Thursday, April 9, 2009

the end of lent: st. mary of egypt

on either calendar, lent is coming to an end. i was delighted to find that shirley hughson's athletes for god: a saint a day commemorates st. mary of egypt on the 9th of april. most of the church puts her on the 1st or 2nd, but since zosimus found her body as he was taking her communion on maundy thursday, this year's coincidence is particularly delightful.

mary of egypt is celebrated in the synaxis of the fifth sunday of great lent as an example of what real repentance can accomplish, what the english church prays throughout lent in one of archbishop cramner's most successful collects:

almighty and everlasting god, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the god of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through jesus christ our lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the holy spirit, one god, for ever and ever. amen.

my own penitance has, i'm afraid been pretty sketchy this lent, as usual. i have missed rising for matins as often as not, my fasting has amounted to very little, if the mirror is any measure, and my giving started off well enough but sort of coasted to a halt.

and yet, i believe god still forgives me, not because of what i have done but because of who he is and what he has done.

and yet, despite my rather slight measures, this lent has been a time of greater clarity for me in many ways. i am always willing to try to do anything except be constant in what has seemed for years to be a calling to solitude. but i think the time has finally come for me to make peace with it. it is at the same time the solution to my lenten koan, and a gift from reading unseen warfare, where theophan writes: "the enemy strives to destroy the peae of the soul, because he knows that when the soul is in turmoil it is more easily led to evil. but you must guard your peace, since you know that when the soul is peaceful, the enemy has no access to it; then it is ready for all things tht are good and does them willingly and without difficulty, easily overcoming all obstacles." (ii, 23)

st. mary of egypt and the solitary life are both almost entirely contradictory to and disdained by "modern life." but, modern life has proven singularly inefficient at providing peace, has it not?