|Icon from biography at the OCA website (link below)|
Today in the Orthodox Christian Church we remember St. Mary of Egypt. Additionally, during Great Lent we also remember her on the the 5th Sunday of the fast, which will be April 10th this year.
St. Mary was born in Egypt in the fifth century, and at the age of 12 began to live a life of "debauchery" in Alexandria and spent the next 17 years in such an unfortunate manner. It wasn't until a life-changing encounter in Jerusalem that the course of her life took a 180° turn and St. Mary fled to the desert to live the rest of her days in repentance. St. Mary's life is tremendous witness of battle and victory and it is no wonder why we remember her specifically during Great Lent. Here's a longer version of her life and that of Abba Zosimas, the priest who discovered her living in the desert as a hermit: St. Mary of Egypt
Continuing with the reflections from The Prologue of Ohrid by St. Nikolai Velimirovic, here is his reflection on St. Mary of Egypt:
Why is it that much is said and written about the sufferings of holy men and holy women? Because the saints alone are considered victors. Can anyone be a victor without conflict, pain and suffering? In ordinary earthly combat, no one can be considered victorious or heroic who has not been in combat, endured much or suffered greatly. The more so in spiritual combat, where the truth is known, and where self-boasting not only does not help at all but, indeed, hinders it. He who does not engage in combat for the sake of Christ, either with this world, with the devil or with one's self, how can he be counted among the soldiers of Christ? How then is it with Christ's fellow victors? St. Mary spoke about her savage spiritual combat to Elder Zosimas: "For the first seventeen years in this wilderness, I struggled with my deranged lusts as though with fierce beasts. I desired to eat meat and fish, which I had in abundance in Egypt. I also desired to drink wine, and here I did not have even water to drink. I desired to hear lustful songs. I cried and beat my breast. I prayed to the All-pure Mother of God to banish such thoughts from me. When I had sufficiently wept and beat my breast, it was then that I saw a light encompassing me on all sides, and a certain miraculous peace filled me."