The saint for April 03
Saint Mary of Egypt
Optional Memorial--Roman Calendar
Feast--Orthodox Calendar, on April 3

Born 344 in Egypt
Died c. 421 in the desert near the River Jordan
Canonized Pre-Congregation

Mary was the child of wealthy parents, who grew up spoiled, sensuous and cynical. She ran away from home to pursue a sexually wanton lifestyle when she was just twelve years old. By her own confession to the monk Zosimus, who she met many years later in the desert, she lived wallowing deep in every kind of sin and excess for about seventeen years.

At length she found herself in Jerusalem at the time of the feast of the Exultation of the Cross. She joined the throngs seeking to enter the Church to venerate that most holy of relics, but found that she was barred from crossing the threshhold of the church by an invisible physical force. She tried with all her might for several attempts, until she was worn out. Then, standing in the outer vestibule of the church, she felt God reach into her soul and gently lay bare her wretchedness of spirit to her. She repented, weeping, and begged the Mother of God to help her. Then she was permitted to enter the church and venerate the Cross.

Afterwards, she asked the Blessed Virgin what to do, and was told: "Cross the Rover Jordan and go out into the desert, and there you will find blessed peace."
Mary did as she was bade, taking nothing but three loaves of bread with her. She wandered in the desert under the guidance of the Blessed Virgin for the rest of her long life.

For many years she struggled against the fierce temptations that still tormented her, but eventually she was brought into close communion with God, and freed of her struggle. When the holy monk Zosimus found her in the desert, she was naked and wraithlike, but full of holiness. Recognizing himself to be in the presence of a holy one Zosimus asks for her blessing and she for his. He asks for her story and she tells it. She asks him to return in one year's time, at the end of Lent, and to bring her Holy Communion, which she had been without all those years. (The illustration at top is of Mary receiving the Blessed Sacrament from St. Zosimus). He complies, and the next year, as he is approaching the Jordan, he begins to worry, because Mary will be on the other side, and will not have a boat to cross to him. When he does see her, she calmly begins to walk across the water towards him, and begins to prostrate himself, in recognition of her holiness. Mary sees him and cries out (I just love this): "What are you doing Abba! You are a priest, and carrying the Divine Gifts!"

After receiving communion, the two part again, never to meet in the world, for at the time of their next meeting, Zosimus finds her dead. The old monk tries to bury her, but is not able to do so, until a lion appoaches him out of the desert and, showing him great affection, helps to dig the grave with his claws.

Saint Mary of Egypt is less well known in the western church, but is greatly venerated in the East. Her life furnishes an example of great hope to all who have made false starts, that God if faithful to forgive, and eager to unit Himself to us.
Pray to Saint Mary of Egypt for help in Repentance
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