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Saint Mary of Egypt

Saint Mary of Egypt
  • Century: 4th & 5th Century
  • Patronage: Chastity, Deliverance of Demons, Fever, Skin Disease, Temptations of the Flesh
  • Feast Day: April 2nd

Saint Mary of Egypt is also known as Maria Aegyptica, and was born in Egypt.  Most of the information we have about her is from the Vita, written of her by St. Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem.  At the age of twelve she ran away to the city of Alexandria where she lived an extremely dissolute life, prostituting herself.  In her Vita, she states that she often refused the money offered for her sexual favors, as she was driven by an insatiable and an irrepressible passion.  She mainly lived by begging. 

After years of this lifestyle, she traveled to Jerusalem for the Great Feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  She decided to do this, not for a religious pilgrimage, but to find even more partners in her lust.  She paid for her passage by offering sexual favors to other pilgrims, continuing her habitual lifestyle for a short time in Jerusalem.  Her Vita relates that when she tried to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the celebration, she was barred from doing so by an unseen force.  Realizing that this was because of her impurity, she was struck with remorse, and on seeing an icon of the Virgin Mary outside the Church, she prayed for forgiveness and promised to give up the world.  She then attempted again, to enter the Church and this time she was permitted in.  

After venerating the relic of the True Cross, she returned to the icon to give thanks and heard a voice telling her, “If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest and true peace”.  She immediately went to the Monastery of St. John the Baptist on the bank of the River Jordan, where she received Absolution and Holy Communion.  The next morning, she crossed the Jordan and retired to the desert to live the rest of her life as a hermit in penitence for her previous sins.  She took with her only three loaves of bread, and once they were gone, she lived only on what she could find in the wilderness.  

About one year before her death, she recounted her life to St. Zosimas of Palestine, who encountered her in the desert.  She narrated her life’s story to him, manifesting marvelous clairvoyance.  She asked him to meet her at the banks of the Jordan on Holy Thursday, the following year and bring Holy Communion.  When he fulfilled her wish, she crossed the river to get to him by walking on the surface of the water and received Holy Communion, telling him to meet her again in the desert the following Lent.  He traveled to the same spot the following Lent, and found her lying there dead.  According to an inscription written in the sand next to her head, she had died on the very night that he had given her Holy Communion the previous year, and was transported to the place that he had found her body in the desert, incorrupt.  

Practical Take Away

St. Mary of Egypt ran away from home at the age of 12, and moved to Alexandria.  She became a prostitute and a beggar, to sustain herself.  She went on a pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and had a conversation after hearing the voice of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She converted her life to Christ, and became a hermit in the desert.  She could perform many miracles, and even walked on top of he water of the River Jordan, to receive Holy Communion from St. Zosimas.  Her life shows us that with repentance, forgiveness, and a firm purpose of amendment, we too can experience the Divine Mercy of God and sainthood.