On this the fifth Sunday of Lent we remember St Mary of Egypt whose story is an inspiration to those who struggle with sexuality and intimacy. The life of St Mary of Egypt by St Sophronius is available online.
As we begin thinking about the journey of Christ to his glorification in crucifixion and resurrection, the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt is a reminder that we are all included in this journey with Christ, no matter what our past sins and no matter what defilement of our souls and bodies we have participated in and/or been addicted to. Mary described herself as “a fire of public debauch”, saying that she behaved as such without even the excuse of doing it for money, as she often even refused money but behaved according only to her passions and desires. And yet, upon seeing a true image of humanity in the icon of the Theotokos, she repented long years in the desert, so that in the end, when she met St Zosimas, he saw that she was beautiful like an angel.
Fr Thomas Hopko describes how he experienced the poignancy of the icon of the Theotokos in the centre of the church, after the Friday akathist, being replaced by that of St Mary of Egypt in the same frame of flowers, indicating that every one us, no matter what our sin, has the potential to take our place with the most holy and most pure Theotokos. Fr Thomas’s talk is available on the Ancient Faith website.
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, St. Mary, rejoices with the Angels.
Having escaped the fog of sin, and having illumined thy heart with the light of penitence, O glorious one, thou didst come to Christ and didst offer to Him His immaculate and holy Mother as a merciful intercessor. Hence thou hast found remission of transgressions, and with the Angels thou ever rejoicest.
— troparion and kontakion of St Mary of Egypt