by Carol Alena Aronoff
St. Mary of Egypt
Turned away three times from Church of the Holy Sepulchre by an unseen force, the closed door sparks her salvation. A life until then of insatiable lust, seeking men like homing pigeons seek home, she is now filled with remorse. Before a statue of the Virgin Mary, arms outstretched, a welcoming angel, Maria weeps and prays for forgiveness. Promises to renounce all desire, give up the world to purify her sins. This time, the church opens–she sees the True Cross. On fire with gratitude after conversion, she hears a voice, if you cross the Jordan River, you will find glorious rest. After prayers to Mary for guidance, receiving absolution and Holy Communion– she crosses the river with only three loaves of bread, repudiates the darkness, turns toward the light. Through 17 years of trials and base temptations, the desert wilderness–her sanctuary, sustains her, naked, in a life of prayer and penance. After 47 solitary years, in a chance encounter she foresaw, she tells her story to St. Zosimas, asks him to meet her again the following Lent. Sanctified, she walks on water across the Jordan for Holy Communion. Yet death awaits: found the next year, her body miraculously moved, preserved incorrupt. Inscription in the sand: she died immediately after receiving communion. Buried by Zosimas with the help of a nearby lion, she was a true Desert Mother.*
*Christian ascetics living in the desert of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria in the 4th and 5th centuries AD
Carol Alena Aronoff, PhD is a psychologist, teacher, poet. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies andwas twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She published 4 chapbooks (Cornsilk, Tapestry of Secrets, Going Nowhere in the Time of Corona, A Time to Listen) and 6 full-length poetry collections: The Nature of Music, Cornsilk, Her Soup Made the Moon Weep, Blessings From anUnseen World, Dreaming Earth’s Body, The Gift of Not Finding: Poems for Meditation.