March 26, 2018

The Drowning of Mary, A Woman Who Was a Sinner

By St. John Moschos

Palladius also told us that he had heard a certain sea captain once tell him about a voyage of his when he had several male and female passengers aboard. Out on the high seas other ships seemed to be sailing well under a favorable wind, some to Constantinople, some to Alexandria, some to other places, but he could make no progress at all.

"We stayed put for about fifteen days," he said, "unable to move from where we were. We became very depressed and desperate, not knowing whatever could be causing this. As captain responsible for the care of the ship and everyone in her I began to pray about it to God. And indeed on a certain day a voice came to me saying: 'Get rid of Mary and you will sail well.' 'What did that mean,' I thought, 'and who is Mary?' And as I turned this over in my mind the voice came again, saying: 'I tell you, get rid of Mary and you will be alright.'

'Mary!' I shouted over and over again, wondering what this was all about and not knowing who Mary was. But Mary herself heard me from where she was sitting and said: 'Did you want me, sir?'

'Could you come here, please,' I said. She got up to come straight away, and when she had got to me I took her aside.

'Mary, my sister,' I said, 'are you able to see if it is my sins which are responsible for the plight you are all in?'

'In fact, Captain,' she said, with a deep groan, 'it is I who am the sinner.'

'Why, what have you done, woman?' I asked.

'Woe is me', she said. 'There is no sin in the book which I have not been guilty of. And it is because of my sins that you have all been brought into this present danger.'

And then the woman told me all about herself.

'I'm a miserable wretch, Captain,' she said. 'I had a husband with whom I had two sons, but when one of them was nine and the other five my husband died and I was a widow. But there was a soldier living near me whom I would have quite liked to have as a husband, and I gave him some signals to that effect. But he wouldn't because he said he did not want a wife who had two children by another man. But I was carried away with desire for him, and seeing that he would not have me because of my children, I killed them both and then went to him and said "See now, I no longer have any children." When he learned what I had done with the children he said: "As the Lord lives in heaven, I certainly will not have you!" So I fled, in fear that he would tell and I should be executed.'

Even though I had heard this out of her own mouth I was unwilling to throw her overboard, and tried to put off coming to a decision.

'Look,' I said, 'I will go down into a lifeboat, and if the ship then begins to move we will know that it was my sins which were impeding her.' I called for the coxswain and said, 'Lower the boat.' But once I was in the boat, neither the ship nor the boat still made any movement. Coming back aboard again I said to the woman, 'Now you get down into the boat.' The moment she got into it the boat turned round five times and went straight to the bottom, carrying her with it. And after this the ship made such good progress that in three and a half days of sailing we made up for the fifteen days we had lost."

From The Spiritual Meadow, Ch. 76.