[St. Pachomius Library]

St. Mary of Egypt
and St. Zosimus of Jerusalem

The story of an Alexandrian prostitute's conversion and subsequent life of miraculous asceticism is so important to the Eastern Orthodox that it is read aloud in church during the fifth week of Lent, in conjunction with the penitential Canon of St. Andrew. Zosimus was the priest who discovered Mary shortly before her repose. The historicity of the narrative has been attacked on the grounds that a number of other similar stories with different details and character names were widely circulated before St. Sophronius' narrative eclipsed them, and that some episodes in Sophronius parallel occurences in other, earlier saints' lives (in particular, in that of St. Paul of Thebes as recorded by St. Jerome.) One might respond to this by noting that in physical science the repeatability of an experiment is generally considered to be a desirable trait, and it is experiments which cannot be repeated that are viewed with suspicion. May we all seek to replicate St. Mary's successful experiment of repentance!

Norman Hugh Redington

Under construction --- far from complete! Read with caution.


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