Sunday of St Mary of Egypt
The Reading from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Hebrews (9:11-14)
Brethren: Christ, having come a High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands (that is to say, not of this building), neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if sprinkling the unclean with the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Galatians (3:23-29)
Brethren: Before faith came, we were kept under the law, being shut apart from the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark (10:32-45)
At that time: Jesus took the twelve, and began to tell them what things would happen unto Him, saying, ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock Him and shall scourge Him, and shall spit upon Him and shall kill Him. And the third day He shall rise again.’ And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto Him, saying, ‘Master, we would that Thou should do for us whatsoever we shall desire.’ And He said unto them, ‘What would ye that I should do for you?’ They said unto Him, ‘Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand and the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory.’ But Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye know not what ye ask. Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ And they said unto Him, ‘We can.’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized with, also shall ye be baptized. But to sit on My right hand and on My left hand is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.’ And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Him and said unto them, ‘Ye know that they that are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister, and whosoever of you would be the chiefest shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life as a ransom for many.’
Holy Gospel according to Luke (7:36-50)
At that time, One of the Pharisees desired Jesus that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee’s house and sat down to meat. And behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and began to wash His feet with tears and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had bidden Him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, ‘This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is who toucheth him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘Simon, I have something to say unto thee.’ And he said, ‘Master, say on.’ ‘There was a certain creditor that had two debtors. The one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, ‘Thou hast rightly judged.’ And He turned to the woman and said unto Simon, ‘Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house: Thou gavest Me no water for My feet, but she hath washed My feet with tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. Thou gavest Me no kiss, but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.’ And He said unto her, ‘Thy sins are forgiven.’ And those who sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, ‘Who is this that forgiveth sins also?’ And He said to the woman, ‘Thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace.’
Troparion of the Resurrection (Tone 1)
When the stone had been sealed by the Jews, and the soldiers were guarding Thine immaculate Body, Thou didst rise on the third day, O Saviour, granting life unto the world. Wherefore, the Hosts of the heavens cried out to Thee, O Life-giver: Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Christ. Glory to Thy kingdom. Glory to Thy dispensation, O only Lover of mankind.
Troparion of St Mary of Egypt (Tone 8)
In thee, O Mother, was preserved unimpaired that which is according to God’s image, for thou hast taken up the Cross and followed Christ. By thine actions thou hast taught us to despise the flesh, for it passes away, but to care for the soul, which is a thing immortal; and so thy spirit, holy Mary, rejoiceth with the angels.
Kontakion of the Resurrection (Tone 1)
As God, Thou didst arise from the tomb in glory, and Thou didst raise the world together with Thyself. And mortal nature praiseth Thee as God, and death hath vanished. And Adam danceth, O Master, and Eve, now freed from fetters, rejoiceth as she crieth out: Thou art He, O Christ, that grantest unto all resurrection.
Kontakion of St Mary of Egypt (Tone 3)
Once thou wast defiled, with every impurity, but today through repentance thou hast become the Bride of Christ. Desiring the life of the angels, thou hast cast down the demons with the weapon of the Cross: therefore, O glorious Mary, thou wast made a bride of the Kingdom.
Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt
On this day, the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of our holy and ven-erable Mother, Mary of Egypt.
The recorder of the life of this wonderful saint is St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem. A hieromonk, the elder Zossima, had gone off at one time during the Great Fast on a twen-ty-days’ walk into the wilderness across the Jordan. He suddenly caught sight of a human being with a withered and naked body and with hair as white as snow, who fled in its na-kedness from Zossima’s sight. The elder ran a long way, until this figure stopped at a stream and called, “Father Zossima, forgive me for the Lord’s sake. I cannot turn around to you, for I am a naked woman.” Then Zossima threw her his outer cloak, and she wrapped herself in it and turned around to him. The elder was amazed at hearing his name from the lips of this unknown woman. After considerable pressure on his part, she told him the story of her life.
She had been born in Egypt and had lived as a prostitute in Alexandria from the age of twelve, spending seventeen years in this way of life. Urged by the lustful fire of the flesh, she one day boarded a ship that was sailing for Jerusalem. Arriving at the Holy City, she attempted to go into one of the churches to venerate the Precious Cross, but some unseen power prevented her from entering. In great fear, she turned to an icon of the Mother of God that was in the entrance and begged her to let her go in and venerate the Cross, con-fessing her sin and impurity and promising that she would then go wherever the Most Pure One led her. She was then allowed to enter the church. After venerating the Cross, she went out again to the entrance and, standing in front of the icon, thanked the Mother of God. Then she heard a voice saying, “If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace.” She immediately bought three loaves of bread and set off for the Jordan, arriving there the same evening. She received Holy Communion the following morning in the monastery of St. John the Baptist, and then crossed the river. She spent the next forty-eight years in the wilderness in the greatest torments, in terror, in struggles with passionate thoughts like gigantic beasts, feeding only on plants.
Later, when she was standing in prayer, Zossima saw her lifted up in the air. She begged him to bring her Holy Communion the next year on the bank of the Jordan, and she would come to receive it. The following year, Zossima came with the Holy Gifts to the bank of the Jordan in the evening and stood in amazement as he saw her cross the river. He saw her coming in the moonlight and, arriving on the further bank, make the sign of the Cross over the river. She then walked across it as though it were dry land. When she had re-ceived Holy Communion, she begged him to come again the following year to the same stream by which they had first met. The next year Zossima went and found her dead body there on that spot. Above her head in the sand was written: “Abba Zossima, bury in this place the body of the humble Mary. Give dust to dust. I passed away on April 1, on the very night of Christ’s Passion, after Communion of the Divine Mysteries.” For the first time, Zossima learned her name and also the awe-inspiring marvel that she had arrived at that stream the previous year on the night of the same day on which she had received Holy Communion – a place that he had taken twenty days to reach. And thus Zossima bur-ied the body of the wonderful saint, Mary of Egypt. When he returned to the monastery, he recounted the whole story of her life and the wonders to which he had been an eye-witness. Thus the Lord glorifies repentant sinners. She entered into rest in about the year 530.
St. Mary is remembered today, as we reach the end of the Great Fast, to arouse the energy of the slothful and to urge sinners to repentance, imitating her example. She is also commemorated on April 1. The Righteous Zossima, who buried St. Mary, is commemorat-ed on April 4.