Icons of St Mary of Egypt
Orthodox icons of St. Mary of Egypt, narrating the miracles of genuine repentance
The Orthodox icons of Saint Mary of Egypt tell us in graphic form how genuine repentance before God can help us attain sanctity. It presents to us the story of a long life spent in a bitter struggle against sin and the enemy’s temptation. In her middle years, she woke up to the reality of her sinful life. She travelled across the Jordan River in repentance to ascetise in the Egyptian desert. The icons portray her two years before her departure as she meets a monk named Zosimas, narrates her life to him and receives Communion. We see Zosimas grieving her death and burying her with the help of a lion.
Painted icons of Saint Mary of Egypt reinforce the lessons of her life as it is read in the Orthodox churches during the Lenten season. They teach us that genuine repentance can restore meaning to our lives on earth and give us hope for the future; that it can transform us from slaves to servants of God, and bring us to discover His true love for us as His cherished children.
Multiple icon variants
Multiple variants of her icons exist. In one, she is depicted with the elder Zosimas in the desert. Her ascetic body radiates holiness as she stands half-naked in a cloak offered by St. Zosimas. He bows in reverence to her, in awe. Another icon shows Saint Mary receiving the Holy Communion from Zosimas. They stand amid the desolate desert, and the stark landscape underlines the holiness of the moment. The Jordan River also appears in the background in some icons. Other versions depict St. Mary walking across the River Jordan. While the portrayal of Mary walking on water is relatively rare in the Byzantine tradition, it is much more common in Russian icons, where walking on water symbolizes the passage from one life to another.
There is also an icon of St Mary of Egypt. She exposes part of her gaunt yet luminous upper body while wearing St Zosimas' rough garment. The saint's hair is short, dishevelled, and a brilliant white colour. Her right hand is holding a cross, while her left arm is bent, pointing at the cross as if directing our progress. Saint Mary of Egypt's biography is portrayed in her vita icons, which include her iconic depiction surrounded by many tiny windows representing major events from her life. When Mary was unable to enter the church to reverence the Cross, she prayed before an icon of the Mother of God. As she disclosed to the elder Zosimas, the Mother of God was Saint Mary of Egypt’s patron saint during her journey through the desert.
Another window depicts St. Zosima's discovery of St. Mary's body. He is seen on his knees, hands raised in prayer and sadness. The lion that helped dig her tomb may be seen from a distance. Some windows are notable for their landscape elements, which serve as symbols in the Orthodox iconography of St. Mary of Egypt. A church is depicted in the distance as the beginning point of her ascetic achievement. Green grounds alternate with areas of desert rock and sand as symbolic of her repentance journey's difficulties and triumphs.
A gift with meaning
Several variations of Saint Mary of Egypt Orthodox icons are available for sale from Saint Elisabeth Convent's web catalogue, but each would make a thoughtful and spiritual present for a fellow Christian. Every symbol contains the miracle of transformation through repentance and praying before it can improve the recipient's life dramatically. The Orthodox stand before Saint Mary of Egypt in prayer for guidance in making prudent choices in our lives and overcoming our sinful impulses and wicked cravings. If we are honest and pray with contrite hearts, our prayers will be answered.
So visit our catalogue and browse our icons of Saint Mary of Egypt available off the rack and to order. Choose from a variety of sizes and variants, or order a custom-painted icon. We also encourage you to explore the wide selection of our wedding, family and church icons.