Most people struggle with lust from time to time. We all aren’t so overcome by it that we have violated anyone else. But, with so much “eye candy” presented to us in every form of media, we are all guilty of thoughts and actions that we are ashamed of. Of course, we Christians are quick to say, “Just Take It To Jesus And Pray.” And this is the ultimate solution to our struggle with impure sexual thoughts, words, and actions. But, our Lord also gives us forerunners who have struggled with and overcame the same sins which besiege us today as there is nothing new under the sun. Among such great men and women who have been transformed by the power of repentance and forgiveness is Mary of Egypt.
Mary was a sex addict. She gave into lust at the age of 12. In her story to the monk/priest Zosimas, she wasn’t forced into prostitution or the victim of rape or incest. She just loved sex and would give herself simply for pleasure and not money. After some 17 years of her shameless behavior, she joined a group of pilgrims sailing from Egypt to Jerusalem to venerate the Holy Cross. She used her body to pay her fare constantly tempting men to have their way with her.
When she came to the church, she sought to enter. Time and time again, she was blocked by an invisible force. She realized that the force was her own sinful lifestyle that kept her from entering the church. She grieved deeply at this revelation. Seeing an icon of the Theotokos, Mary repented of her lustfulness promising that if she were allowed to worship at the Cross that she would no longer live in her sexual exploits. After her prayer, she was able to walk into the church and worship.
Mary made good on her promise. She crossed the Jordan River and went into the desert with nothing more than three loaves of bread and the clothes on her back. Led by the Holy Spirit, she lived in the desert for 47 years repenting of her sins. This was no easy feat. The thoughts of her former pleasures tormented her. The desire for meats, wine, and other things also tempted her to leave the desert. Yet, she constantly prayed in deep humility and tears to be free from her lust. It took some 17 years of struggles to be free from her sexual addiction and lust.
It wasn’t until she met Zosimas in the desert that she even saw and spoke to another person. By that time, her clothing was completely gone and he gave her his outer robe to cover her. He saw the holiness of her story and her prayers. The following year, he was able to give her the Eucharist. The year after that, Mary was found dead.
Mary shows us that sexual immorality keeps us from the fullness of Christ. Oh, we may still go to church and worship. We may even make excuses for what we do. “They were just pictures. I was born this way. We are in love, so it’s okay.” Let’s stop fooling ourselves. The sexually immoral will have no part in the kingdom of God. Mary shows us that our repentance must be serious. Casually saying, “well, the Lord knows my heart,” is not enough. There should be a deep sorrow for what we have done and a serious commitment to change our ways. Mary shows us that our struggle against sin is not always over in an instant. Some addictions are stubborn to leave us and can only be overcome by (as our Lord taught His disciples) by prayer and fasting. And indeed, fasting should be a part of the life of the faithful. By following Mary’s example of following Christ, we can overcome even the worst of our sexual sins and live in purity.
Having been a sinful woman,
You became through repentance a Bride of Christ.
Having attained angelic life,
You defeated demons with the weapon of the Cross;
Therefore, O most glorious Mary you are a Bride of the Kingdom!