St. Symeon the New Theologian on St. Mary of Egypt

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

I know that you hear the life of Mary the Egyptian when it is read, not as though some one else were relating it, but as from herself. That woman, equal to the angels, revealed her poverty in the manner of a confession when she stated, “Even when men offered me the price of sin, as often happened, I did not take it. I did this, ” she says, “not because I was well supplied with the necessities of life, for I made my living by spinning hemp, but rather that I might have many lovers ready for my passion.” When she was about to take ship and go to Alexandria she was so poor that she did not have the price of her ticket nor money for her expenses. But after she had made her vow to the all-pure Mother of God and fled into the desert, she bought loaves with a couple of coins that someone had given her, and then crossed the Jordan and stayed in the desert until her death. She saw the face of no person except Zosimas, and so did not feed any hungry pauper or give drink to any thirsty person or clothe the naked or visit those in prison or give hospitality to strangers. (cf. Mt. 25:35ff.). On the contrary, she had driven many into the pit of perdition, and had received them as guests in the abode of sin! How then, tell me, will this woman be saved, and enter into the kingdom with the merciful? She had never forsaken wealth, nor given her posessions to the poor (Mt. 19:21, Lk. 12:33), nor ever performed any work of mercy, but instead became the cause of perdition for thousands of others. See how, if we claim that it is only by giving money and physical food that works of mercy are performed and the Lord is fed by these alone, and that only they are saved who so feed Him and give Him drink and minister to Him, and that those who fail to do so perish, we reach an absurd conclusion, and thus cast many of the saints out the kingdom! But it is impossible, impossible! (The Discourses, Chapter IX On Works of Mercy)

 

Comments

  1. But let us not think that this excuses us to not do works of mercy. St. Mary of Egypt was no doubt in constant prayer for those she wronged and the Church as a whole while she was in the desert. Prayer is undeed a work of mercy as St. Symeon implies.

    Thanks for the post Maximus!

  2. Amen! He is only stating that her eremitic life of deprivation and prayer was just as merciful as a life of repentant almsgiving.

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