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SAINT MARY OF EGYPT

SAINT MARY OF EGYPT: THE INCARNATION OF REPENTANCE

22 Apr, 2024

The period of the Triod, and especially of Great Lent, is for our Holy Church the holiest time of the year. It is the conceivable stage where every believer is called to fight his personal struggle for his psychosomatic cleansing from the gusts of sin. To experience Orthodox spirituality, which is identified with the recovery of one's authentic nature, from decay and sin, "according to the age of Christ's crew" (Eph. 4,13). Our preparation for the celebration of Easter is identical with our spiritual advancement and maturation, so that we become "conformed to the image of the Son (of God)" (Rom. 8,29). The whole spiritual climate, the sacred services, the honored persons and the memories of events are a constant and clarion call to come "to yourself" (Luke 15,17:XNUMX).

     During this holy period, certain holy persons of our Church, who excelled in virtue, are particularly highlighted as living examples for the faithful. One such holy person is Saint Mary of Egypt, who became synonymous with brokenness and repentance and who is commemorated on the 3,29th Sunday of Lent. She is presented by our Church as a brilliant example of the conversion of a sinful person, since with her decisive repentance and her spiritual struggle she reached great heights of holiness. It is projected as a model for believers to understand that the big problem is not so much sin, however great it may be, but the obsession with sin, impenitence, which our Church characterizes as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark.XNUMX, XNUMX)!         

      Her holy synaxari states that she lived in the 6th century AD. She came from Alexandria, Egypt and practiced the shameful profession of prostitution from the age of twelve. And she was so steeped in sin that professionalism was of secondary importance. She practiced prostitution mainly for hedonistic pleasure, such was her moral decline!

      He was constantly looking for prostitutes in the major ports and populous cities. Once he was informed that a large crowd was gathering in Jerusalem. He thought that if he moved there he would find customers. So he decided to travel to Palestine. She found a ship, paid the fare with her body and arrived in Jerusalem and was taken to the holy temple of the Resurrection. He tried to enter this sacred space, in case he might find lovers there. That was the extent of her lecherous absurdity.

       But an invisible force prevented her from entering the temple. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get in. Four times he was mysteriously repulsed. She gave up and began to worry for the first time in her life. A secret voice was heard in her soul, which awakened her sin-sedated conscience. He realized that what he was attempting was horrible sacrilege and unspeakable disrespect. He was trying to desecrate the holy place, where the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected. Hot tears of repentance began to flow from her lustful eyes. It is obvious that divine providence led her there to be saved, because her soul, despite all her dedication, was receptive to repentance and salvation. In the blink of an eye he changed his mind. She wanted to enter the temple, no longer to meet fornicating lovers, but to meet the Bridegroom of her suffering and tormented soul, Christ the Savior. He begged to set aside the invisible barrier and to enter, to worship the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord. So it happened. God allowed her to enter and worship.

      This was a new beginning for her life. He left straight for the Judean desert. He threw away the provocative luxurious garments and clothed himself in rough ascetic sackcloth. He renounced the pleasures of life and followed the life of practice. He managed to rise to the heights of sainthood. Her former sinful flesh now became a God-bearing tabernacle, God's dwelling place.

         The devil uses myriad ways to lure and keep sinners in sin. The most insidious way and the most treacherous trap is their non-realization of sinfulness «believing in yourselves that you are righteous» (Luke 18, 9). The wicked causes spiritual aphasia in the sinner, so that he has no consciousness of sin and consequently does not feel the need of repentance. In addition to the cheap lures of the world to lure us into sin, he also uses the tried and tested way of disappointment, suggesting to the sinner that his sin is so great that he cannot repent. Our Church, however, proclaims Her call to every person, through the mouth of Saint Chrysostom, that «As a spark to the sea, so malice to God's charity» ( E.P. Migne 49, 336-337).

        Repentance is a key chapter of our Christian faith, because within the Church the believer has the possibility to repent and return to his "natural" life. According to the Fathers, it is the constant renewal of the charism, which the neophyte receives during Holy Baptism, to belong psychosomatically to the mystical body of Christ and to have the possibility of salvation through Christ. It is the divine process which ontologically transforms man into a new existence.

        Countless examples are mentioned from the history of our Church where people who were completely sinful, carrying out horrible crimes and gross moral deviations, were transformed into charismatic and holy personalities, often provoking the ironic comments of Her admirers outside the Church. But this is the mission of the Church in the world, to retrieve fallen human faces from the fetid cesspools of sin, to cleanse them of the psychosomatic gusts and make them bright personalities, worthy of their value as images of God! This is the unfathomable greatness of sincere repentance. This is the invincible power which flows from personal breakdown and conversion and which elevates man to the realm of deification.  

     We must realize that the fountains of divine mercy and charity are empty. It is enough to make the great and at the same time saving decision to rise from the dirty prison of sin, where we are bound, because we want it! We hold the key to our handcuffs, just as we hold the key to the Kingdom of God, which is our repentance! The penitent robber, the first tenant of Paradise, entered it, "lock my memory"! Saint Mary of Egypt is a living example of sincere repentance, which shows the path of repentance to every believer. It amply proves that every person, no matter how sinful he is, is called for salvation, as long as he sincerely repents. This is the greatness and the distinguishing difference of Christianity from other religions. That is why the sacred and holy form of Saint Mary is displayed and honored in this par excellence period of repentance by our Church.

 

 

 

photo https://www.saint.gr/ 

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