Sunday, April 02, 2006

Saint Mary of Egypt

Today is Passion Sunday (in the Tridentine calendar), or the Fifth Sunday of Lent, but this is also the feastday of Saint Mary of Egypt, whose example for Lent is common in the Eastern Churches.

Saint Mary of Egypt was born around A.D. 344 to a wealthy family. She was spoiled, beautiful, cynical, and alienated, and at the age of twelve, she rejected her loving parents and moved to Alexandria, Egypt, where she was a prostitute for about seventeen years. Seeing an opportunity, she exchanged herself for free passage on a ship, which was carrying pilgrims to Jerusalem in anticipation of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14th). It should be noted that she did not live this life for the money, but instead for pleasure, which makes this Saint very much a modern woman.

Hoping to find victims among the pilgrims, she followed the crowds to the church where the relics of the Cross were venerated, but found herself unable to enter the church. Here she had her conversion and gave up the world and its ways. Wanting forgiveness, she went to the church of Saint John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan River, and then crossing the river, she lived as a holy hermit for 47 years. Just before her death she told her story to a monk, Saint Zosimus of Palestine.

Saint Mary of Egypt is patroness to penitent women and reformed prostitutes. Her feast is celebrated on the various liturgical calendars on either April 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

The Life of St Mary of Egypt, by St Sophronius


  1. I'm pretty sure NEXT Sunday is Passion Sunday...

  2. Grace,

    I go to the Tridentine Mass, where today is Passion Sunday. After Vatican II that name refers to Palm Sunday.


  3. Can you refer us to an online source that compares the Tridentine and Post Vat 2 calendars? And why does the Tridentine Mass require the old calendar? I should think that we would all want to follow the same religious calendar? I note the calendar distributed by the Oratory here in STL actually has the new calendar, not the old.

  4. Part of the reforms after Vatican II was a revision and simplification of the calendar used in Mass. For the major feastdays they are basically the same. Most everything in the new calendar can be found in the old, on the same day, but with some differences. The old calendar used to have a Saint nearly every day of the year, while the new calendar is empty most days of the year.

    The Tridentine Mass requires the use of the old calendar, since it uses the 1962 missals, which is based on it.

    But even if they use the 1962 missal, they still celebrate new Saints' days, so the old missal isn't static: there are new editions that have come out which reflect udates.

  5. Here is a description of the old calendar, in great technical detail:

    But this is for England and Wales, which has significantly different feasts compared to the USA.

  6. Thanks! My question is not so much the feast days, but the seasons. Palm Sunday has come to be called Passion Sunday, I believe, because the Passion is read in its entirety.