making up for the mistakes of her past by living in holiness.

Hers is also a story that upholds the transformative power of the Eucharist without having it as a main focus of the story. It places the emphasis on the desire to change, and the way in which the Sacrament can strengthen us to take on the challenges of true conversion and a true turning to Christ.

May Mary of Egypt….our desert Mother pray for us..and serve as an example to us of what it means to truly repent, and to be made Holy even in spite of our sinful past. Amen, and thanks be to God for her witness to us. 🙂 +

P.S. For those of you who wish to read the account itself, here is the link.. Enjoy!

Advertisements