Mary, the patron saint of penitents, left a life steeped in the physical world to live alone for decades in the desert in prayer—with nothing. In her life of extreme self-denial (asceticism) she found peace and great wisdom.
For us, she symbolizes the miracle of life that we have when we turn to God rather than to temptations of the world. Many legends surround her life and her encounter with the monk, St. Zosimas who, amazed by her spiritual power, recounted her life to his fellow monks who kept her story alive until it was written down in the 7th c by St. Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Remembering St Mary of Egypt today also serves as a reminder of the presence of women as spiritual leaders in the Church. God’s grace does not favour any social categories: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)
Everyone can be a vessel of God’s love and mercy. As we approach the peak of our Lenten journey, we are reminded that any hardship can be borne well only when we experience God’s support through each other.
This is the last week of Great Lent. After next weekend, Lazarus Saturday and Pussy Willow Sunday, we enter into Passion Week.