|Venerable Mary of Palestine (Feast Day - September 29)|
By Cyril of Scythopolis
(From the "Life of Saint Kyriakos")
It would be profitable to relate the following, which Father John, the disciple of the blessed Kyriakos, told me as we walked through the desert. At one point, he stopped and said, "There is the abode of the blessed Mary."
I asked him to tell me of her, and he began by saying, "Some time ago, as I was going with my friend, Brother Paramon, to Father Kyriakos, we saw a man standing in the distance. Thinking that he was a hermit, we hastened toward him, that we might revere him. As we drew near, he hid himself from us. We were seized with fear and held fast in terror, for we thought we had seen an evil spirit, and we began to pray. After we had prayed, we looked about and noticed a cave in the earth, and we understood that he was no evil spirit but a servant of God who concealed himself from us. We approached the cave and besought him to reveal himself to us for God's sake, that we be not deprived of his prayers and edifying discourse. And we heard from the cave the following reply, 'What profit do you think to receive of me? I am a sinful and simple woman.' Then she asked us, 'Where are you going?'
We replied, 'We are going to Father Kyriakos the hermit, but tell us, for God's sake, what is your name and what manner of life do you lead? Where are you from and why have you come here?'
She replied, 'Go to where you are going, and when you return, I shall tell you.'
But we refused, and vowed, saying, 'We shall not depart until we learn your name and you tell us of your life.'
When she saw we were not going to leave without her first appearing to us from her cave, she began to tell us about herself. 'My name is Mary,' she said, 'and I was a psalm reader at the holy temple of Christ's Resurrection. The devil wounded many through me. I became afraid that I had become the cause of temptation and vile thoughts in others and that I might add to my own sins, so I prayed to God earnestly to deliver me from sin and temptation. One night, my heart full of compunction and the fear of God, I went to Siloam and filled a vessel with water. I also took a basket with soaked wheat and left the Holy City. Entrusting myself to God's help, I departed into the wilderness. God was pleased to lead me here where I have lived for eighteen years. By the grace of God, neither the water nor the wheat in the basket have failed me. But I beg you, go now to Father Kyriakos and do what you must do. When you return, visit me, the wretched one.'
We went to Father Kyriakos and told him all that we had heard from the blessed Mary. Father Kyriakos marveled and said, 'Glory to You, our God! How many are Your saints - not only men, but women as well - who labor for You in secret! Go now, my children, to God's handmaiden, and do whatever she tells you.'
As we returned from Father Kyriakos, we arrived at the cave of the blessed Mary, and we cried out thus, 'O handmaiden of God Mary! We have come, just as you told us to!" But there was no reply.
We entered the cave and found that she had reposed in the Lord. Her holy body emitted a sweet fragrance, but we had nothing with which to clothe and bury her. We then went to the monastery and brought all things necessary, and having dressed her, we buried her in the cave, sealing the opening with a stone."
As Father John told me these things, I marveled at the life of this handmaiden of God, and I resolved to commit it to writing, that those who heard it be moved to compunction and that God, Who loves mankind and is merciful to them that love Him, might be glorified.
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By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
At first, Mary was a reader of the Psalter in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. Because she was of beautiful countenance, many who gazed upon her were tempted by lustful thoughts. So that she would no longer be a cause of temptation for men, Mary withdrew into the wilderness of Souka with a basket of beans and an earthenware jug of water. St. Mary lived in the wilderness for eighteen years. By God's power, neither the beans nor the water ran out. The disciples of St. Kyriakos found her during her lifetime, and later buried her.
HYMN OF PRAISE: Saint Mary of Palestine
The beautiful Mary was born beautiful,
And, faithful to Christ, she prayed to Him:
"Help me, my Lord, a helpless woman,
Show me, the lowly one, the path to salvation.
With Thy help, I struggle not to sin,
But my face is a temptation to the weakness of others."
Mary bowed with tears to the Living God,
And hid in the wilderness from the eyes of men.
Mary conversed with God, and that was her reward.
Her soul shone brighter than pure gold.
Her body withered with the passing years,
And an angel raised the heavenly woman up to Paradise.
She now rejoices, radiant among the angels,
And Saint Mary prays to God for us.