Commemorating St. Mary of Egypt – On April Fools’ Day?!
+Fr. Basil Hickman, St. George - Des Moines | April 1, 2020
Many of us know that St. Mary of Egypt is commemorated every year on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Fewer know that she is also remembered every April 1st. I have always found it strange that such an amazing saint of our Church would somehow be associated with April Fools’ Day. Of course, this is just a coincidence; and the remembrance of St. Mary on April 1st predates the observance of April Fools’ Day by many centuries.
Space does not permit me to recount the story of the saint’s life, but it can be found here: https://www.goarch.org/chapel/saints?contentid=2 What an inspiring account of repentance! St. Mary journeyed from the depths of depravity to the heights of virtue, from restlessly chasing after pleasure to finding true fulfillment in Christ. In short, she moved from foolishness to wisdom.
Here is another fitting coincidence: April 1st usually falls during Lent, when the Church is focusing on the Book of Proverbs. The word “fool” is often used there, in contrast to the wise. Let’s look at a few gems:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15)
“As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)
“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12)
It was only through acknowledging how foolishly she had lived her life, AND committing to change, that St. Mary of Egypt became wise. She radically removed herself from her former lifestyle and entered the wilderness, growing increasingly closer to God.
As we struggle through our unexpected retreat, brought on by Covid-19, we can take some tips from a former fool who became most wise. We have an opportunity to look deeply into ourselves, seriously reconsidering what (and Who) truly fulfills our lives and turning away from what is ultimately foolish. Let’s make this April 1st a time to grow wiser!