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Monday, April 4, 2011

Saint Zosimas of Palestine, Who Encountered Saint Mary of Egypt in the Wilderness

St. Zosimas of Palestine (Feast Day - April 4)

Verses

 Zosimas attended to Mary while alive,
He found her dead, but now they live together.

Saint Zosimas was born in the late fifth century, who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs. He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him by his elders as regards spiritual labors. He had also added a good deal himself whilst laboring to subject his flesh to the will of the spirit. And he had not failed in his aim. He was so renowned for his spiritual life that many came to him from neighboring monasteries and some even from afar. While doing all this, he never ceased to study the Divine Scriptures. Whether resting, standing, working or eating food (if the scraps he nibbled could be called food), he incessantly and constantly had a single aim: always to sing of God, and to practice the teaching of the Divine Scriptures.

Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother's breast, he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training as an ascetic till he reached the age of fifty-three. After that, he began to be tormented with the thought that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone, saying to himself mentally, "Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished? Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?"

Thus thought the elder, when suddenly an angel appeared to him and said:

"Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course. But there is no man who has attained perfection. Before you lie unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished. That you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham and go to the monastery by the River Jordan."

Zosimas did as he was told.

Thus at the age of fifty-three, Hieromonk Zosimas moved to a very strict monastery located in the wilderness close to the Jordan River, where he spent the remainder of his life.

He is best known for his encounter with Saint Mary of Egypt (Apr. 1) during the reign of Emperor Justinian I (527-565). It was the custom of that monastery for all of the brethren to go out into the desert for the forty days of Great Lent, spending the time in strict solitude, quietude, fasting and prayer, and not returning until Palm Sunday. While wandering in the desert at this time he met Saint Mary, who told him her life story as a confession and asked him to meet her the next year on Holy Thursday on the banks of the Jordan, in order to bring her Holy Communion. After communing her, she departed again for the wilderness and he returned to his monastery. The third year he came to her again in the desert, but he found that she had died and he buried her with the help of a lion. Saint Zosimas is reputed to have lived to be almost one hundred years of age.

All that we know of Zosimas' life comes from the Life of Saint Mary of Egypt, recorded by Saint Sophronios, who was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from 634 to 638. This Life is traditionally read as a part of the Matins of the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, on the Fifth Thursday of Great Lent.


Apolytikion in the First Tone
Let us the faithful praise Zosimas the offspring of the wilderness, the angel in the flesh and the boast of monastics. With him, let us acclaim holy Mary of Egypt whose life transcended the limits of nature. Together, let us cry to them: Glory to him who strengthened you! Glory to him who sanctified you! Glory to him who through you works healing for all.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Let us all praise the venerable Zosimas, the boast of monastics, and with him, Mary who in the desert lived the angelic life. Let us cry to them in faith: deliver from harm and corrupting passions, those who celebrate your radiant memory.

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