This Sunday is called “The Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt.” What an amazing Saint of the Holy Orthodox Faith to have an entire Sunday of Great Lent dedicated to her commemoration. Her life story is read every year so that it has become well known to all Orthodox Christians. You can easily find it online if you would like to read it. Here’s one site: http://ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/reading/st.mary.html
In her life story, we can find some wonderful applications for us during our continuing journey in Great Lent. The early part of her life would be an “x” rated movie even with today’s loose standards:
“Our holy mother Mary was born in Egypt. She had left her parents at the age of twelve to go to Alexandria, where she spent the next seventeen years in debauchery and prostitution.”
Many of us can certainly relate to making mistakes in our lives at an early age. I have heard those years called “BC days”, that is “before Christ days.” “Prodigal Sons or Prodigal Daughters” are called by God to come back to Him. Mary experienced such a calling when she went to Jerusalem and wanted to go into a church to venerate the Holy Cross. She was prevented from entering the church by an invisible force. She thought that it was because of her sins that this was happening and she prayed in front of an Icon of the Virgin Mary (the Theotokos):
“Allow me to go into the church and prostrate before His Cross. As soon as I have seen the Cross, I promise that I will renounce the world and all pleasures, and follow the path of salvation which you will show me.”
In actuality, everyone entering that church that day were sinners. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned, Jesus invited the person who was without sin, to cast the first stone and no one stepped forward (John 8:1-11). This was not just about Mary’s sin, it was her “calling” to follow Christ. Think about a time when you were called by God. Perhaps it was to become a Christian, to become Orthodox, to deepen your spiritual life, to step up in some ministry within the Church, etc.
St. Mary was allowed to enter the church and venerate the Holy Cross. From that moment on, her life was transformed. But it was not an instant transformation. The next morning, she crossed the Jordan River into the desert wilderness where she lived for the next 47 years. The first 17 of those years she spent in a spiritual struggle with all the wrongful passions that continued to come into her mind. This was a time of true repentance; a time of truly turning away from her past and embracing the path of the Lord.
For many us, that calling to follow Christ does not mean an instant victory over some of the wrongful passions that have directed our lives for a long time. It could be the lust (addiction) to buy things; to have more and more clothes, “toys” to play with, or the newest _____. It could be a different lust (addiction) that overwhelms a person such as pornography (internet, books, or just attacks in the mind). It may be other areas that we cannot seem to control: lying, cheating, stealing, cussing, etc. We do not have to be stuck for life with whatever it is that hinders us.
Nearing the end of Great Lent, may we follow Saint Mary’s example to enter a spiritual desert (the arena) and do battle with those wrongful passions we have not been able to overcome. It will take effort to do battle with them. How do we do battle? It begins by focusing our prayer and fasting, asking the Lord for victory over the issues that so often weigh us down. Today is a perfect time for us to draw closer to our Lord. May our struggle be blessed.
With you in the journey,