Posted by: Fr Chris | March 21, 2021

St Mary of Egypt and her conversion

Full of Grace and Truth: St. Mary of Egypt, the Righteous, and a true Icon of Repentance
Burial of Saint Mary of Egypt by Saint Zosimus and her lion

She was born around 344 AD in Alexandria, where she became a rich and beautiful courtesan. She chose to lead a selfish life of sin. Once on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, she was so wicked that she tried to seduce the men of the party! She had notic­ed throngs of pilgrims entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Curious to join the attractions, Mary tried to enter the Church, but was prevented by some mysterious force. Mary began to wonder if her sinful life was the cause for preven­ting her entrance into the Church. At that moment, she became aware of the Icon of the Mother of God above the entrance of the Church. Filled with compunction of heart, she cried for her many sins.

Saint Mary of Egypt: her dead body is discovered by Saint Zosimas and a lion. Etching by ...

Mary sought a life of repentance for her wicked past by entering the desert. This we know was a time when thousands went out into the deserts of the eastern Roman empire, living in hermitages or establishing monasteries. There she lived as a hermit for nearly fifty years, willfully depriving herself of all comforts of life and exposing her beauty to the harshness of the sun. In her later years a lion accompanied her, a sign that she had achieved great inner holiness recognized by wild animals.

While in the desert one day, she met Saint Zosimus. According to the custom of Palestinian monks, this priest-monk had gone out into the wilderness in the first days of Holy Week to meditate on the Passion of Christ. She asked him to bring the Holy Eucharist to her on Holy Thursday. Joy and peace overcame her upon the reception of the Eucharist and she prayed the Prayer of St. Simeon: “Now you may dismiss your servant in peace, O Lord. For my eyes have seen your salvation.” She related her life to the priest, and then arranged with Zosimus to meet again in a year so she could confess and receive Communion again (frequent Communion was not common among these desert dwellers). When he returned to the site in 421, she was not there, and he finally came upon her body. As happened with some other desert saints, the lion was near her body, and he helped Zosimus to bury her body, and then the lion lay down and mourned for her. May we have the courage to repent of our own sins, and to be truly converted, especially in these last days of Lent!


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