Saint Mary of Egypt

April 1st or maybe April 2, depending on who you ask, is the feast day of the (possibly) sixth century St. Mary of Egypt.

I say “feast” loosely, as there does not seem to be any food associated with this occasion.

Briefly, this saint led a life of lust in Egypt, then traveled to Jerusalem,  became a saint, and spent the rest of her life in the desert, where she met Saint Zosimas of Palestine.  She was able to levitate, and walked on water to cross a river.  They spent a great deal of their conversation arguing about who was going to bless who. St Mary finally blessed Zosimas.

As far as the scholarship, you can read the thing here. There was a huge urban legend thing going on about female saints who went into the desert with very little food after giving up a life of lust in their late 30s.

There are some frescos associated with her, Panagia Asinou Church, Cyprus, maybe 12th century. I don’t see her in the frescoes, but whatever, they are very impressive.

Asinou Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains some of the finest Byzantine wall paintings on the island, dating from the 12th to the 17th century.

There is some orthodox tradition of the usual Troparion & Kontakion, but good luck finding any recordings.

Troparion & Kontakion

Troparion — Tone 8

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O mother, / For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. / By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away; / But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. / Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the Angels.

Kontakion — Tone 3

Having been a sinful woman, / You became through repentance a Bride of Christ. / Having attained angelic life, / You defeated demons with the weapon of the Cross; / Therefore, O most glorious Mary you are a Bride of the Kingdom!

I may not have found any good chanting for the occasion, but here is a video that is almost two hours long, a funky drama about the two saints: “Saint Mariam The Egyptian and Father Zosima”, with English subtitles. The beginning has an apparently religious-based copyright discussion by a priestly-looking bearded dude, also with English subtitles.  Or, if you get tired of that, and are still resting up from the March For Our Lives, skip ahead to Arvo Pärt’s very very nice Da pacem Domine, based on a ninth-century Gregorian chant in honor of the victims of the 2004 Madrid bombings.

St. Mary dramatization:

Arvo Pärt’s very very nice Da pacem Domine:


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