Christ is risen from the dead. Trampling down and death by death. And to those in the tombs, He is bestowing life.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!
It was a joy to “worship” with you for the last two Sundays, as I was able to join St. Anna’s via YouTube for the Liturgies celebrated by Frs. Lou Christopulos and Daniel Payne. I am grateful for their service while we were away. I am just as grateful to be back, refreshed and ready to get going on what will prove to be a very busy summer. The events of the summer will begin this Sunday as we finish our Sunday School Year with graduation to take place following the Divine Liturgy. We bless our Program Graduates, Markella Savas, Zachary Petrogeorge and Eleni Yannias. We also extend our blessings and congratulations to all high school and college graduates.
I also wish to extend an invitation to our Annual Spring Parish Assembly that will take place following the services this Sunday, May 30th. There is much to discuss and learn about, including the sale of the home donated to St. Anna’s, the next, possible stages of our church build out, and the updates to our Covid safety protocols. These are all very positive and exciting points of discussion. I don’t think anyone will want to miss out on this information.
Specifically to the point of our Medical Advisory Ministry Team (MAM), I would like to share in advance of the Assembly, some highlighted points from our ministry chair, Dr. Julie Steele. She and her committee have worked extremely hard for the last year to keep us as safe as possible while walking the fine, ever-changing and difficult line of balancing our tolerance levels with our legitimate concerns. I praise them for their diligence, expertise and fidelity to our Lord and His precious children who are entrusted to our care. Here are Julie’s initial thoughts for us:
Based on the updated CDC guidelines for individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and recent state legislation, masks and face coverings will no longer be required at St. Anna’s. The MAM has reviewed this guidance and supports this transition. In accordance with the CDC guidelines the MAM encourages individuals to wear a mask due to vaccination status and/or other personal factors.
The results of our recent survey show that the majority of respondents report that they have been or intend to get vaccinated. There was still some hesitancy about return to worship without masks or face coverings. The need to protect young unvaccinated children was a concern. We thank you for your participation in this survey and feel we had a good response rate.
As a reminder, people are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after completing the recommend vaccine schedule. This means that many of the youth in our community have not yet had an opportunity to be fully vaccinated, and it will be 1-2 months before they will be able to fully vaccinated as only the 2 dose vaccine is approved for youth.
Regardless of what someone chooses (mask or no mask), we are a community and ask everyone to be respectful of individual decisions on mask wearing. We also remind you to continue with your good hand hygiene and please stay home if you are sick. We will discuss more details of what this means for planning of summer activities, coffee hour, return of printed materials, choir and congregational singing at the General Assembly on Sunday (May 30th).
Special thanks to our diverse Medical Advisory Ministry for sharing their time and expertise, and to Tom Leitko for his amazing help with the survey.”
So my beloved in the Lord, the bottom-line take away, is that we are making progress toward a normalized way of life: at home, in society, at school, at work and in Church! I so look forward to the planning and implementation of in-person gatherings, ministry activities and all that we hold dear as a community. We are truly emerging from a dark and difficult place. You have been patient and lovely through a challenging year. I pray for those whom we have lost, knowing that their families are grounded in the promise of Resurrection to Life!
Please be aware that for a time in July, we will be discontinuing our livestreaming service for a short time. It’s now time that we remove the camera, computer, cables and cords from the front of the church and relocate our equipment to a more appropriate location. To those of us who depend on livestreaming, please know that we will make these changes as quickly as possible. I also remind you to contact me or your parish priest (for our beloved out-of-state brothers and sisters) to make sure that you are pastorally served and given the opportunity for a Sacramental participation at home. But hey, if you’ve just grown accustomed to livestream church – it’s time to come back! We miss you. I miss all of you.
There is much to say and much to look forward to in the coming days, weeks and months. Changes. Good changes. Fantastic changes. All to God’s glory and for the benefit of His faithful. Again, please be attentive at tomorrow’s Parish Assembly so you can hear everything first-hand. In celebration of God’s love, as evident in His third day rising, I remain,
With Love in the Resurrected Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!
We are just finishing Bright Week – the continued Day of Pascha. And though you are no doubt, and regrettably accustomed to typos slipping into my messages here and there, Bright Week being a single Day is not a misspelling. Bright Week, or Renewal Week is a continued celebration of the single event that is the Resurrection of Christ. It takes us to the first Sunday following the Resurrection, when we lift up the doubt and the proclamation of St. Thomas. Our specific Paschal celebration will come to a conclusion, but the Season of the Resurrection continues up until the Leave Taking of Pascha and the Feast of the Ascension.
But returning to our Holy Week and Pascha. Thank you to all who made our preparations and celebrations dignified and lovely. So much of what had been missed returned to us: groups of people engaged in fellowship and sacred tasks; children learning, growing and thriving in their faith; and the people of God worshiping, witnessing and glorifying their precious Savior. This was a transitional year. Next year, I hope to see all of us back and in our places and hearing your voices. We are on track for a return to our not-so-distant days of high energy, shared excitement and Christ-centered motivation. Our thoughts and actions are now squarely on building back our community, and transforming our liturgical space.
But just as many of you were able to return to the church for Holy Week and Pascha, there are those friends among us who continue to worship through live streaming. One such friend is Sister Nonna Harrison, an Orthodox Monastic who lives in the Los Angeles area; a well-respected academic and a kind soul. I was blessed to know Sr. Nonna while in California and have recently renewed our communication and friendship in Christ. She is a brilliant Patristic scholar, lecturer and author. When the timing is right for her, it is my full intention to bring her to St. Anna’s for a much-needed retreat.
Having received her permission to share a message she sent me, I’d like to tie some things together. Indeed, we are, and will continue to chant the clarion proclamation that Christ is Risen from the Dead. Pascha was last Sunday. But Mother’s Day is THIS Sunday, and Sr. Nonna, always the teacher, wove together a wonderful message about the ministry of the Theotokos in these days, and her continued relationship with her Son.
Dear Fr. Anthony,
Thank you for providing services for Holy Week and Pascha on You Tube. I was present at almost all of them. Sometimes a little later than when you were there. This has been a tremendous blessing to me. I would like to share with you some of my thoughts about Christ’s resurrection.
When he died, his whole human nature was still present and his body entered the tomb. His divine hypostasis and nature remained alive, of course. His soul went down to Hades. But the divine hypostasis remained united with each natural part of him and held them all together regardless of where each was. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, acting as one, raised his body and soul from the dead and sustained his personal unity. This was an act of restoration that could only be accomplished by the Creator. So Christ remains fully God and fully human. Once he is raised, his humanity also is active with God in the great work of raising humankind from the dead, a work that is ongoing and not as yet completed.
Christ’s human personal relationships with other people, such as his disciples, continue but are transformed by his resurrection. These relationships are an important part of his humanity. He knows us in a divine way and also in a human way. We know when we pray to him that he has himself experienced many basic things that we also undergo. For instance, he has experienced childhood, though we do not know many details since they are not included in the Gospels. He has also experienced many kinds of suffering that humans undergo. This helps us to pray to him.
His personal closeness with his Mother continues. During his Passion and after his death he heard her lamentations. The hymns of the church suggest that he answered her, speaking words of comfort and reassurance. She is now with her Son in heaven and is greatly glorified. His love for her grew after the resurrection, and so did her love for him. The Mother/Son relationship continues and is strengthened.
It is a blessing to her and to all humankind. Christ loves humans as his relatives through her. And she loves them for his sake, especially members of his Church. Therefore we pray to her with thanksgiving and praises, and also in our sins and in our needs, asking for her help. She is a loving mother to us. We ask her to pray to her Son for us. I do this especially when I fear his judgment.
With thanks and best wishes,
I thank Sr. Nonna for her lovely message that keeps us in the Moment, and allows us to find, yet another opportunity to lift up Panagia with love, respect, tenderness and awe.
So, may you all enjoy the blessings of the Resurrection! And may our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, nuns, female role models, teachers and friends be blessed for their nurturing ministry. Happy Mother’s Day! St. Thomas will have to share the day. I have to believe that his mother would approve.
Fr. Anthony Savas
St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church
Some Reminders: Please continue to bring case-lot items for our on-going food support ministry. People are in need. We are here to help!I have also attached the flyer for our Golf Classic Tournament. We are in need of teams and volunteers. Please, sign up and play!We are still about 12% off our 2021 Stewardship Goal as we hit mid-year. Please, Please, Please, if you have not done so, turn in your 2021 Pledge!Twelve percent may not sound like much, but it is. Let’s do this ! Thank you!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This is Sunday is the final Sunday of Great Lent. It is dedicated to our mother, the venerable St. Mary of Egypt. Please read this account of her life. It is long and detailed. But well worth the read. We may not identify with the particulars of her life. But we can appreciate her struggle and desire to be with God. May she ever pray and intercede for us!
Saint Zosimas (April 4) was a monk at a certain Palestinian monastery on the outskirts of Caesarea. Having dwelt at the monastery since his childhood, he lived there in asceticism until he reached the age of fifty-three. Then he was disturbed by the thought that he had attained perfection, and needed no one to instruct him. “Is there a monk anywhere who can show me some form of asceticism that I have not attained? Is there anyone who has surpassed me in spiritual sobriety and deeds?”
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Zosimas, you have struggled valiantly, as far as this is in the power of man. However, there is no one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). So that you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land, like Abraham from the house of his father (Gen 12:1), and go to the monastery by the Jordan.”
Abba Zosimas immediately left the monastery, and following the angel, he went to the Jordan monastery and settled in it.
Here he met Elders who were adept in contemplation, and also in their struggles. Never did anyone utter an idle word. Instead, they sang constantly, and prayed all night long. Abba Zosimas began to imitate the spiritual activity of the holy monks.
Thus much time passed, and the holy Forty Day Fast approached. There was a certain custom at the monastery, which was why God had led Saint Zosimas there. On the First Sunday of Great Lent the igumen (abbot) served the Divine Liturgy, everyone received the All-Pure Body and Blood of Christ. Afterwards, they went to the trapeza (place for a common meal) for a small repast, and then assembled once more in church.
The monks prayed and made prostrations, asking forgiveness one of another. Then they made a prostration before the igumen and asked his blessing for the struggle that lay before them. During the Psalm “The Lord is my Light and my Savior, whom shall I fear? The Lord is defender of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps 26/27:1), they opened the monastery gate and went off into the wilderness.
Each took with him as much food as he needed, and went into the desert. When their food ran out, they ate roots and desert plants. The monks crossed the Jordan and scattered in various directions, so that no one might see how another fasted or how they spent their time.
The monks returned to the monastery on Palm Sunday, each having his own conscience as a witness of his ascetic struggles. It was a rule of the monastery that no one asked how anyone else had toiled in the desert.
Abba Zosimas, according to the custom of the monastery, went deep into the desert hoping to find someone living there who could benefit him.
He walked into the wilderness for twenty days and then, when he sang the Psalms of the Sixth Hour and made the usual prayers. Suddenly, to the right of the hill where he stood, he saw a human form. He was afraid, thinking that it might be a demonic apparition. Then he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, which removed his fear. He turned to the right and saw a form walking southward. The body was black from the blazing sunlight, and the faded short hair was white like a sheep’s fleece. Abba Zosimas rejoiced, since he had not seen any living thing for many days.
The desert-dweller saw Zosimas approaching, and attempted to flee from him. Abba Zosimas, forgetting his age and fatigue, quickened his pace. When he was close enough to be heard, he called out, “Why do you flee from me, a sinful old man? Wait for me, for the love of God.”
The stranger said to him, “Forgive me, Abba Zosimas, but I cannot turn and show my face to you. I am a woman, and as you see, I am naked. If you would grant the request of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so I might cover my body, and then I can ask for your blessing.”
Then Abba Zosimas was terrified, realizing that she could not have called him by name unless she possessed spiritual insight.
Covered by the cloak, the ascetic turned to Zosimas: “Why do you want to speak with me, a sinful woman? What did you wish to learn from me, you who have not shrunk from such great labors?”
Abba Zosimas fell to the ground and asked for her blessing. She also bowed down before him, and for a long time they remained on the ground each asking the other to bless. Finally, the woman ascetic said: “Abba Zosimas, you must bless and pray, since you are honored with the grace of the priesthood. For many years you have stood before the holy altar, offering the Holy Gifts to the Lord.”
These words frightened Saint Zosimas even more. With tears he said to her, “O Mother! It is clear that you live with God and are dead to this world. You have called me by name and recognized me as a priest, though you have never seen me before. The grace granted you is apparent, therefore bless me, for the Lord’s sake.”
Yielding finally to his entreaties, she said, “Blessed is God, Who cares for the salvation of men.” Abba Zosimas replied, “Amen.” Then they rose to their feet. The woman ascetic again said to the Elder, “Why have you come, Father, to me who am a sinner, bereft of every virtue? Apparently, the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought you to do me a service. But tell me first, Abba, how do the Christians live, how is the Church guided?”
Abba Zosimas answered her, “By your holy prayers God has granted the Church and us all a lasting peace. But fulfill my unworthy request, Mother, and pray for the whole world and for me a sinner, that my wanderings in the desert may not be useless.”
The holy ascetic replied, “You, Abba Zosimas, as a priest, ought to pray for me and for all, for you are called to do this. However, since we must be obedient, I will do as you ask.”
The saint turned toward the East, and raising her eyes to heaven and stretching out her hands, she began to pray in a whisper. She prayed so softly that Abba Zosimas could not hear her words. After a long time, the Elder looked up and saw her standing in the air more than a foot above the ground. Seeing this, Zosimas threw himself down on the ground, weeping and repeating, “Lord, have mercy!”
Then he was tempted by a thought. He wondered if she might not be a spirit, and if her prayer could be insincere. At that moment she turned around, lifted him from the ground and said, “Why do your thoughts confuse you, Abba Zosimas? I am not an apparition. I am a sinful and unworthy woman, though I am guarded by holy Baptism.”
Then she made the Sign of the Cross and said, “May God protect us from the Evil One and his schemes, for fierce is his struggle against us.” Seeing and hearing this, the Elder fell at her feet with tears saying, “I beseech you by Christ our God, do not conceal from me who you are and how you came into this desert. Tell me everything, so that the wondrous works of God may be revealed.”
She replied, “It distresses me, Father, to speak to you about my shameless life. When you hear my story, you might flee from me, as if from a poisonous snake. But I shall tell you everything, Father, concealing nothing. However, I exhort you, cease not to pray for me a sinner, that I may find mercy on the Day of Judgment.
“I was born in Egypt and when I was twelve years old, I left my parents and went to Alexandria. There I lost my chastity and gave myself to unrestrained and insatiable sensuality. For more than seventeen years I lived like that and I did it all for free. Do not think that I refused the money because I was rich. I lived in poverty and worked at spinning flax. To me, life consisted in the satisfaction of my fleshly lust.
“One summer I saw a crowd of people from Libya and Egypt heading toward the sea. They were on their way to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I also wanted to sail with them. Since I had no food or money, I offered my body in payment for my passage. And so I embarked on the ship.
“Now, Father, believe me, I am very amazed, that the sea tolerated my wantonness and fornication, that the earth did not open up its mouth and take me down alive into hell, because I had ensnared so many souls. I think that God was seeking my repentance. He did not desire the death of a sinner, but awaited my conversion.
“So I arrived in Jerusalem and spent all the days before the Feast living the same sort of life, and maybe even worse.
“When the holy Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross of the Lord arrived, I went about as before, looking for young men. At daybreak I saw that everyone was heading to the church, so I went along with the rest. When the hour of the Holy Elevation drew nigh, I was trying to enter into the church with all the people. With great effort I came almost to the doors, and attempted to squeeze inside.
Although I stepped up to the threshold, it was as though some force held me back, preventing me from entering. I was brushed aside by the crowd, and found myself standing alone on the porch. I thought that perhaps this happened because of my womanly weakness. I worked my way into the crowd, and again I attempted to elbow people aside. However hard I tried, I could not enter. Just as my feet touched the church threshold, I was stopped. Others entered the church without difficulty, while I alone was not allowed in. This happened three or four times. Finally my strength was exhausted. I went off and stood in a corner of the church portico.
“Then I realized that it was my sins that prevented me from seeing the Life-Creating Wood. The grace of the Lord then touched my heart. I wept and lamented, and I began to beat my breast. Sighing from the depths of my heart, I saw above me an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Turning to Her, I prayed: ‘O Lady Virgin, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word! I know that I am unworthy to look upon your icon. I rightly inspire hatred and disgust before your purity, but I know also that God became Man in order to call sinners to repentance. Help me, O All-Pure One. Let me enter the church. Allow me to behold the Wood upon which the Lord was crucified in the flesh, shedding His Blood for the redemption of sinners, and also for me. Be my witness before Your Son that I will never defile my body again with the impurity of fornication. As soon as I have seen the Cross of your Son, I will renounce the world, and go wherever you lead me.’
“After I had spoken, I felt confidence in the compassion of the Mother of God, and left the spot where I had been praying. I joined those entering the church, and no one pushed me back or prevented me from entering. I went on in fear and trembling, and entered the holy place.
“Thus I also saw the Mysteries of God, and how God accepts the penitent. I fell to the holy ground and kissed it. Then I hastened again to stand before the icon of the Mother of God, where I had given my vow. Bending my knees before the Virgin Theotokos, I prayed:
‘O Lady, you have not rejected my prayer as unworthy. Glory be to God, Who accepts the repentance of sinners. It is time for me to fulfill my vow, which you witnessed. Therefore, O Lady, guide me on the path of repentance.’
“Then I heard a voice from on high: ‘If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest.’
“I immediately believed that this voice was meant for me, and I cried out to the Mother of God: ‘O Lady, do not forsake me!’
“Then I left the church portico and started on my journey. A certain man gave me three coins as I was leaving the church. With them I bought three loaves of bread, and asked the bread merchant the way to the Jordan.
“It was nine o’clock when I saw the Cross. At sunset I reached the church of Saint John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the church, I went down to the Jordan and washed my face and hands in its water. Then in this same temple of Saint John the Forerunner I received the Life-Creating Mysteries of Christ. Then I ate half of one of my loaves of bread, drank water from the holy Jordan, and slept there that night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crossed the river to the opposite shore. Again I prayed that the Mother of God would lead me where She wished. Then I found myself in this desert.”
Abba Zosimas asked her, “How many years have passed since you began to live in the desert?”
“‘I think,” she replied, “it is forty-seven years since I came from the Holy City.”
Abba Zosimas again asked, “What food do you find here, Mother?”
And she said, “I had with me two and a half loaves of bread when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried out and hardened. Eating a little at a time, I finished them after a few years.”
Again Abba Zosimas asked, “Is it possible you have survived for so many years without sickness, and without suffering in any way from such a complete change?”
“Believe me, Abba Zosimas,” the woman said, “I spent seventeen years in this wilderness [after she had spent seventeen years in immorality], fighting wild beasts: mad desires and passions. When I began to eat bread, I thought of the meat and fish which I had in abundance in Egypt. I also missed the wine that I loved so much when I was in the world, while here I did not even have water. I suffered from thirst and hunger. I also had a mad desire for lewd songs. I seemed to hear them, disturbing my heart and my hearing. Weeping and striking myself on the breast, I remembered the vow I had made. At last I beheld a radiant Light shining on me from everywhere. After a violent tempest, a lasting calm ensued.
“Abba, how shall I tell you of the thoughts that urged me on to fornication? A fire seemed to burn within me, awakening in me the desire for embraces. Then I would throw myself to the ground and water it with my tears. I seemed to see the Most Holy Virgin before me, and She seemed to threaten me for not keeping my vow. I lay face downward day and night upon the ground, and would not get up until that blessed Light encircled me, dispelling the evil thoughts that troubled me.
“Thus I lived in this wilderness for the first seventeen years. Darkness after darkness, misery after misery stood about me, a sinner. But from that time until now the Mother of God helps me in everything.”
Abba Zosimas again inquired, “How is it that you require neither food, nor clothing?”
She answered, “After finishing my bread, I lived on herbs and the things one finds in the desert. The clothes I had when I crossed over the Jordan became torn and fell apart. I suffered both from the summer heat, when the blazing heat fell upon me, and from the winter cold, when I shivered from the frost. Many times I fell down upon the earth, as though dead. I struggled with various afflictions and temptations. But from that time until the present day, the power of God has guarded my sinful soul and humble body. I was fed and clothed by the all-powerful word of God, since man does not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God (Dt 8:3, Mt.4:4, Luke 4:4), and those who have put off the old man (Col 3:9) have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24:8, Heb 11:38). When I remember from what evil and from what sins the Lord delivered me, I have imperishable food for salvation.”
When Abba Zosimas heard that the holy ascetic quoted the Holy Scripture from memory, from the Books of Moses and Job and from the Psalms of David, he then asked the woman, “Mother, have you read the Psalms and other books?”
She smiled at hearing this question, and answered, “Believe me, I have seen no human face but yours from the time that I crossed over the Jordan. I never learned from books. I have never heard anyone read or sing from them. Perhaps the Word of God, which is alive and acting, teaches man knowledge by itself (Col 3:16, 1 Thess 2:13). This is the end of my story. As I asked when I began, I beg you for the sake of the Incarnate Word of God, holy Abba, pray for me, a sinner.
“Furthermore, I beg you, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, tell no one what you have heard from me, until God takes me from this earth. Next year, during Great Lent, do not cross the Jordan, as is the custom of your monastery.”
Again Abba Zosimas was amazed, that the practice of his monastery was known to the holy woman ascetic, although he had not said anything to her about this.
“Remain at the monastery,” the woman continued. “Even if you try to leave the monastery, you will not be able to do so. On Great and Holy Thursday, the day of the Lord’s Last Supper, place the Life-Creating Body and Blood of Christ our God in a holy vessel, and bring it to me. Await me on this side of the Jordan, at the edge of the desert, so that I may receive the Holy Mysteries. And say to Abba John, the igumen of your community, ‘Look to yourself and your brothers (1 Tim 4:16), for there is much that needs correction.’ Do not say this to him now, but when the Lord shall indicate.”
Asking for his prayers, the woman turned and vanished into the depths of the desert.
For a whole year Elder Zosimas remained silent, not daring to reveal to anyone what he had seen, and he prayed that the Lord would grant him to see the holy ascetic once more.
When the first week of Great Lent came again, Saint Zosimas was obliged to remain at the monastery because of sickness. Then he remembered the woman’s prophetic words that he would not be able to leave the monastery. After several days went by, Saint Zosimas was healed of his infirmity, but he remained at the monastery until Holy Week.
On Holy Thursday, Abba Zosimas did what he had been ordered to do. He placed some of the Body and Blood of Christ into a chalice, and some food in a small basket. Then he left the monastery and went to the Jordan and waited for the ascetic. The saint seemed tardy, and Abba Zosimas prayed that God would permit him to see the holy woman.
Finally, he saw her standing on the far side of the river. Rejoicing, Saint Zosimas got up and glorified God. Then he wondered how she could cross the Jordan without a boat. She made the Sign of the Cross over the water, then she walked on the water and crossed the Jordan. Abba Zosimas saw her in the moonlight, walking toward him. When the Elder wanted to make prostration before her, she forbade him, crying out, “What are you doing, Abba? You are a priest and you carry the Holy Mysteries of God.”
Reaching the shore, she said to Abba Zosimas, “Bless me, Father.” He answered her with trembling, astonished at what he had seen. “Truly God did not lie when he promised that those who purify themselves will be like Him. Glory to You, O Christ our God, for showing me through your holy servant, how far I am from perfection.”
The woman asked him to recite both the Creed and the “Our Father.” When the prayers were finished, she partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Then she raised her hands to the heavens and said, “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”
The saint turned to the Elder and said, “Please, Abba, fulfill another request. Go now to your monastery, and in a year’s time come to the place where we first time spoke.”
He said, “If only it were possible for me to follow you and always see your holy face!”
She replied, “For the Lord’s sake, pray for me and remember my wretchedness.”
Again she made the Sign of the Cross over the Jordan, and walked over the water as before, and disappeared into the desert. Zosimas returned to the monastery with joy and terror, reproaching himself because he had not asked the saint’s name. He hoped to do so the following year.
A year passed, and Abba Zosimas went into the desert. He reached the place where he first saw the holy woman ascetic. She lay dead, with arms folded on her bosom, and her face was turned to the east.
Abba Zosimas washed her feet with his tears and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else. For a long while he wept over her and sang the customary Psalms, and said the funeral prayers. He began to wonder whether the saint would want him to bury her or not. Hardly had he thought this, when he saw something written on the ground near her head: “Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust what is dust. Pray to the Lord for me. I reposed on the first day of April, on the very night of the saving Passion of Christ, after partaking of the Mystical Supper.”
Reading this note, Abba Zosimas was glad to learn her name. He then realized that Saint Mary, after receiving the Holy Mysteries from his hand, was transported instantaneously to the place where she died, though it had taken him twenty days to travel that distance.
Glorifying God, Abba Zosimas said to himself, “It is time to do what she asks. But how can I dig a grave, with nothing in my hands?” Then he saw a small piece of wood left by some traveler. He picked it up and began to dig. The ground was hard and dry, and he could not dig it. Looking up, Abba Zosimas saw an enormous lion standing by the saint’s body and licking her feet. Fear gripped the Elder, but he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, believing that he would remain unharmed through the prayers of the holy woman ascetic. Then the lion came close to the Elder, showing its friendliness with every movement. Abba Zosimas commanded the lion to dig the grave, in order to bury Saint Mary’s body. At his words, the lion dug a hole deep enough to bury the body. Then each went his own way. The lion went into the desert, and Abba Zosimas returned to the monastery, blessing and praising Christ our God.
Arriving at the monastery, Abba Zosimas related to the monks and the igumen, what he had seen and heard from Saint Mary. All were astonished, hearing about the miracles of God. They always remembered Saint Mary with faith and love on the day of her repose.
Abba John, the igumen of the monastery, heeded the words of Saint Mary, and with the help of God corrected the things that were wrong at the monastery. Abba Zosimas lived a God-pleasing life at the monastery, reaching nearly a hundred years of age. There he finished his temporal life, and passed into life eternal.
The monks passed on the life of Saint Mary of Egypt by word of mouth without writing it down.
“I however,” says Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem (March 11), “wrote down the Life of Saint Mary of Egypt as I heard it from the holy Fathers. I have recorded everything, putting the truth above all else.”
“May God, Who works great miracles and bestows gifts on all who turn to Him in faith, reward those who hear or read this account, and those who copy it. May he grant them a blessed portion together with Saint Mary of Egypt and with all the saints who have pleased God by their pious thoughts and works. Let us give glory to God, the Eternal King, that we may find mercy on the Day of Judgment through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory, honor, majesty and worship together with the Unoriginate Father, and the Most Holy and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
With Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas