Saint Mary of Egypt
Commemorated on April 1 and the fifth Sunday in Great Lent.
Father Zacharias (Zacharou)
As for repentance, this all-embracing practice builds and keeps the heart more than any other undertaking. Repentance has a wondrous and holy purpose. The person who repents bears witness to the living God of our Fathers as a God Who is righteous and true in all His desires, all His ways and judgments. But repentance also acknowledges the fact that man is a liar, deluded by sin, and therefore deprived of the honour and glory which God gave him in the beginning. And this is where the person who would repent must begin: he confesses his sinfulness, taking his sin upon himself in humility and self-condemnation. There is no trace of audacity in his conversion, and he becomes true and attracts the Spirit of Truth, Who cleanses him from sin and justifies him. As St Silouan used to say, the Holy Spirit bears witness in his heart to his salvation. But the Lord too is justified, for He is true Who confirms the words of His Prophet: ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.’ For when man comes to himself and freely says from his heart, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son’, the voice of heavenly goodness then sounds in his soul: ‘All that I have is thine.’
In the early stages of repentance, the believer carries the small cross that God’s Providence, in His discernment and love for mankind, has foreseen in the life of each one of us. Our personal cross is shaped according to our specific need to be liberated from every form of passionate attachment, and unless we carry it we will never be able to love God our Creator and Benefactor with a free heart and run His course faithfully and steadily. In other words, we take up our cross in response to the commandment to repent, and it becomes the key to our entry into the great and eternal inheritance, which Christ gained for us through His Cross and Resurrection.
If we prepare the soil of our heart with the plough of repentance and continually irrigate it with the living water of grace, a time will come when ‘the day will dawn, and the day star will arise in our hearts’. At some point, the energy of the Spirit of Truth, which will have accumulated in the heart, will open and enlarge the heart infinitely, and it will embrace heaven and earth, and all that exists….The peace of Christ, the Prince of Peace will reign in his heart, and his every word will echo the treasure of perfection which he contains within himself. He will offer whatsoever overflows from the good treasure of his heart out of love for his fellows, and his enlarged heart will not exclude anyone. His spirit will scale eternal heights and survey the depths of the judgments of God’s compassion. He will offer up his prayer, bringing every soul before the Lord, and praying that God may fill the heart of each with the incorruptible consolation of His Spirit.
Source: Archimandrite Zacharias (Zacharou), The hidden man of the heart, edition Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex 2007.
Troparion St Mary of Egypt— Tone 8
In thee, O Mother, was exactly preserved what was according to the divine image. for thou didst take the cross and follow Christ, and by thy life, didst teach us to ignore the flesh, since it is transitory, but to care for the soul as an immortal thing. Therefore, thy spirit, Saint Mary, rejoices with the Angels.