Venerable Mother, St. Mary of Egypt
Mary the Egyptian was born about 520 A.D. in Egypt. The beginning of
her life was very sinful. From childhood she desired to live a sinful
life. She didn’t choose the difficult and uphill road that leads to
Christ, who is the fountain of life and real joy. She chose the wide
and ample road that leads to destruction and death.
devil, the great enemy of mankind, spread his nets and soon captured
her. At the age of twelve, intoxicated by the sweet drink of sin, she
left her parents’ affection and ran away. She decided to live in the
crowded city of Alexandria. In this famous city Mary would live a
sinful life as she had dreamed. Parties, dances, entertainment and
anything one could imagine constituted for Mary an earthly paradise.
an entire period of seventeen years Mary wallowed in sin. She lived
without God. The image of God within her was broken into pieces. Her
body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, was in ruins. Her angel chased
after her and sorrowfully watched her from a distance. But sin had
nested firmly within her. The devil had her tied up. Thoughts about
repentance, returning to God, paradise, hell, or about a life of
virtue did not even cross her mind. The goal of her life was the
enjoyment of sin – total dissolution. She lived in order to sin.
She desired the sinful life of prostitution so much that she reached
the point where she gave herself up to it even without compensation.
This way she always had men at her disposal. She earned her living
working at various jobs.
finally the sinful life could hold her in Alexandria no longer. She
had become a famous harlot and drew many people to sin. She decided
to establish a house of sin somewhere else. One day, while taking a
walk outside of the city and going towards the harbor, she saw many
people boarding a ship. Asking where they were bound, she was
informed that all these people would go to Jerusalem to celebrate the
Elevation of the Holy Cross. Mary decided that she also would board
the ship to go to Jerusalem. Her purpose, however, was not to
venerate the Holy Land, but to sin. She thought she would find many
followers there. The darkness of her dissolute life blinded her and
she could not see the light of heaven.
sinful life continued – even on the ship. Mary also spread her
sinful nets in the Holy City. Nothing could hold her back, even in
the most holy places. She followed the worshippers to church to look
for more young men.
decided to enter the church to see the Holy Cross for herself. But
something strange happened. Even though she tried repeatedly to enter
the church, an invisible power held her back and blocked her way, not
permitting her to cross the threshold. Suddenly her hard, sinful and
devilish heart was changed. God’s love and mercy touched her, and she
realized that her sinful way of life was the obstacle to her entering
the church. Her inner world was shaken and she awoke from the deep
sleep of sin. Another world, a beautiful and angelic world, began to
dawn within her slowly. After so many years she came to herself and
realized te ugliness of her ways. She realized that the multitude of
her sins did not allow her to pass through the door and enter the
church. She stood outside the church and began weeping for her
condition. Her filthy, dissolute life passed before her like a movie.
Her tears of repentance were the only thing she could offer to God.
The thought of how she had saddened God made her weep even more –
so much so that the very ground was drenched with her tears. As she
wept, she lifted up her eyes and saw the icon of the Virgin Mary
above the door. Mary then said, with tears in her eyes:
Mary, I beg you, help me enter the church to behold and venerate the
Holy Cross, on which your Son was crucified for my sins and shed His
holy Blood to save all the sinners. I promise you I will never fall
into sin again, and I will never return to my previous sinful life!”
her tears, her fervent prayer, and this heroic decision, she
completely repented. Immediately she felt that a heavy burden was
lifted from her. She felt a great relief and peace in her heart.
After this prayer, Mary was encouraged and entered unhindered into
the church. With the fear of God she tearfully venerated the
Life-giving Cross. A voice was heard saying, “You will find great
peace if you pass over the River Jordan.” After this, Mary took the
road towards the desert of the Jordan. There, in the deep desert, she
lived a great and admirable ascetic life of repentance.
can adequately describe the battle against the evil demons and the
spiritual struggles of Mary the Egyptian? The desert became a
spiritual stadium. The angels, her only audience, watched the great
spiritual contest between Mary and the evil spirits.
years of sinful life! How can they be forgotten? How much power did
she have to gain in order to be able to defeat her old and sinful
self? The devil used every device to pull her out of the desert and
bring her back to the world. With his constant onslaught of thoughts,
he reminded her of all her former sinful actions and continually
pushed her to desire once again the sin of fornication. At that
crucial time, Mary fell down on the ground weeping and crying. She
remained there, sometimes for whole days and nights, until she was
able to see the Light that had the power to send away her sinful
incredible spiritual war lasted for seventeen years. Mary fought
spiritually in the desert for seventeen years, the same number of
years she had spent in the sinful life. The devil tried in vain to
destroy this God-planted flower of the desert. Her sincere
repentance, her prayers and her struggles, made Mary powerful. By
God’s grace she always overcame the temptations. Finally the devil
lived in the desert for forty years. Her only food was such sparse
greens as the desert could provide and a little water from the rain.
Her clothes were worn out, and finally fell from her body – and
thus she suffered in hot and cold weather.
God did not abandon her. A holy ascetic and priest-monk, Zosimas, led
by God’s providence, came to the desert of the Jordan River and met
the famished and skeleton-like body of Mary. After his fervent
entreaties she told him of her life and asked to receive Holy
Communion. The following year, Saint Zosimas found Mary dead on the
ground with her hands crossed. On the sand was written:
Zosimas, bury the body of unworthy Mary here where you found it. She
died in April on the same night she received Holy Communion.”
TO ST. MARY
Having escaped the
gloom of sin, O blest Mary,
and shining brightly
with the light of repentance,
thou didst present
thy heart to Christ, O glorious one,
bringing Him His holy
and all-immaculate Mother
as a greatly merciful
and most bold intercessor.
Hence thou hast found
the pardon of thy sins
and with the Angels
rejoicest for evermore.