Fifth Sunday of Lent | St. Mary of Egypt

March 24, 2018

Reflection by Dr. Gayle Woloschak
Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

In you the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother; for taking up your cross, you did follow Christ, and by your deeds you did teach us … to attend to the soul. —Apolytikion, Plagal of the Fourth Tone

Nearing the end of the Lenten journey, we see Pascha approaching, but we have not arrived yet. The story of St. Mary of Egypt demonstrates that it is never too late in life—or Lent—to attend to eternal matters.

St. Mary initially lived a life of debauchery. She once traveled to Jerusalem with some pilgrims, herself looking for fun; upon attempting to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, she felt a force preventing her. Suddenly aware of her impurity, she prayed for forgiveness and was able to enter. She repented, received absolution, and entered the wilderness, where she lived in fasting and repentance for the rest of her life.

Sometimes we too experience a moment of realization. We must repent. And after repentance comes action. Though we are not all called to solitude as St. Mary was, we can all turn from sin, toward Christ. When we fast, we grow our compassion for the hungry and the poor, as well as our knowledge of how much we need God’s mercy.

O Holy Trinity, teach me to repent and to honor You by offering service to Your children near and far.