St. Mary of Egypt




  1. Students should know who Mary was.
  2. Students should know the word “repentance”.
  3. Students should be able to tell the story of her life.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. Tell the story of Mary of Egypt:

Mary was born in Alexandria in the land of Egypt. She was a very beautiful and very rich girl. She didn’t believe in God and said that she could do anything she wanted.

One day, Mary sailed to Jerusalem with her friends looking for fun. Now, it happened to be the time of the feast of the Ascension, and many Christians were going into the Church built over the tomb of Jesus to pray. Mary was curious. What were they doing? She tried to enter the church, but an invisible force pushed her back. She tried again and again, with no luck. She wondered why she could not enter the church. Could it be her sins that were pushing her back?

Suddenly, Mary began to change. She looked at an icon of the Virgin Mary and was ashamed of the way she had been living. She knelt before the icon and cried her heart out. God’s voice came to her and told her to go into the desert beyond the Jordan. At first, life in the desert was hard, remembering all the fun she used to have with her friends and her fine clothes and good food. In the desert, she was hungry and thirsty and had only rags to wear. But the Lord sent her wisdom and peace in her soul.

After fifty years, Mary saw a man walking in the desert. It was a monk, Zossima, who had come to pray. Mary asked Zossima to return the next year on Holy Thursday to give her communion for the first time since her repentance. Then Mary disappeared into the desert.

The next year, Zossima returned as he had promised. He waited on the banks of the river, which was flooded. How would Mary get across? The he saw her on the other shore. Mary prayed and walked across the water! Zossima gave her the beloved communion and Mary prayed the prayer of St. Simeon, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace…” Can you sing this great hymn? Do it now. Mary asked Zossima to return the next year.

The next year Zossima came and found Mary’s body; she was dead. She had written in the sand that she wished to be buried her, in the desert, where she had found the Lord in her heart. Zossima sang the memorial service for Mary, but he was an old man and could not dig the grave. Suddenly a lion came and dug the grave with his claws. Thus, Zossima and the lion buried Mary’s body while her soul went to be with her Lord in heaven.



  1. Discuss repentance: We use it a lot in church, but what does it mean? To repent is different from just feeling sorry for what we’ve done. It means to turn around and go the other way. Mary felt sorry in Jerusalem. But, her life in the desert was truly a complete turn-around from her former life. Have the students name some things Mary would have had and done in Alexandria; what about in the desert? Be sure the desert list is not all negative – she had peace and the love of God, etc. Now as the students if they have ever done something wrong? Can they tell about it? In what way have they repented? What would be a good way to show their repentance. For example, if they disobeyed their parents and didn’t clean their room, could they go and clean it extra good now and each time from now on? If they fought with their sister or brother, could they do something especially nice for them and give them a hug?


  1. Make Mary and Zossima bag puppets: Use the pattern for the puppet halves. Glue top of puppet to bottom of small paper bag and mouth part to part below so you can make the bags “talk”. Color the faces. Give Zossima white cotton ball hair and beard. Give Mary long, stringy gray yarn hair. Cut a circle of yellow construction paper and glue behind Mary’s head. Now, can the students, using their own words, reconstruct the scene between Mary and Zossima at their meeting?

  1. Close with prayer: Lord, give me true repentance every time I do something wrong.