Mary of Egypt, St.
MARY OF EGYPT, ST.
Penitent and ascetic; b. probably 344; d. c. 421. An early account of Mary of Egypt is in cyril of scythopolis's Life of Cyriacus (ed. E. Schwartz, Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 49.2:233.4–234.19). It was developed in legendary fashion by later Byzantine hagiographers using details from jerome's Life of Paul the Hermit, and was falsely attributed to sophronius of Jerusalem (634–638). A similar story was told by John Moschus (Pratum Spirituale ); and john damascene quoted the developed Life of St. Mary of Egypt, apparently regarding it as authentic.
Mary led an evil life in Alexandria for seventeen years after the age of twelve; then she accompanied a pilgrimage to Palestine for further adventure. In Jerusalem, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, she joined the crowd converging on the church in which the sacred relic was being venerated; but she was repelled by some secret force when she attempted to enter the church. In the courtyard of the church, near a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she promised to repent her evil ways if allowed to enter the church. Her prayer was granted, and she kissed the relic of the cross; she was moved to seek a solitude beyond the Jordan, where she did penance for her sins. After some 47 years Zosimus, a priest and monk, met her there; she called him by his name and asked him to meet her at the Jordan on Holy Thursday evening with the Holy Eucharist. Zosimus did so and was met by Mary, who walked upon the waters to his side of the river. She received Communion and asked that he come within the following year to the spot where he had first met her. There he found her corpse and beside it, written in the sand, a request for burial with the explanation that she had died the evening he gave her Holy Communion.
Feast: April 2 (Roman Martyrology); April 1 (Greek Church).
Bibliography: j. gammack, Dictionary of Christian Biography (London 1877–87) 3:830. f. l. cross, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church 868. Acta sanctorum Apr 1:68–90. Bibliographica hagiographica latina (Brussels 1898–1901) 5415–21. Bibliotheca hagiographica orientalis (Brussels 1910) 683–687. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie (Paris 1907–53) 10.2:2128–36. Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich (Munich 1959) 435. a. b. bujila, ed., La Vie de sainte Marie l'Égyptienne (Ann Arbor, Mich. 1949). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints (New York 1956) 2:14–16. m. s. decruz-sÁenz, The life of Saint Mary of Egypt: An Edition and Study of the Medieval French and Spanish Verse Redactions (Barcelona 1979). s. brusamolino isella, ed., La leggenda di santa Maria egiziaca (Milan 1992). The Legend of Mary of Egypt in Medieval Insular Hagiography, ed. e. poppe and b. ross (Blackrock, Co. Dublin 1996).
[e. d. carter]