Saint Mary of Egypt, also known as Mary the Egyptian, is a revered saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, celebrated on April 1st.
According to tradition, Mary was born in Egypt in the 5th century and was a prostitute for 17 years. She decided to pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. However, on the way, she stopped in Alexandria and boarded a ship to Jerusalem without paying her fare.
During the voyage, Mary experienced a profound spiritual awakening and decided to renounce her former life of sin and devote herself to God. When she arrived in Jerusalem, she went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and prayed for forgiveness. She then retired to the desert east of the Jordan River, where she lived as a hermit for the next 47 years, fasting and praying.
Mary became known for her asceticism and spiritual insight, and many people sought her advice and counsel. She is said to have performed miracles, including healing the sick and casting out demons.
Mary died in the desert. Later monk Zosimas discovered her body While wandering in the desert. Zosimas buried her body and spread the news of her holy life. Her relics were taken to Constantinople many years later, and a church was built in her honour.
We venerate Saint Mary of Egypt as an example of repentance and spiritual transformation. Her life serves as a reminder that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace and that it is never too late to turn to Him.
The icon of Saint Mary of Egypt is a famous depiction of the saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The icon typically shows Mary as a repentant sinner, kneeling before the cross with tears streaming down her face. She is often shown wearing tattered clothing and long, unkempt hair to symbolise her life as a hermit in the desert. In some versions of the icon, Mary is also shown receiving Holy Communion from the monk Zosimas, who discovered her in the desert. The icon of Saint Mary of Egypt serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of repentance and the infinite mercy of God.
We will be writing this icon in our next Intermediate Online Course, starting on April 27th 2023.