As a young woman in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, Saint Mary became a prostitute. She did not do this because of necessity but to gratify her own lusts. After living this way for over a decade she decided to go with the pilgrims to Jerusalem for the feast of the Holy Cross. She did this not out of piety but in effect, as a vacation. She planned to support herself by seducing other pilgrims. She tried to enter the church of the Holy Sepulcher but an invisible force prevented her from entering.
This happened three times. And then she realized she could not enter the church because of her sinful way of life. Looking at an icon of the Mother of God, she resolved to end her sinful lifestyle. Then she was able to enter the church and venerate the icon. She then heard a voice telling her to go to the monastery of St. John the Baptist on the bank of the Jordan River. There we went to confession and received Holy Communion. She then crossed the Jordan River and went to live alone in the desert. She lived alone for over forty years seeking to win the struggle over her passions.
We only know the story of St. Mary because a year before her death she met Saint Zosima of Palestine. She told him her story and asked that he come to bring her Holy Communion the following year. When St. Zosima was bringing her Communion she walked across the Jordan River to meet him. A year later, Saint Zosima went to look for her in the desert and found her lying dead and he buried her. Saint Zosima told her story to the brethren of his monastery and it was finally written down by Saint Sophronius.
The example of St. Mary of Egypt teaches us that it is always possible to repent and change one’s life no matter how far from God we have gone.
Troparion — Tone 8
The image of God was truly preserved in you, mother, / for you took up the Cross and followed Christ. / By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away, / but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. / Therefore your spirit, holy mother Mary, Rejoices with the angels!
Kontakion — Tone 3
Having been a sinful woman, / you became through repentance a Bride of Christ. / Having attained angelic life, / you defeated demons with the weapon of the Cross. / Therefore, most glorious Mary, you are a Bride of the Kingdom!