St Mary of Egypt: God does not give up on us

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Beloved, let us remember Saint Mary of Egypt, who found steadfast faith despite a sinful life, and found the prayers of Theotokos, Mother of God, who interceded for her. Most Holy Theotokos, pray for us. Saint Mary of Egypt, pray for us.

Saint Mary of Egypt lived a sinful life of prostitution until she was thirty. She wanted to venerate the Cross at Jerusalem, the Holy Land. She prostituted herself to raise money for the journey. When reaching Jerusalem, she was prevented from entering the holy space by the power of God. She pleaded for the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos in front of her icon, with utmost repentance and asked God for mercy to do His will. God then allowed Saint Mary of Egypt to enter the sacred space to venerate the Cross. A stranger gave her 3 loaves of bread for her pilgrimage. She confessed her sins, received the Holy Mysteries, and went to Jordan to begin her ascetical journey, until she met Abba Zosimas some time many years later.

Sometime in the future, Abba Zosimas returned to the same location a year after he gave Saint Mary of Egypt the Holy Mysteries. Abba Zosimas did not see the saint, so he pleaded with God to see the saint. The Abba then saw the body of Saint Mary of Egypt lying some distance away, her face turned to the East. The Abba came to the body, wept and saw the words on the ground, “Abba Zosimas, bury humble Mary on this spot.” The Abba found a piece of wood and started to dig a hole on the hard ground, but with little success. A lion appeared and licked the feet of the dead saint. The Abba crossed himself, and told the lion, “I am old and lack the strength to bury the body of the saint. Can you help me bury the mortal temple of this saint?” The lion immediately started digging the ground with his paws and soon a space large enough for the body of Saint Mary of Egypt was dug. The Abba reverently lowered the body of the saint into the grave, with the cloak the Abba gave to the reposed saint two years ago, and covered the grave with the soil. The lion left, and Abba Zosimas returned to the monastery, and told his brethren of the wonders of God.

What can we learn from Saint Mary of Egypt and Abba Zosimas?

First and foremost, let us remember our beloved Most Holy Theotokos, Mother of God, who is always leaning to listen to our prayers to God, and interceding for us. When we are in danger; when we are in fear; when we are in desolation; when we are lost; remember and ask our beloved Most Holy Theotokos for her holy prayers to God (St John 19:26-27).

Second, we know that if we see people through our wretched eyes of sinners, we begin with prideful sin judge others as disfigured, not realizing how sore and disfigured we are too. However, if we begin to see everyone as an image of Christ, recognizing each and every one as a loved creation of God, we realize that God alone is the sovereign Creator and Savior of all, and He alone grants the mercy of salvation to all who come to Him in repentance and humility. We are not to judge who is a believer. We are not to judge who has received mercy and grace from God. We are not to judge who is a saint. We are not fit to be judges. Our role as Christians, if we profess to be, living in the commandments Christ told to us, is to love God and to love others as ourselves (St James 2:13, St Matthew 7:1, Romans 2:1). Always remember, Christ commanded us to live our faith by shining our faith in God as lanterns to light the path for others, not as weapons to beat others with.

Third, Saint Mary of Egypt showed us that God does not give up on anyone who truly comes to Him in humility, repentance, and prayer (Ephesians 4:22-25, Romans 13:12). In the darkest of our hours, in the greatest of our defeats, in the deepest of our cries, God is there. Let us remember the great multitude of saints who showed us the way back to God, that if we simply, honestly, humbly, go to God with tears of repentance, He will listen, and He will pave our way back to Him. Never give up, because God, never gives up on us.

In remembering how we should return to God, let us always keep the prayer of the heart close to us, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Isaiah 65:8-16
Genesis 46:1-7
Proverbs 23:15-24:5