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St Mary the sinner ... a story from Eygpt-

St Mary, also called the sinner, lived 47 years in the desert making penance and suffering privations. Toward the end of her life, St. Zosimus of Palestine came upon her in the desert. When the Abbot asked her who she was and from where she came, this strange woman - burned and darkened by the sun - answered: Father, forgive me, but when I start to tell you my story you will run from me, as from a snake, for your ears will not be able to bear the vileness of my actions and the air will be contaminated by my impurity. "I am called Mary and I was born in Egypt. I went to Alexandria at age 12 and lived there 17 years as a public woman, giving myself to whoever wanted me. But one day, I learned that some inhabitants of this city were going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to adore the True Cross, and I asked the sailors to let me also go aboard.

They asked for money to pay for the journey, and I answered that I had none, but I offered my body instead. So the voyage was made. In Jerusalem, when I went with the other pilgrims to the church on the holy day of the Exaltation of the Cross, I felt an irresistible force that prevented me from crossing the doorstep. Three or four times I approached the doors of the church, and each time that invisible power prevented me from entering. All the others went in freely without any obstacle. Retreating to a corner of the porch, I began to understand the reason why I was prevented from being admitted to see the life-giving Cross. The word of salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that it was my impure life that barred the entrance to me. I began to weep and lament, and beat my breast and sigh from the depths of my heart. And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God. Turning to her my bodily and spiritual eyes, I begged her to obtain forgiveness for my sins and to order the entrance of the church to be opened to me so that I could adore the True Cross. In exchange, I promised to renounce the world and live in chastity. With this prayer, I acquired some hope and felt some confidence in the mercy of the Mother of God, and went again to enter the church. This time I was able to go in without any difficulty and found myself in the holy place. As I piously adored the Holy Cross, I heard a voice that said, If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest .

With these words, I left the church and set off on my journey. As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gave me three coins. Taking the money, I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey. I crossed the River Jordan and came to the desert, where I have lived for 47 years, never seeing a single human face during this whole time, feeding myself from those three loaves of bread that I brought with me. My dresses were reduced to tatters long ago. During the first 17 years I was tormented by temptations. After that, by the grace of God, I completely conquered them. This is my history. Then the old man, prostrating himself on the ground, praised God in the person of His servant. She told him: Now I ask you this. On sunset of the holy day of the Last Supper, bring me the Body of Christ. Wait for me on the banks of the Jordan, so that I can come and partake of the life-giving Gift. For during all the time I have been here, I have not approached the Holy Mysteries. The old man returned to his monastery, and the next year he returned to the banks of the Jordan bringing a consecrated Host. After waiting a while, he saw the holy woman appear and stand on the other side of the river, and he wondered how he could approach her since there was no boat. Then he saw that she made the Sign of the Cross over the waters and she at once stepped onto them and began walking across the surface until she reached him. In awe over the miracle, the religious man wanted to prostrate himself humbly at her feet, but she said: My Father, do not prostrate yourself before me, for you are a priest carrying the Body of Christ.

After receiving the Holy Eucharist, she asked him the favor to return one more time to the same place where she first met him. The next year Zozimus crossed the river and went to the place where he first met her. He found her lying dead in the sand. He wept with sorrow but did not dare to touch her remains, fearing to offend her since she was wearing nothing. As he was wondering whether to bury her, he read an inscription in the sand by her head: Abbot Zosimus, bury the body of humble Mary on this spot. Return to dust that which is dust and pray the Lord for me, who departed on April 2, on the very night of Our Lords Passion, after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries. [St. Mary died in the year 522]. Then Zosimus thought, It is time to do as she wished. But I am old and weak, and how am I to dig a grave with nothing but my hands? Then he saw a lion, which drew near and with its front paws it dug a hole deep enough to bury the body. After the body was buried, the lion went off into the depth of the desert like a lamb, while Zosimus returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ

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