From the desk of Fr. Andrew

April 2019

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The fifth Sunday of Great and Holy Lent (Sunday, April 14th) is dedicated to Mary of Egypt.

In one of her accounts it is said that when Saint Mary was twelve years old she left her parents and went to Alexandria, Egypt where she lived a vulgar and perverted life for many, many years. One day she was motivated by curiosity and joined in a procession with many other Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of the Elevation of the Precious Cross. On the day the Cross was being elevated, when she went to enter the Church, she felt three or four times a certain invisible power preventing her from entering the Temple, despite the multitude of people entering the church unhampered. Something moved her deeply through that embarassing and unexplained experience, which caused made her to have a total change of heart. She decided to profoundly change her life and repented from her previous lustful and lewd way of life. She then returned to the Church in this new found repentance and thus easily entered the Temple with the others. She venerated the Precious Cross and departed the same day from Jerusalem. She passed the Jordan River and entered the innermost part of the desert, where she lived for forty some years. These years were for Mary years of very harsh and super human asceticism, years of prayer to God. Long story short, near the end of her life she met a certaini hermit named Zosimas, to whom she confessed her whole life and whom she asked to bring her the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This is said to have happened on Holy and Great Thursday the following year. When Fr. Zosimas returned a year later much to his surprise he found the body of Mary dead. Next to her were written the following words: "Abba Zosimas, bury here the body of wretched Mary. I died the same day on which I communed the immaculate mysteries. Pray for me."

From this account of Mary of Egypt we are reminded that no one is beyond the grace and love of God. There are many, many examples from the Old and New Testaments and from the "lives of the Saints" that remind us of this awesome mystery. All is takes is our willingness to make a change and to allow God to work in us. Yes, St. Mary's total and complete turnaround change (repentance) is pretty radical but as Orthodox Christians we are called to take a look at our lives and to see where we too can make a change as well. Yes, we may not live a life as sinful as St. Mary's but can we take a moment to reflect and to observe that yes indeed I too am in need of some change - some turning away - some repentance in my life? Of course we can. Each and every one of us fall short of what God has required from us; has asked form us. Unless we are familiar with Holy Scripture and/or our Holy Tradition we may convince ourselves that we are okay; we are fulfilling all that God/Christ has commanded from us because I haven't committed such and such a sin. However, when one reads the Bible or hears it from the pulpit we cannot deny that Christ calls us to a much higher calling and that the conclusion must be some kind of acknowledgement and some kind of turning around; some kind of deliberate repentance, something that makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us, and most importantly, in the eyes of God.

Praying for the rest of Great and Holy Lent to be fruitful,

God's continued blessing, +Fr. Andrew