Mary was one of the many Ammas (or “mothers”) of the desert, and may stand for us as a representative of all the named and unnamed Desert Mothers, hermits and penitents.  She ran away from her home in Egypt, and from the age of twelve was a prostitute in Alexandria.  Eventually, aged 29, just out of curiosity she joined a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, paying her passage by offering herself to sailors.  An unknown force kept her from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with other pilgrims, and she crossed the Jordan, living there for 47 years as a penitent. She had left the city’s crowds, like many another Amma, to find a place of solitude to seek God only, face to face, to know her God and to be known and truly seen, yet loved and claimed as His.

Mary was a warrior who faced herself and lived to tell the tale of love that frees and draws and heals.  Like John the Beloved Apostle (see December 27th), she leaned upon Jesus’ breast and heard the heart of God. In the Eastern churches a story about her is read as part of the liturgy for the last Thursday in Lent.  It tells of a monk called Zosimus who discovered her in the desert and heard her story.  Later he returned and brought her Communion.  He never forgot her and planned to meet up with her again a year later.  When he arrived, he found her dead and was on hand to bury her

Merciful God, in Your grace bring me to that point in my experience when I can face up to myself – my faults and my virtues, my triumphs and my disasters. May I be able to come face to face with You and Your unconditional love, calling me to freedom and healing. Bring me, Lord, to lean upon my Saviour’s breast and hear the heartbeat of God. Amen.