On the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, the Church celebrates the memory of St. Mary of Egypt. This Lenten commemoration of St. Mary changes depending on the date of the celebration of Easter. It almost never coincides with the calendar, fixed day of her memory, which falls annually on April 1 according to the Julian, or 14 according to the modern secular, Gregorian calendar.
So, during the year, the memory of Mary is celebrated twice. There is a very important difference between the two memories. The fact is that once a year the Church celebrates in honor of Mary and her holiness, by the gift of grace. On this day, Mary is “just” one of the saints. Her past became life, all sinful was erased by the Cross of Christ. After all, she already, from now on and forever, abides with the Lord Jesus in the Communion of Saints in Glory. Belief in the Communion of Saints is proclaimed in the ancient Apostles' Creed. The Church does commemorate Mary and asks for her intercession.
In canonically painted icons, the believer who prays before the icon himself becomes the center of the sacred image. This phenomenon is called reverse perspective.
In turn, the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent is an attempt by the Church, as a Society of Believers, this Community of Repentance, to personally experience the circumstances and biography of this great repentant saint. This is the main meaning of the tradition of reading the life of St. Mary during divine services, which, despite universal literacy, is still preserved in our churches.
Lenten memory of Mary of Egypt retrospectively. It has a pronounced public, communal, conciliar character. It is full of grace. For grace is communication. And any genuine earthly human communication reflects grace, and vice versa.
The time of the life of St. Mary is unknown to us exactly. Most likely, she was a contemporary of another great repentant sinner, Saint Augustine (354-430). This time in the history of the Church is called the Golden Age of the Fathers of the Church.
At the same time, it is important to understand that female monasticism, as a place of penitent deed of penitent wives, did not yet exist in the Church. The monasteries of that time were organized around Christian women of noble birth, who, by the gift of grace, wished to serve God from their estates. Around them they gathered pious Christian widows and virgins, served pilgrims, the poor and the sick.
It was a big deal. However, in such circumstances, Mary of Egypt simply did not have a place to bend her Head. For many years she wandered in deserted places, particularly in the Judean desert, in the hope that the Lord would forgive her.
The uniqueness of the vita of Mary is in the manifestation of the abundance of the gift of grace for all truly penitent. At the same time, this is the remembrance of the Church about all those who, like Mary, truly repented, but could not save their name for history. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: to him who overcomes I will give to eat the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone and a new name written on the stone, which no one knows except the one who receives,” says the Lord in the Apocalypse (Rev.2.17). These holy women abide in the Communion of Saints and intercede for all who yearn to have time to repent in our last days.
The permanent day of memory of St. Mary is celebrated on April 1 according to the Julian calendar. This year, the Easter memory of Mary, according to the Gregorian calendar, falls on April 2. As if these two seemingly irreconcilable calendars, in these last times of universal division, together pointed to the world the image of a saint who from ancient times was revered by the entire Universal Church, in the East and West. Saint Mary of Egypt, by the power of grace, showed an example of the reunification of a person fragmented by sin and passions with righteousness and sanctification in Jesus Christ.