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Come As You Are

by Molly Sabourin

Yesterday after liturgy, my friend and fellow parishioner, Steve, gave a brief lesson on Saint Mary of Egypt. He told about her enslavement to her lusts and addictions, and her impulsive trip to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, throughout which she continued to gratify her rampant sexual desires. Once she finally arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, however, she was prohibited from entering by an invisible force.

Moved by an icon of Christ and the Theotokos to sudden, overwhelming remorse for her impurity, she prayed for forgiveness and promised to live a life of continuous repentance, if only she could enter the Church and receive the Eucharist. St. Mary’s wish was granted and, true to her word, she spent the remaining years of her life in penitent prayer, wandering the desert as a hermit.

It’s a remarkable story, especially in this day and age where an ascetical dedication to selflessness is looked upon as strange and disempowering. St. Mary gets under my skin with her all or nothing commitment to cutting out of her life that which was sinful and damaging to her soul. Her devotion is mind blowing – so very, very difficult to comprehend.

What I should do, is be inspired by St. Mary to make even more of an effort to eradicate from my own life ungodly lusts and passions. What I often do, however, is squirm in discomfort at the huge intimidating chasm between her uncompromising interpretation of “obedience” and mine, which is considerably less extreme to say the least.

And that is why Steve’s insightful takeaway on St. Mary of Eygpt’s striking journey toward salvation was such a blessing to me. “St. Mary was already an intense person before her conversion,” he said. “After her transformative experience in Jersusalem, she didn’t change who she was but redirected that intensity toward repentance. “

He went on, unknowingly, to speak directly to my insecurities by referring to the temptation to try and deny who God made us to be for the sake of piety. In other words, mistakenly believing that St. Mary’s path to redemption, or your path to redemption, should look exactly like mine, and therefore the quirks and characteristics that make us “different” must be holding us back from reaching our full spiritual potential.

 

Read the Rest at her blog Close to Home...

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