Chapter XIX (continued), Life of St Mary of Egypt, Book 1dLife No 24
(Also St Marina, Virgin, further down page)
the ground with all the life knocked out of me, beset by a mountain of various demands and temptations.
"But through it all, in all sorts of ways, the power of God has kept my miserable body and soul together right up to this present moment. When I think of all the evils that the Lord has freed me from, I know that I have been fed by the food which does not perish (John 6.27); the hope of salvation which I possess is a feast which completely satisfies. I am fed and clothed by the covering of the word of God in whom all things consist. Man does not live by bread alone (Deuteronomy 83 & Matthew 4.4), but those who have not so much as a hole in the earth to hide in, [Rosweyde notes that this phrase is a quotation from Job, ch 24, according to the Septuagint, which explains the reference to Mary's knowledge of Job at the beginning of Chapter XX, below] and who have stripped off the covering of sin from themselves, are surrounded by the protection of the Lord."
Zosimas wondered at the way she used scriptural quotations from the books of Moses, Job and the Psalms.
"So you have read the Psalms, mother," he asked, "and other books of the sacred Scriptures?"
She gave a little smile.
"You must believe me that up to today I have not set eyes on any other human being since I crossed the Jordan, nor wild beast or any other sort of animal since the time I came to live in this wilderness. I never learnt to read at any time of my life, nor have I ever heard anyone singing psalms or reading the Scriptures. But the Word of God is alive and powerful, penetrating to the depths of the human mind (Hebrews 4.12).
"But this is the end of my story. And by the incarnation of the Word of God, I beg you to pray for me in my lustfulness."
The old man lost no time in bending the knee and prostrating himself.
"Blessed be the Lord God who alone does great marvels (Psalms 72.18)," he cried aloud, "glorious and stupendous things without number. Blessed are you, Lord God, who have showed me how you shower your gifts upon those who fear you (Psalms 31.19). Truly you have not hid yourself from those who seek you."
But she reached out to him, unwilling to let him prostrate himself before her.
"In the name of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, I charge you to tell no one what you have heard from me until such time as I am loosed from the bond of mortal flesh. If you are happy to agree to that, I will appear to you again in a year's time from now, and you will see me, by God's all-enveloping grace. And for the sake of the Lord, do what I am now asking you to do; don't cross over the Jordan at the time of the sacred fast next year, as is the custom of the monastery."
Zosimas was astounded to hear her talking about the rules of the monastery as if she knew everything there was to know about them - another thing which proclaimed the glory of God, who ever gives more than those who love him ask for.
"Stay in the monastery, abba, as I have asked," she said. "You won't be able to leave it even if you want to. On the evening of the feast of the most sacred Supper of the Lord, place a portion of the divine body and life-giving blood in a vessel suitable for such a great mystery, [In the Orthodox tradition Communion is still given to the faithful by a spoon from a chalice in which the bread has been mingled with the wine] and wait for me on your side of the Jordan, where I shall come to receive the life-giving gifts. Before I crossed the Jordan I received Communion in the church of the most blessed Forerunner, since when I have never communicated again, never shared in these sanctifying gifts. So I beg you, don't reject my request, don't fail to bring me the divine and live-giving mysteries in that hour when the Lord shared his divine supper with his disciples. You will have to tell this to John, the abbot of the monastery. Look to yourself and your own flock - there is much that needs amendment. But I don't want you to say anything of this to John until the Lord allows it."
So saying, she asked for a prayer from the old man, and ran off quickly into the inner desert.
Zosimas prostrated himself and kissed the ground on which her feet had stood, and giving glory and great thanksgiving to God he turned back, praising and blessing Jesus Christ our Lord and God.
He lived out the remainder of his journey into the desert and when he returned to the monastery he joined in their accustomed routine. He said nothing for the whole of the year, not daring to say anything about what he had witnessed, but he longed to gaze upon her face once more and kept on praying to God silently that this would again be granted to him. He sighed at how slowly the year seemed to pass.
When the first Sunday of the sacred fast came round again, all the others went out singing psalms in the usual way, but he was suffering from a slight fever, and had to stay behind in the monastery. Zosimas remembered how that holy woman had said to him, 'You won't be able to leave it even if you want to'. He recovered from his sickness after a few days, but stayed in the monastery. When the brothers all returned for the feast of the Lord's Supper he did as he had been asked. He put a portion of the spotless body and precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in a small chalice and packed a basket containing a few figs and dates and some lentils steeped in water. Late in the evening he went down to the banks of the Jordan where he sat down waiting for the holy woman to arrive. Although that blessed woman was a long time coming, he did not go to sleep, but gazed into the desert, longing to see her.
"Perhaps she has already come and gone away again, not finding me here," he wondered, and wept. He lifted his eyes up to heaven and prayed to God.
"You allowed me to see her once. Do not prevent me from seeing her again. Let me not go away unrewarded, cursed as a punishment for my sins."
As he prayed thus in tears, other thoughts came into his mind.
"Suppose she does come, what will she do? How will she cross the Jordan, seeing there is no ferry? She won't be able to come over to me, wretch that I am! Alas, how unfortunate I am! Alas, who can have prevented her appearing to me?"
As he was going over all these things in his mind, behold, she appeared! There she was, standing on the other side of the river. Zosimas was delighted at seeing her, and he rejoiced and glorified God. But then the thought that she would not be able to cross the river came back into his mind. However as he looked closely he saw her making the sign of the cross over the waters of the Jordan. The darkness of night was lit up by the splendour of the moon, which was at the full at that time. As soon as she had made the sign of the cross she stepped into the water and walked across the top of it as if it were dry land. Zosimas was awe-struck., and made as if to prostrate himself, but she cried out to prevent him.
"What do you think you are doing, abba! You are a priest and you are carrying the divine mysteries!"
At once he obeyed, and she came up out of the waters.
"Bless, father, bless," she said.
He hastened to comply, although he had been rendered almost speechless by the effect of such a glorious miracle.
"God has promised that the pure shall be like him," he said, "and truly God does not lie. Glory to Christ our God. Through your handmaid you have shown me how far short of true perfection my own thoughts have been."
The woman asked him to say the Creed and the Lord's prayer. When it was finished she offered the old man the kiss of peace, as is customary, and then received the gift of the life-giving mysteries.
"Now, O Lord, let your servant depart in peace," she cried, as she sighed, wept and raised her hands to heaven, "for my eyes have seen your salvation."
And to the old man she said,
"Forgive me abba, but I hope you will fulfil another request for me. Go back to your monastery, secure in the peace of God, but next year come through the river and journey to the place where you first spoke with me. Above all, don't forget, but come for the sake of God, and you shall see me again, as God wills."
"I wish I could come with you," he exclaimed, "just to have the joy of gazing at your wonderful face. But please, mother, grant one little request to an old man and accept this food I have brought with me."
And he showed her the basket he had brought. With the tips of her fingers she picked up three grains of the lentils and ate them, saying that the grace of the Spirit was sufficient to keep her soul alive.
"Pray for me, in the name of the Lord," she said to him, "and be mindful always of my unworthiness."
He touched her holy feet and prayed in tears, begging her also to pray for the Church and the Emperor and for himself, and so let her go, with tears and crying. Indeed, he did not dare try and detain her any longer, for he knew he would not be able to even if he wanted to.
She once again signed the Jordan with the cross, and walked back across the water in the same way as she had come. The old man went back, overflowing with a mixture of joy and fear. And he regretfully reproached himself that he had not asked her what her name was, but hoped he might do so when they met in the following year.
After the year had run its course, everything was done as usual, and he went into that vast desert, hastening to the place where he had first seen that glorious sight. But as he walked through the desert he could not find any signs of how to find the place he wanted. He looked right and left and glanced about everywhere, surveying the scene like a swift hunter searching for the sight of a favourable prey. But he could see no sign of any movement anywhere, and he began to be overcome by tears.
"Show me, O Lord, I pray," he said, lifting up his eyes, "the physical presence of your Angel, above compare in all the world."
After that prayer, he came immediately upon the place which looked like a raging river, and as he looked down on to the far side he saw a shining light, and the body of the holy woman lying dead, facing towards the East, with her hands crossed in the proper way. He ran down and bathed the feet of that most blessed woman with his tears, not daring to touch any other part of her body. He wept for some time, and sang the psalms proper to such an occasion, and said the prayers for the dead.
"I hope this is what the holy woman would have wished me to do," he mused, but hardly had he said this when he noticed some writing scratched in the sand.
"Abba Zosimas, give burial to the body of Mary, miserable sinner, and pray for me in the name of the Lord. The month of Pharmuthi, according to the Egyptians, [Pharmuthi was the eighth month of the Egyptian year which began on the 29th of April with the month of Thoth] April according to the Romans, on the ninth day, that is five days before the April Ides, at the time of the sacred passion, after receiving the communion of the divine and sacred supper."
As the old man read these words his first thought was who could have written them, for she had said that she had never learned to read. But at the same time he was overjoyed that he had learned her holy name. Then he thought how she must have arrived at this place to die at exactly the same hour as she had partaken of the mysteries at the river Jordan. The journey which had taken Zosimas twenty laborious days, she had accomplished in less than an hour before passing at once to the Lord! Zosimas glorified the Lord and washed the body with his tears.
"It is time to do what has to be done," he said. "But what shall I do? Unfortunately I have nothing to dig with. I have neither mattock nor hoe, nothing but my hands."
But even as he spoke he saw a piece of timber lying nearby and he began to dig with that. The earth was terribly hard and resisted all his efforts to dig into it. The task was not made any easier by his weakness after fasting, not to mention the fatigue brought on by his long journey. But he laboured on, with great long sighs, covered in sweat, and groaning deeply from the bottom of his heart. Suddenly he became aware of a huge lion standing near the holy woman's body licking her feet. He trembled with fear at the sight of how big this wild beast was, especially since he remembered that the holy woman had told him that she had never seen any wild beasts in those parts. He summoned up his courage and signed himself all over with the cross, believing also that the power of the one lying there would protect him from harm. The lion looked in his direction and bowed its head several times
"Since an animal so extremely large as you has been sent by God," Zosimas then said to the lion, "let us do what is required of us and commit the body of this servant of God to the ground. I am so weakened by old age that I cannot dig, and in any case I have not got any tool suitable for such work, besides which I have just made such a long journey that I have not got the strength to bring to the task. It is for you to carry out this task with your claws at God's command, so that we can commit to the ground this holy little body."
Immediately, in response to the old man's words, the lion hollowed out the ground with his paws to a sufficient depth to bury the saint's small body. He washed her feet with his tears, pouring forth many prayers that she might pray for all people and especially for him, and with the lion standing by, laid her body in the ground as naked as the day he first met her. She possessed nothing except the cloak he had taken off and thrown to her, with which she had covered her body.
They both then departed, the lion to the inner desert, as gentle as a lamb, and Zosimas, blessing and praising God and singing hymns to Christ our Lord, back to the monastery, where he told them the whole story right from the beginning. He missed nothing out of what he had seen and heard, so that everyone who heard about these mighty works of God might be filled with wonder and fear and love, and celebrate with great faith the passing to God of this most blessed saint. Abbot John took heed of what the holy woman had said and found that there were some monks who were lacking, whom by the mercy of the Lord God he corrected in their ways.
Zosimas stayed in that same monastery and reached the age of a hundred before departing to the Lord in peace. Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ, together with the Father and the life-giving and worshipful Spirit, to whom be all glory and honour and power, now and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The Life of St Marina, Virgin
[There are several Marinas. Rosweyde suggests this Marina is of Alexandria, celebrated on Feb 12].
by an anonymous author.
There was a certain man who left his small daughter in the care of his parents in order to fulfil his desire of taking up a monastic life. He joined a monastery thirty-two miles from the city, where he took note of the way everything was done, and soon discovered that the more he was obedient and faithful the more the abbot looked on him with approval. Now he had not been there long, before he began to think lovingly and regretfully of his daughter whom he missed very much. For several days he looked so sad that the abbot could not fail to notice.
"What is the matter, brother, that you look so sad?" asked the abbot. "Tell me all about it, and God will console you and come to your aid."
The brother fell weeping at the abbot's feet, but not wanting to tell the abbot that the child was a girl, he said,
"I have a small son whom I left behind in the city and I think about him a lot and miss him."
Now this brother was proving to be an asset to the monastery, and the abbot did not want to lose him, so he said,
"Well, if you love him so much go and get him and bring him back here and let him stay with you."
So he went and fetched the girl, whose name was Marina, but he changed her name and told the abbot it was Marinus, and in the monastery he taught her to read and was with her always. None of the brothers knew she was girl; they always called her Marinus. When she was fourteen the father began to teach her the way of the Lord.
"See to it, my daughter, that no one ever finds out your secret right up to the end of your life and beware of the wiles of the devil. Don't let him lead you astray and bring ruin upon this holy monastery. Strive in the sight of Christ and his holy Angels to win the crown, and be saved from eternal damnation with the wicked."
And every day he taught her many other things concerning the kingdom of heaven.
When she was seventeen her father died, and she remained alone in her father's cell, observing in every respect her father's teaching. She was obedient to everyone in the monastery, so that she found favour with the abbot and everyone else.
Now the monastery owned a pair of oxen and a cart, for there was a market three miles away on the sea coast, where the monks bought whatever the monastery was in need of.
"Brother Marinus," the abbot said one day, "why not go with the brothers and help them?"
"Whatever you say, father," she replied.
So brother Marinus began to help the brothers with the cart quite often, and if sometimes it got a bit too late for them to get back to the monastery, there was a lodging house in the market where they would stay.
Now by the wiles of the devil it so happened that the owner of the lodging house had a virgin daughter. A visiting soldier slept with this daughter and she became pregnant. As soon as her parents realised this they began to harass the girl.
"Tell us who the father is," they urged.
"It's that monk called brother Marinus," she said. "He forced me and I got pregnant."
Her parents went straight to the monastery and complained to the abbot.
"Look here, father abbot. See what your monk Marinus has done and how he has ruined our daughter."
"Just wait a minute," replied the abbot. "Let's see if what you are saying is true."
He summoned Marinus to come to him.
"Marinus," he said, "is it you who are responsible for this wicked deed with their daughter?"
She stood there, thinking, for quite some time, groaning inwardly.
"I have sinned, father," she said at last. "I repent of this sin. Pray for me."
The abbot was very angry and ordered that she be punished by a severe beating.
"I tell you this," he added. "Because you have done this wicked deed you may not stay in this monastery any longer."
And he ordered that Marinus be thrown out the door. But still she did not reveal to anyone the secret of her sex. She lay down in front of the monastery gates, doing penance, punishing herself as if she really were guilty, and begging a few mouthfuls of bread from the monks as they went in and out. This went on for three years. She refused to go away.
Meanwhile, the girl gave birth to a son, and when he was weaned the girls mother took him to the monastery and put him down in front of Marinus.
"There you are, brother Marinus," she said as she walked away. "Feed your own son in whatever way you can."
That holy virgin accepted him as her own son and fed him from the pieces of bread she was given by people going in and out of the monastery. She carried on doing this for a further two years, feeding somebody else's son.
By this time the sight of Marinus was making some of the brothers feel sorry for him and they began asking the abbot to take him back inside the monastery.
"Can't you forgive brother Marinus, abba," they asked, "and take him back inside? He has been doing penance lying outside the monastery gate for five years and has not made the slightest attempt to go away. Accept his repentance, as our Lord Jesus Christ commanded."
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