Monday, April 14, 2014

Lenten Icons: Mary of Egypt

"Now He had made her one who was loving,
not just the lover pulled and drawn;
and having been shaken by vicious storms
she had come into her own."*

Mary of Egypt, patron of penitents. Her story is well-enough know, a prostitute in Alexandria, who rarely charged for her services (some say because of overwhelming passion, others because she simply loved people, and decided loving them was the best was to bring happiness into their lives..I prefer the latter).  Mary bought a trip to the Holy Land this way, and when she arrived, discovered that she couldn't enter the Churches until she repented. 

What I love about Mary of Egypt most especially, is that we see so obviously that she doesn't change in her conversion, she comes into her own. She is still the passionate one, the whole-hearted giver of herself, she is still promiscuous - unable to limit herself, to be proper or restrained. Only now she is made whole, and her whole self can be loving to the whole selves of others. 

In the desert, her home for years after her conversion, Mary is taught scripture by Christ Himself. She fasts, she blesses St. Zosimas who is in awe of her holiness, walks on water to receive Communion from him, and is later buried by both Zosimas and a Lion - the lion himself stands in for her beloved Christ. She in penitential, reminding us, with Oscar Wilde, that the trouble is less in what we do than in what we become.

 "I only need seven days, I guess,
which no one has claimed or covered before, 
seven pages o loneliness."**

* Rilke. The Risen One
**Rilke. The Book of Hours 


  1. I love this. I know someone who loves people to the point of (literal) promiscuity. But his love is mis-expressed, because it really is true, but like you said, he misses loving the whole self (in him and others), without Mary of Egypt's Lover.

  2. I love it, too. <3

    Mary of Egypt, pray for us, that we may love Christ--and that our love, in Him, may be whole and limitless!